Excerpt from this article (it’s a great article overall about trends, virality and tapping into the next great thing, though I’ve added some emphasis to denote the digital/social media aspects):
Seen with the clarity of hindsight, it’s evident that the magic propelling the Cronut wasn’t just that it came after the cupcake, but that it was the cupcake’s perfect opposite, an un-cupcake, an antidote to cupcake fatigue. The name is novel. The backstory is clever. Unlike form-over-function cupcakes — beautiful often at the expense of flavor, more craft project than foodstuff — Cronuts are technique-driven, complex pastries that embody the virtues both of innovation and culinary skill. Unlike cupcakes’ white-noise ubiquity, Cronuts (which Ansel savvily trademarked, only he can make and sell them under that name) are available from few locations and in limited quantities; their scarcity is part of their allure. (And, for that matter, it’s part of the social media frenzy that surrounds them: the hours-long line elevated to lifestyle performance.)
So if you want to figure out what the next Cronut is, the wrong move is to sit down and try to dissect the pastry itself. Instead, deconstruct the precise confluence of moods, interests, motivations, and areas of fatigue that it was born into in 2013, and figure out what the analogs to all those are right now. Trends are driven by broader forces: Kale and quinoa are driven by an obsession with healthfulness and nutritional density, artisanal-everything is a backlash to the sterility of mass production, toast with fancy things on it looks incredibly pretty on Instagram. And not all these forces are consumer-side: The sudden glut of hip chicken sandwich restaurants isn’t the result of some shady collusion of culinary illuminati; rather, it nails the intersection of comfort food, Southern food, and fast-casual’s potential for extraordinary (and extraordinarily scalable) profits.
So, what is the new Cronut? I’ll be shocked if it’s anything close to a mash-up dessert or a dish with a clever portmanteau name. Still, the future is ultimately a product of the past. It stands to reason that we should be able to look around at where we are today, and figure out what’s to come. Here are some predictions for the (short-term) future of food.