Culinary trends revealed at NC’s Niagara Food & Beverage Innovation Summit

Global culinary expert Christine Couvelier was a keynote speaker at the Niagara Food & Beverage Innovation Summit at Niagara College on October 23.

World-class chef Christine Couvelier, a culinary executive and founder of Culinary Concierge, brought her culinary crystal ball to the Niagara Food & Beverage Innovation Summit at Niagara College on October 23 at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Campus.

The inaugural, one-day event was organized by the Canadian Food & Wine Institute (CFWI) Innovation Centre, part of the College’s Research & Innovation division. Product developers and business owners in the food space and cannabis industry spent the day learning innovative concepts and forecasted trends from experts, in areas of flavours, colours, and packaging. 

Couvelier was the first keynote speaker of the day. As a global culinary trendologist, she spends much of her time in gourmet and grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and food shows around the world. Her forward-looking predictions in the culinary world are what she called her ‘trend-watch’ report – things to look to one to five years ahead. 

One of the most significant areas of growth this year, said Couvelier, is breakfast anytime. “It’s about innovation, it’s about convenience and it’s about taste.” Things like frittatas on the go, breakfast meal kits or overnight oats. Eggs are also being reimagined. For example, hard-boiled eggs have been taken to a completely different level with the innovation of Buffalo-wing flavour.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the one category that is continually innovating is plant-based foods. Couvelier said 42 percent of consumers want to eat more vegetarian dishes, and 41 per cent want to eat more vegan meals – a vast market considering only three percent of Canadians are vegan and six percent are vegetarian.

“It means we’re designing plant-based options for everybody, not for a narrow category,” she said. “Think about how this trend applies to all of you – whatever category, whatever product, whatever you’re innovating, this all applies to you.”

These innovations are hitting the plant-based meat category – which is estimated to reach $3 billion by 2024 in the United States. She said this popularity is evidenced by the growing popularity of the Beyond Meat burgers at the A&W chain. 

Plant-based seafood such as tuna is made with pea protein, chickpea flour, faba protein and navy bean flour, and offers similar texture and flavour but without the smell or mercury levels. 

“I suspect as we go into 2020 and beyond, we’ll see a lot more innovation in this category.”

Other areas growing in innovation, according to Couvelier: 

  • ♦ oat milk, with 2018 sales up 425 per cent. 
  • ♦ kombucha, with sales rising to $416 million last year.
  • ♦ cauliflower 3.0 – first steamed, then riced, it’s now a crunchy, plant-based snack.  Packaged cauliflower products rose 71 per cent in just this year. 
  • ♦ grocerants are restaurants in the middle of gourmet and grocery stores. Some even have live music and cooking demonstrations.
  • ♦ meal kits are seeing better flavours and less package waste. An estimated 600,000 meal  kits were sold in Canada in the first six months of 2019.
  • ♦ butter innovation: Couvelier noted NC’s Benchmark flavouring its butter with the campus bee honey. 
  • grilled cheese: it’s all about nostalgia and memories and even chefs at high-end restaurants are adding grilled cheese to their menus.
  •  bespoke vegetables: connecting farmers, chefs, and breeders to create a collection of tasty vegetables. An example of this: combining celery and asparagus to get the ‘celtus.’
  • ♦ doughnuts are being hailed as the ‘dish of the year’ and replacing buns or nachos.
  • ♦ sustainability: consumers are paying attention to packaging more than ever before i.e. biodegradable and reusable packaging. 
  • ♦ new innovations: pink lemonade blueberries; nighttime snack foods

Couvelier’s top advice in the product development world: taste everything!

“Wherever you are, taste the local specialties; go and talk to a distillery; go and talk to a winemaker; go and talk to a craft bartender and think outside the confines of your business and your brand and your category. And experience the food world as a whole.”

Sponsors for the event included: Food in Canada Magazine; Invest Hamilton Niagara; Niagara Industrial Association; Food and Beverage Ontario; Two Sisters Vineyards; and Ontario Craft Brewers. Funding support was provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

The Canadian Food & Wine Institute (CFWI) Innovation Centre team offers a full suite of services to support industry innovation and commercialization of new products and processes. From new recipe development to shelf-life testing and nutritional labelling, the CFWI Innovation Centre pairs industry partners with faculty, recent graduates and students with the right expertise and equipment to meet industry’s needs. For more information visit

The R&I division publishes a monthly e-newsletter to keep people informed of the innovative projects, people, jobs, events, news and opportunities available through the work at Niagara College. If you’d like to receive this in your email monthly, just follow the link below to the R&I website where you’ll find the sign-up box.