This year’s trend reports have been packed with wellness trends. From the growth of veganism to a slew of product releases that highlight power-packed ingredients, the year ahead is looking promising for the health category. With 50% of consumers actively trying to lose weight and 91% of US consumers stating that it’s better to eat a well-rounded diet than use diet products, according to Mintel, the time for change appears about right. But these days, consumers are viewing diets differently altogether, claiming that they’re not cutting things out, but instead, adopting a healthier lifestyle and an improved way of living.
Flavor has long taken the starring role in beloved restaurants. And as consumers continue to participate in the quest for the next great meal, we are met with the challenge to surprise them again. But often, it’s not always the newest fad flavor combination that creates a winning meal—it’s the trusted cooking techniques that develop flavor in the cooking process to create fans.
Love for sandwiches has never been more relevant as consumers seek out options that meet a range of needs: familiar, flavor-forward, customizable, healthy, indulgent, packaged up to go or plated to stay. According to Datassential, 60% of consumers eat at least one per week, and luckily, an option is never far with 7 of 10 restaurants offering some type of sandwich.
Plant-based philosophies, vegetable-forward menus and wholly vegan concepts are becoming a restaurant genre of their own. While numbers are purely estimates, at least 5% of Americans are vegetarians and 2% are vegan. And if web searches and product launches serve as a qualifying indicator, you’ll find that queries for vegan are up fourfold in the last decade and vegan launches are up nearly 300% in the last 5 years. Add in 22-million consumers following a vegetarian-inclined diet, and the 46% of consumers trying to eat more vegetables.
Consumers are increasingly eating a wide range of international foods with little sign that interest will be waning in the near future. Not only are we trying more global flavors, but we want to know about the cuisines we’re eating. According to Mintel, even online conversations regarding the topic have increased 25%. Latin cuisine, a fan favorite, has gotten a lot of buzz and rightfully so. Already a familiar cuisine, in today’s food world we are seeing new Latin menu items based on real and natural ingredients, fresh finishes, artisan ingredients and in street food formats.
A plate of nachos piled high is nothing short of a treat. Already a mainstay on the menu, nachos are a perennial favorite fit for multiple occasions. And now more than ever, we have permission to play with this classic. After all, Mintel reports that over a third of diners will try menu items with unique flavors or ingredients if they are in familiar dishes. Whether dressed up with premium ingredients or served in their traditional form, nachos offer a starting point for introducing new flavor profiles, limited only by imagination.
Southern food may just be the most dominant American regional cuisine at the moment. But, evidence does not reside on the menu alone. Instead, it lies in the memories that come with each plate. A culmination of celebrations, today’s southern cuisine brings with it a story that restaurant patrons are actively seeking. Mintel’s Foodservice Trends 2017 reminded us that consumers are not just interested in the dining experience and flavors—they also want to understand the concepts behind them.
Salad has evolved from a bed of lettuce with tomato and a grilled topping to exciting, innovative combinations that grow traffic and earn patron loyalty. Consumers today want salads that offer unique flavor and texture combinations as well as signature ingredients. This innovation in salad making--including greens, dressings, toppings and even croutons--is driven by the consumer's desire to enjoy a new “feel better” balance of vegetables, starches, proteins and oils without sacrificing flavor and variety.
The “comfort food with a twist” movement has been the foundation for numerous food trends over the past decade. Upscale hamburgers, adult mac & cheese, gourmet grilled cheese, global barbecue, and even uniquely fried chicken, like Korean style. All are based on the principle of taking a familiar food item and presenting it in a new, updated form.
Even the Plate we serve on is Re-Designed. Yes, everything in foodservice is changing, morphing and blurring. When we serve food on a plate, slate, board, or box, the rules are changing to meet today’s consumer expectations. What’s happening can be discussed in two distinct mega-trends. First, the composition of the plate continues to adjust to what we want to eat and experience. Secondly, the plate itself appeals to our love of art and innovation whether dinning in or out.
The traditional low fat and low calorie diet has given way to a more balanced lifestyle where consumers use specific foods for prevention of health conditions and to improve their mental and physical performance. Technology, insurance insecurity and consumer demand for control fuel a focus on concrete and proactive health solutions. Millennial practiced, It is a holistic approach to living that seeks total wellbeing through balance within self, community, and world.
Today snack occasions are almost equal to meal eating occasions (49% vs 51%); 35 million Americans live alone, and nearly half of all eating occasions are alone¹. This shift in eating behavior is influenced by lifestyle changes, and the increasingly widespread notion of snacks as part of a healthful diet.
America continues to shift toward a multi-cultural population and today we all expect our food eating occasions to deliver more than just fuel to keep going. Consumers are beginning to expect an understanding of what they eat, a cultural experience, and self- expression. These two mega-trends are driving America’s love of new global flavors. NRN research indicates that 56% of consumers are open to trying new items occasionally. These numbers are much higher with the younger generations.
A growing segment of American consumers that we call The New American Foodie, has a heightened relationship with food and this consumer's definition of quality is morphing to pin greater importance on terms like fresh, natural, clean and real, unique and authentic, hand crafted and home made.