Mid-way through 2016, let’s review some of the big food trends for the restaurant, foodservice and catering industries as predicted at the onset of the year. Here is what you can expect: new and exciting flavours are being gobbled up by consumers, meat is being edged off the plate by vegetables and plant-protein, plus mini indulgent desserts that are as delightful for the eye as the taste buds. Read on to find out more about the trends, plus considerations when bringing them into your mix.
Snack swaps: Move over sweet snacks – millennials’ tastebuds are opting for healthier and salty fare instead. In North America, salty eats represented one-fifth of 2014’s sales in the snack category. A 2015 study by Erickson Research found that 60% of Canadians regularly snack on peanuts, making them the second most preferred snack, after chips (66%); almost one in five Canadians preferred peanuts over any other snack food. Spicy and ethnic-inspired snacks are also gaining popularity, meaning foodservice providers may consider adding Japanese-flavoured popcorns, homemade chili-lime spiced potato chips and different variations on hummus accompanied by vegetables and seasoned flatbreads to their snack selections.
Plant protein and veggies take share of plate: The UN General Assembly declared 2016 the "International Year of Pulses" and since, dietitians and consumers have been singing their praises. Legumes, lentils, chickpeas and beans will be popping up on restaurant menus and catering events as a trendy meat substitute that is cost-effective and protein-rich. Peanuts, nuts and seeds are another way to get this plant-based protein while adding crunch to dishes. The "buy local" movement has helped the rise of fruits and vegetables as well, seeing them gain share of plate. Rotating offerings based on seasonality will help keep your menu fresh, reduce food costs and align with customers' values.
African-inspired dishes: In 2015's National Restaurant Association's survey, 20% more chefs called African flavours a hot trend, and it's already being seen north of the border here in Canada. Authentic ethnic condiments, spices and dishes are making their way onto menus and into the hearts and bellies of our consumers. To introduce consumers to African dishes, an authentic peanut-based stew or soup uses ingredients readily available in kitchens - onion, ginger, potatoes, tomatoes and spices - that customers are familiar with.
Petite sweets: Itty-bitty edibles are all the rage on the dessert scene. Consumers choose these petite eats as an indulgent bite without the guilt factor. This sizing also allows for sampling of a broad selection of treats in a buffet-style setting. When it comes to these miniature desserts, presentation is what will win over consumers. Arrange picture-perfect éclairs, sandwich cookies, cupcakes and glazed fruit tarts on tiered serving trays, delighting the palates and Instagram feeds of guests.
Sources: Erickson Research, FONA International blog, EverythingZoomer.com, MerchantsFoodservice.com