It’s January–time for lists, predictions, forecasts, and resolutions. It’s going to be a busy year so let’s get to it.  

Here’s the big news.  Spices, in general, are one of the trends.  The US Department of Agriculture reports that the consumption of spices in the United States has grown three times as fast as the population over the past several decades.  That’s some serious spice momentum and it will continue to gain speed in 2011.

What else can we expect in 2011? The 2011 Spice Forecast is based on reviews of  lists published by The Food Channel and Mintel (a collaboration between the two), Comax Flavors and Sensient Flavors.  This post is loaded with links so you can have a little spice sleuthing fun. Here we go:

1. Ceylon Cinnamon

Also called true cinnamon, Ceylon cinnamon is lighter, sweeter, and pricier than its cassia counterpart which is typically what you find on the spice rack. You’ll have to look for Ceylon cinnamon by name. It has a citrus-y almost sugared but delicate flavor. The quills resemble rolled up piece of parchment. Unlike cassia, you can break a piece of Ceylon cinnamon off and eat it plain. It’s a natural treat.

2. Grains of Paradise.

Sensient Flavors describes grains of paradise with “earthy, woody, citrus, herb and heat nuances.” Grains of paradise have an interesting story. Native to Africa, they were once used as the inexpensive substitute for black pepper. Times have changed and grains of paradise are harder to find and more expensive than the pepper they once replaced. They nearly made the 4 most luxurious spice list—maybe that ought to change!

3. Berbere.

Berbere is an an Ethiopian spice mixture of cayenne pepper, allspice, cardamom, cloves, fenugreek, ginger, black pepper, and salt.

4. Take Me Away.

Not actually a spice this is one of 3 categories Comax Flavors listed as the trending topics for 2011. A great example of a Take Me Away flavor would be…#3; the Berbere spice blend. It blend evokes a sense of exotic, foreign destinations. Think Ras el Hanout from Morocco or the inclusion of that ubiquitous Indian spice, cardamom. If you like kits check out Destination Dinners. Destination Dinners has combined point ‘n’ click ease to the Take Me Away dining  trend. Even better you cook it all in your own home which is sign that the 2010 prediction on the popularity of eating-in is still here and staying strong.

5. Soft Exotics.

Comax describes Soft Exotics as “the familiar with a touch of exotic.” Think edgy but not over-the-top bizarre. In terms of spices I like unusual but pleasing combinations. Black pepper and chocolate, cinnamon and chile pepper or this awesome trio of coconut, chocolate, and red curry from Evil Shenanigans.

6. Homespun.

The last Comax category continues the 2010 comfort food trend. Let’s think about that for a moment. When exactly would comfort foods EVER go out of style? Think nostalgia, homely and indulgent. Examples include gingerbread and pumpkin pie (hey, Comax listed these…I was just ahead of the game!) 🙂

Moving on. Numbers 7-10 come from the Mintel/Food Channel effort.

7.  Fresh Every Day

Herbs and Spices are a huge component of this category. Grow your own herbs or stay interested in local, in season foods by using different spices. So come summer when you don’t think you can handle another zucchini pick it or buy it anyways.

8. Discomfort Foods.

They claim “change makes us comfortable with more change.” This is true but how strange and unusual are you willing to go? And you may think this item clashes with #6: Homespun. The idea is to take homespun and add the #5 Soft Exotic element to it. Change it up–move to a new level.

9. Eating for Sex and Other Things.

We want full experiences complete with gusto in 2011…right? Alright, there are spices for those who are only interested in the sex part

10. Local Somewhere.

This is a good one to pay attention to for the year. It’s great to be focused on local but caution. Becoming a fanatic about any one item is never healthy. Take saffron for example. No, it doesn’t grow in my local of Upstate New York but I like to purchase saffron especially when I know it’s supporting farms in Afghanistan that hire women to pick the threads. These saffron farms are slowly replacing heroine crops and supporting women. The local balance? Sprinkle the exotic saffron on home grown, in-season foods.

The list above is a mix of specific trending spices and categories that give a lot more wiggle room than using a specific ingredient. I know specifics can be fun so here’s McCormick’s 2011 Flavor trend. This list removes all of the wiggle but definitely sparks some ideas. Enjoy. And above all Happy New Year!

WAIT!! Don’t go yet! Chime in…what are your predictions? Pop off an idea or two and then we can revisit this list at the start of 2012 and see where we all stand.