Hello street corn, goodbye unicorn foods.

By Betty Gold
September 25, 2019
Getty Images

Remember when thin-crust pizza, sushi rolls, and Greek yogurt seemed outlandish and exotic? Or when we used to line up for hours for buttercream-frosted cupcakes, Brussels sprouts with bacon, and bagels with rainbow-colored cream cheese?

Oh, food trends. What’s not to love (and hate)?

To celebrate 15 years of Yelp, the restaurant review site’s data science team looked into top food and diet trends from the past 15 years. To compile their results, Yelp pulled trends from all reviews—close to 200 million!—from the year for which each phrase or group of related phrases peaked, in terms of frequency of mention in reviews of businesses in food and restaurant categories. Here are the top food trends of 2019, as well as food trends they identified are on the rise…and decline. (Unicorn foods: file under a trend we won’t be missing.)

2019’s biggest food trends:

Restaurant and Food Trends on the Rise:

  • Avocado Toast has been steadily rising since 2014 and has become one of the biggest food searches of 2019.
  • Boba and Bubble Tea have been steadily rising since 2010 and are on track to be one of the biggest trends of 2019.
  • Breakfast and Brunch have been rising steadily since 2005, continuing to rise through 2018 when it dipped slightly.
  • Celery Juice hit peak popularity in 2019.
  • Impossible Burger was nearly nonexistent before 2016 but spiked in 2018 and is on track to be one of the biggest food searches of 2019.
  • Mexican cuisine has steadily risen over the last 15 years.
  • Themed Cafes (think Cat Cafes and other pop-ups) have been steadily rising since 2014.

Restaurant and Food Trends on the Decline:

  • Latin American restaurants have stayed largely consistently over the last 15 years.
  • New American has steadily declined, rising slightly in 2015, before continuing to decline.
  • All-Day Breakfast searches peaked in 2005, decreased until 2016 and have been slowly rising.
  • Rainbow foods dipped in 2006, though the Rainbow Grilled Cheese spiked in 2018 and Rainbow Bagels spiked in 2016.
  • Soy Milk, unlike its other alternative milk counterparts, spiked in 2007 and has been steadily declining.
  • Spam declined sharply in 2005.
  • Unicorn foods peaked in 2017 and have been declining in mentions since then.

Diet trends were equally fascinating. We noticed a theme, and Yelp’s trend expert Tara Lewis confirmed it: “At Yelp, we’re seeing users ditching restrictive diets that are all about cutting calories, opting instead for diets that emphasize eating nutrient-packed whole foods for an overall healthier lifestyle that’s easier to sustain long term—not just quick fixes for weight loss.”

According to Yelp, the rising diets are as follows:

  • Keto: Almost non-existent on Yelp before 2016, Keto is being mentioned eight times more often in Yelp reviews now than in 2017
  • Gluten Free: On the rise from 2004 until 2014 when it hit its peak, had a small decline from 2014 to 2015, then remained steady with increased mentions between 2016 and 2019
  • Mediterranean Diet: Hit peak popularity in 2013, declined until 2014, then increased 80 percent between 2014 and 2019

You can find Yelp’s full survey results here. Just be prepared to spend a lot of time reading the data—it’s wildly entertaining.

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