People have ever-changing tastes, while trends — especially food trends — can be hard to keep up with. Luckily in the age of big data, food not only becomes a popular topic of discussions in homes, restaurants, and grocery stores, it also trends online.
Eater took a look at Google Trends data and our archives to revisit what was in and what was out in the world of American cuisine in 2015. Google Trends tracks the popularity of search terms relative to total Google searches over time, and assigns each point a relative number from 0 to 100. Google then plots the results on maps and line graphs to show what users are searching. Eater also worked with Foursquare, the "app for discovering new places," to use a wealth of data showing where Foursquare diners went in 2015 and what they talked about.
Here’s a look at some of the trendiest foods of 2015, according to the social Web.
The food winner of 2015 is undoubtedly avocado toast. In 2014, interest in the Instagram-friendly dish started to grow, according to Google Trends data. But in early 2015, searches for "avocado toast" spiked and grew throughout the year, prompting viral recipes, twists, and at least 15 cool variations. Meanwhile, mentions of "avocado toast" on FourSquare in 2015 increased 270 percent from last year.
Not only were people interested in making the artisan toast at home, restaurants around North America, from a small Ohio juice bar to Drake’s new Toronto restaurant Fring’s, added the item to their menus. Some of the restaurants show up near spikes in Google Trends reports. And though one would assume the avocado-based breakfast was most popular in California, the home of avocado production in the United States, trendy New York diners surpassed the Golden State, showing twice as much interest in Google searches. Foursquare data released in May also showed that avocado toast was the most "disproportionately popular food item" in New York, beating California.
In 2015, fried chicken made huge strides in winning over American stomachs, possibly paving the way for an even bigger frenzy in the new year. Fried chicken sandwich mentions increased by 80 percent on Foursquare in 2015, while artisan fried chicken items began popping up on menus across the country.
But diners know a food is hot when two of the biggest restaurateurs in New York start making moves to capitalize on it. This summer, Danny Meyer filed a trademark application for "ChickenShack" and temporarily added a chicken sandwich to the Shake Shack menu. Meanwhile, David Chang’s Fuku opened last summer with the menu revolving around the fried chicken sandwich. After both occurrences, Google reported spikes in searches for the item — in July 2015, when the ChickenShack sandwich hit the menu, "fried chicken" scored a 100 on Google Trends. This could be a sign pointing to an even bigger wave of fast casual chicken menus in the next couple years.
Perhaps a cup of cold coffee would go well with a helping of avocado toast. While interest in cold-brewed coffee usually peaks in July and summer months, in 2015, Google searches for the drink skyrocketed, and cold brew mentions on Foursquare increased 148 percent from last year. Foursquare also recorded more than 200 new places serving the chilled coffee. The trend was so big Starbucks introduced its own cold brew option nationwide in 2015, hoping to get in on the action.
In 2015, the American palate was diverse, falling in love with ramen and noodle houses altogether. Google Trends data shows interest in ramen, particularly "spicy" ramen, continues to increase since it surged two years ago. The viral Spicy Noodle Challenge may take some credit: The spicy Korean ramen videos took off on Reddit earlier in the year, featuring hungry people eating a brand of really spicy Korean noodles as fast as possible. But Foursquare mentions about spicy noodles also showed an increase of 40 percent in 2015 compared to last year, showing that interest in eating the noodle goes beyond self-torture.