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.
So what is driving this interest; nostalgia and sentimental values or the culinary “twist”? When we dig deep into consumer values and preferences we see consumers want more; more flavors, more spice and more styles of cuisine. Even though comfort foods had a 45% level of interest in a recent Datassential study,1 the real driver of the movement is the “twist”- the art of combining a familiar food with consumer’s desire for more flavors, and healthier options.
Familiar food paired with distinctive flavors
Consumers are looking for new culinary or distinctive food experiences. This need is answered with uncommon food ingredients or higher quality - artisanal ingredients creating an exciting eating experience. Combining different flavors with familiar can grab a patron’s attention. Substitute beer for buttermilk and gruyere for blue cheese and you have “Beer Mac n Cheese”. Reinventing an old familiar dish by pairing it with an ingredient that is trending such as beer is the perfect twist to comfort food.
“Sometimes I just want to have something familiar yet different. It can be as simple as a burger or a pasta but give me great new flavors using exciting ingredients I’ve never tried."
The Healthy Twist
"I want to eat what I love and what I’m familiar with, but I want it to be healthy and to taste fresh with ingredients that aren’t over processed."
A more healthy approach comfort food
Consumers are watching what they eat and many use food to address health concerns. The desire for healthier options is driving purchasing decisions and in turn, transforming menus.
The term “comfy fit” from Datassential is used to define familiar comfort foods that are menued with call-outs and characteristics that are better for you, smart choices. For example, the lasagna from the True Food kitchen is gluten free with house-made turkey sausage, fresh spinach and organic tomatoes freshly layered and build to order. The name is familiar, but it’s certainly not just comfort food. It will certainly resonate with the health minded consumer. The menu description alone is the twist that drives business. Again the healthy “twist” or “comfy fit” may be a stronger driver than the familiar or often described as comfort format.
To leverage the consumer’s demand for familiar or comfort foods with a twist, focus on the twist and give your menu the “Twist” to grow your business.