In La Place in Leiden, the 2015 food trends were discussed by food watcher Anneke Ammerlaan. She said that innovation takes place everywhere. “We tend to think trends are going very fast. That’s indeed the case with trendsetters, but it always takes a while before everyone is ready for it.” Remarkably, a lot of fruit and vegetables are found in the new food trends. Important pillars are health, flavour and society.

Vegetarian remains important. “Only now it’s going further than before. The trend isn’t just ‘no meat’, but ‘clean’ eating altogether. A vegetable like mushrooms is the new meat.” Anneke sees a further evolution in relatively new products like quinoa. “Something that will be totally ‘hot’ for the next two years, is ‘slow carb’. That’s different from ‘low carb’, and revolves around products that give you a feeling of fullness for a longer time. There are many ‘slow carbohydrates’ in these. The glycaemic index (GI) is a measurement to indicate how quickly carbohydrates are digested in the intestine and absorbed in the blood as glucose. So of importance are products with a low GI. These are, for instance: brown rice, pasta, legumes and fruit.”

Natural health
As always, health remains an important item. “People want to know what impact food has on our body. They used to consume drinks like Yakult, for better working bowels, but now choices are made in food. The consumer is opting for more natural probiotics, such as sauerkraut.”

Superfoods and ‘living foods’
Superfoods have been talked about for a while now, but it has turned from a hype into a trend. Anneke sees consumers opting more for the ‘normal’ super foods, such as blueberries and kale. “In addition to superfoods, ‘living foods’ are another new trend. One example is kefir, a milk drink which has living bacteria in it. In regular yoghurt, those are often removed. Another word for holding onto the good bacteria and not heating the product, is fermenting.”

Bitter vegetables are back
There are four tastes: sweet, salty, sour, bitter. In the near future, the focus will be on bitter. “Everyone knows that bitter food is often thought to be healthiest, and that’s actually the case. There were years when vegetable breeders tried everything to remove the bitter flavour from certain vegetables. Now, bitter is allowed back into vegetables. So we’ll be eating Brussels sprouts and Belgian endive again. Bitter is the new taste. People want to taste the health again.” The food watcher says taste is becoming increasingly important. “The word ‘deliciousness’ is also used here. That means more than tasty.”

Social trends
The Millennials, the group born between 1980 and 2000, are the main trendsetters. These Millennials will educate the previous generation of baby boomers. Sustainability is very important for this generation, and the slogan ‘Love Food Not Waste’, suits this well. The words ‘small-scale’, ‘independent’, ‘local’ and ‘original’ characterize the Millennials. Side-stream products, products that don’t fit the ‘norm’, are totally ‘hot’. Then there’s cradle to cradle, local and organic, which continue to evolve. There is also an increasing number of ‘urban farming projects’, in which urban spaces are used to grow fruit and veg. At the same time, this also has a social effect: it brings people closer to food and to each other.”

Translation food trends by La Place
La Place doesn’t call itself a trendsetter, but certainly not a follower either. “Several of the things Anneke mentioned, we have already integrated at La Place,” Koen Willems begins his speech. “Sustainability is very important to us. We are working towards 100% natural in both purchasing and producing.” In time, La Place wants to remove all soft drinks from their product range. “We put an emphasis on ‘making it ourselves’, and are already doing this for many drinks. We are working towards a fully home-made juice range.”

Cradle to cradle
”When it comes to cradle to cradle, we work together with various partners. For instance, our coffee grounds are collected and taken to a mushroom grower. The mushrooms are grown on these, and La Place uses them in various products, like the oyster mushroom burger.”

Side-stream tomato
“One example of the use of products that do not fit the norm, is the ‘side-stream tomato’. We have a partnership with tomato growers who supply these. Remarkably, the flavour of these tomatoes is really very good!” La Place cooperates with growers for other vegetables as well, not just tomatoes. “Taste is essential, we want the best products for our customers. A good example where social and product trends meet, is Nursery Osdorp. Here, occupational therapy is offered to people looking for work, and flavourful products are cultivated.”

Back to the source
Koen emphasizes that La Place always wants to know where its produce comes from, and also keeps in close contact with the grower. “We have been working with Vroegop-Windig for years. They collect the produce at the grower, and make sure it ends up in our restaurants. Import of our fruit and veg products is also largely handled by Vroegop-Windig. We do consider it important to see the source ourselves, so we visit it as well,” Willems says. “We also have organic products, like organic potato Laura, which we’ve used in all Dutch restaurants (nearly 100) in the past year. We have agreements on sales and price, and growers are happy about the partnership. Quite a lot of our products are organic, by the way, but the focus with fruit and vegetables is still taste.”

English garden
Recently, a project has been initiated at La Place in which fruit and vegetables are grown in an 18-plot English garden in the woods of Belmonte, near Ede. Here, various products are developed and cultivated, all of which will be used in the restaurant. At the moment, the concept is still in the experimental stage.