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Consumer Trends

Beat the Heat

Refreshing flavors, light textures and heat-relieving treats are cooling off menus across the country this summer. Beating the heat is the name of the game, and the incorporation of fresh, seasonal ingredients and eclectic flavor profiles in everything from iced tea to ice cream has consumers salivating rather than sweating.

Beverages

Summer shines a spotlight on Iced Tea, a year-round favorite. Keep customers refreshed and coming back for more by offering variations on the traditional glass of iced tea with the addition of flavored syrups, fresh fruits, juices or herbs. According to a Technomic blog, “herbs lend unmistakably bright, garden-fresh aromas and a certain sense of sophistication to all manner of drinks.”  

Beer-based beverages have become a favorite among consumers due to an increase at retail of shandies and flavored malt beverages now available from beer brands, finds Technomic. Join the party by offering your own unique spin on summer favorites such as the Beer Margarita and the Michelada.

Appetizers

Take advantage of ripe, summer flavors by menuing a cold soup option. Vegetable gazpacho, and even fruit gazpacho, is a perfect platform to showcase summer’s unique offerings. With the intermingling flavors of garden-fresh produce, gazpacho is as healthy as it is refreshing.

Whether it’s a creamy take on an American classic such as pimento or crab, or an international favorite such as hummus or salsa, dips and spreads are an ideal summer appetizer. The options for customization are endless, and incorporation of fresh ingredients is as easy as the turn of a whisk.

Salads & Entrees

Salads are great hosts for fresh, summer flavor. While fruit has become a popular salad ingredient, look beyond strawberries and blueberries to make your salads stand out. Pineapple and mango are rising salad stars, says Mintel, as well as roasted or charred vegetables which add complexity.

Consider “summer-izing” your entrees by offering smaller portion sizes. Customers can be satisfied, and even share with their table, without overindulging. Actually, seventy percent of consumers order shareable meals so they can try more than one item on the menu, reveals a report by Technomic. Sharing small plates with dining companions also creates a more party-like experience—and what’s better than a summer party?

Desserts

There’s nothing like a cold, sweet treat to take the edge off of a hot day. Classics like ice cream and berry pies always please, as do new takes on old favorites.

  • According to the International Dairy Foods Association, vanilla is still America's favorite, but that doesn't stop ice cream concepts, producers and dessert menus from offering more innovative flavors. Upscale concepts are even offering artisanal ice creams and gourmet toppings.
  • Gelato is gaining ground among ice cream fans. This creamier Italian cousin of ice cream is lower in fat, slightly denser and often boasts intense colors and flavors like blood orange and hazelnut.
  • Some independent operators are now starting to develop new takes on puddings, including regional and ethnic varieties, says Techomic. Now all grown up, dessert pudding may be light in texture like a blancmange, or dense like a bread pudding, and is a great base for unique flavor additions and toppings.

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