What’s Driving The Kitsch Food Trend in 2023?
The trend towards kitsch and retro comes down to several factors including, social media, nostalgia and the cultural climate - and food is not immune. Bright colors, sumptuous cakes with buttercream flowers and piped icing ruffles, Jell-O creations and the recreation of childhood favorites are finding their way onto our screens and into our bellies.
What is causing the larger trend of retro and kitsch foods?
Social media has certainly increased the popularity of kitsch. People are looking for visually appealing and shareable content for platforms like Instagram and TikTok. The more unusual and over-the-top the dish the more likely people are to react with and share the post which is driving up demand for these types of foods.
Economic and Political Climate
As we look for ways to save cost, some of those retro ingredients are proving to be much more cost-effective as we see sales for custard powder, spam and jello (jelly for the Brits) booming. And with all the negative news we’re exposed to, many are finding ways to balance out an increasingly serious world with playful, whimsical and escapist experiences.
In part due to the pandemic Lockdowns where we had more time to try new things, many of us found an increased interest in culinary experimentation. There’s a willingness to try new and unconventional food combinations, with kitsch food offering a fun and often unexpected twist on traditional dishes.
Many retro dishes are made from simple and locally-sourced ingredients, before fast food, convenience foods and globalization took over. This aligns well with the current trend towards sustainability and eating locally. This is especially true for classic American comfort foods, which often use simple, pantry-staple ingredients.
What kind of retro food and drinks are we seeing?
There are several sub-trends within retro foods which are currently popular on- and offline:
Classic childhood comfort foods
These are the foods we look back on fondly when we think of our childhoods. In America, mac n' cheese, fried chicken and meatloaf are all experiencing a resurgence in popularity and in the UK, shepherd's pie, fruit crumbles and Sunday roasts are on the up. Once again transporting us to a simpler time.
Desserts like Jell-O molds, pineapple upside-down cake, and banana cream pie are making a comeback, with their colorful and playful presentations appealing to a younger generation and their simplicity and familiarity appealing to the older generations.
International retro dishes
Dishes from past eras of international cuisine are also experiencing a revival, with popular examples including Swedish meatballs, fondue, and shrimp cocktail. This trend may be influenced by a desire to explore and celebrate global culinary traditions.
Cocktails from the 1950s and 1960s, such as martinis, old fashioneds, and sidecars, are popular again, with a renewed interest in the craftsmanship and attention to detail that went into cocktail culture during those eras.