Flavorists, food scientists and product developers gathered this week to discuss ingredient trends and market insights driving the global food and beverage industries. Topics at the Flavorcon Conference included flexitarian diets, food waste, personalization and disruptors like Amazon, among many more.
Click through for four menu-related trends attendees are tracking now and expect to have sway on foodservice in coming years.
1. The next frontier: Plant-based drinks
Plant-based dishes continue to trend in foodservice, but plant-based hydration drinks are the next big growth opportunity, said Howard Telford, senior beverages analyst at Euromonitor. Functional waters are among the items boosting volume of the global nonalcoholic beverage industry, he observed. Drinks to watch at both restaurant and retail include coconut and other plant waters, plant-based dairy alternatives like pea proteins, and botanical beverages with elderflower and aloe. “Water and products close to water are going to be the most successful beverages over the next few years,” he concluded.
2. The new “functional” beverages
Telford also discussed two aspects of functional beverages beyond traditional health cues that he sees having big opportunities in the coming years. Energy drinks is one area he saw as having major growth prospects. The other related to drinks that appeal to the aging population. He pointed to a major global beverage brand that recently launched a soft drink aimed at the over-40 demographic by promoting digestion-friendly elements and other dietary fibers. Drinks like this will become more widespread, even in restaurants, he says, especially as our global population ages at a faster rate.
3. Stick with sweets
Flavor combos help offer differentiated fare, said Robert Byrne, senior manager of consumer insights at Technomic. And with 43% of 18- to 34-year-olds wanting more places to offer foods featuring a combination of flavors, knowing which combos hold appeal is essential. Of the top seven flavor combinations in Technomic’s 2017 Flavor Consumer Trend Report survey, six feature a pairing with sweet, the leading combination being sweet and savory, with 53% of consumers saying they find it appealing. That’s why flavors like honey and maple have been trending on dishes like chicken, he added.
4. Keep it craveable
Consumers’ key need states play a major role in sourcing food away from home, said Byrne. Expectations range from food taste and quality to pleasant service and order accuracy. However, the top driver by far when it comes to sourcing food away from home is to satisfy a craving, he says, with 34% of consumers saying it’s their primary driver. Facets like experience, health, comfort and convenience pale in comparison, so knowing what consumers crave is key, he explained.