1992 — Starbucks
Was there even life before Starbucks?
It started as one store in Seattle in 1971, and almost 20 years later, in 1992, it went public with a revenue of $73.5 million.
By this point, it had 165 stores. Two years later, that number would more than double, and two years after that, in 1996, the company launched its first store outside North America.
In other words, it will take over the world in the next decade or so.
1993 — Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Italian cuisine had a big influence on foods at this time, with things like sun-dried tomatoes and balsamic vinegar being thrown in everything from salads to pasta.
1994 — Low-Fat Food
About this time people busted out the SnackWells and thought that just cutting out fat but still eating high-calorie, high-sugar foods was the answer to the obesity epidemic.
Americans actually got larger, as fat-free doesn’t mean free-for-all.
1995 — Packaged Snacks
If you were a ’90s baby, then you know all about snacks like Doritos, Cheetos, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, Pringles, Funyuns, Push-Pops, Ring-Pops, Lunchables, Dunkaroos, Hot Pockets, Pizza Bagels, Pizza Rolls, Gushers, Fruit Roll-Ups, Handi-Snacks — the list goes on.
Needless to say, no one was yelling about organic or trans fats yet.
1996 — Fried Calamari
People weren’t too into squid until it was fried, because…America.
But it peaked in about 1996 when it was mentioned in 56 different New York Times articles, presumably in glowing terms.
1997 — Molten Chocolate Cake
There are many people who will claim they started the popularity of chocolate cake, but honestly, who wouldn’t like chocolate cake?
But recipes really started making the rounds this year in Joy of Cooking and Food and Wine, so we’re just glad it showed up somewhere.
1998 — Crab Cake
If chocolate wasn’t your thing, there was always crab, which were a specialty of Baltimore, Maryland, but spread across the country and became a menu standard at the end of the 20th century.
1999 — Cosmopolitans
Let’s just say Sex and the City came out in 1989, and seeing as Carrie Bradshaw basically drank five Cosmos a day before Happy Hour even started, some of the popularity of this mixture of cranberry juice, vodka, triple sec, and lime juice.
2000 — Smoothies
These things are still all over the place, so they have more than just digestive staying power.
Most of the popularity can be attributed to the opening of Jamba Juice.
2001 — Red Bull and Vodka
Before anybody had figured out that mixing super-caffeinated drinks with alcohol is pretty bad for your health, mixing a can of Red Bull with a 2-ounce shot of vodka was a concoction that would keep you going all night in the club and then on the floor the next morning.
2002 — Organic Food
It was at this time the U.S. Department of Agriculture officially defined organic standards in response to a public demand for pesticide and chemical-free food. Not a crazy request.
It was also about this time Whole Foods starting expanding, and as we know, the chain — and their $5 apples — haven’t gone anywhere but up.
2003 — Low-Carb Food
Low-fat didn’t work, so why not cut out another complete category — carbs! At least that was the thinking, due in part to the Atkins Diet.
We all know how great that worked.
Spoiler alert: It didn’t. Moderation, people.
2004 — Yogurt
In 2004, market research firm NPD found that yogurt was the top food to have increased the most in the American diet that year — and this was before John Stamos or Jamie Lee Curtis touted the benefits.
Now that’s some staying power.
2005 — Cupcakes
Much like the Cosmos, Carrie Bradshaw and Sex and the City had a hand in making these little luscious lovelies a mainstay by eating them from Magnolia Bakery.
People started quitting their jobs to open their cupcake bakeries and now we even have Cupcake Wars.
What a great time to be alive.
2006 — Frozen Yogurt
People loved yogurt, so people loved frozen yogurt.
While earlier decades were all about TCBY, it was about this time frozen yogurt got an update to taste more tart, and more like, well, yogurt.
2007 — Local Food
The Oxford Word of the Year was “locavore” in 2007, and people were much more conscious about where their food came from.
Buying from local farmers meant it was better for the environment, the local economy and their health.
2008 — Ramen
Not just the packages you can get for 25-cents and a day’s worth of sodium, but ramen in restaurants, as people were flocking to Momofufu Noodle Bar in NYC to eat the signature dish.
Naturally it spread around the country and hasn’t gone anywhere.
2009 — Bacon
Do I have to explain this one? It started turning up everywhere from doughnuts to chocolate to alcohol.
There was a 40 percent increase in bacon consumption in the years leading up to 2009, and the trend is still going so strong it’s not really a trend anymore.
2010 — Food Trucks
The only thing better than food is food you can quickly get off the street from an actual cook, which was the thought behind this boom in roving restaurants.
It was also this year that Food Network launched The Great Food Truck Race, so it had that going for it, too.
2011 — Hummus
You could put hummus on a shingle and it would still be delicious, but it was about this time Sabra started to educate the American consumer on what exactly hummus is (a chickpea spread).
And thus, a new snacking staple was born.
2012 — Kale
Love it or hate it, kale has made a name for itself.
It can thank TIME Magazine for declaring it a super food in this year as it ended up in everything from salad to smoothies. And much like bacon, it hasn’t gone away.
That’s about the only thing kale has in common with bacon.
2013 — Cronuts
Chef Dominique Ansel introduced the donut-croissant pastry on Mother’s Day of 2013, and had 100 people waiting in line for a taste two days later.
Thus, a new food hybrid — the first of many — was born.
2014 — Quinoa
On the other side of the spectrum, it was about this time “superfood” was the buzzword, and quinoa fit the mold.
People started using the gluten-free grain in everything from baked goods to savory dishes.
2015 — Avocado Toast
It’s so simple — toast and avocado — but it has spawned an obsession that only a California drought and avocado shortage can put a damper on.
The recipe has been personalized in millions of ways, with whole cookbooks dedicated to variations on what has become a staple image on plates and Instagram.
2016 — Viral Food
Speaking of social media, this is the year when your avocado toast had to be an avocado rose and your milkshake had to include pieces of pie or cake to be considered even slightly worthy of a photo to share with the world.
Food porn at its peak?
Time will tell. Who knows what next year will bring?