What will be the breakout flavors and ingredients of 2017—the ones that can help power an LTO to the top of the sales charts and assist operators shape craveable menus? To find the answer to that question, we gathered exclusive data from Technomic’s MenuMonitor, mining menus of high-volume independents and emerging chains for flavors that are growing at a rapid pace. We looked at five key menu categories that are particularly active—burgers, sandwiches, pizza, sides and desserts—to show where opportunities for differentiation may lie, not only within these segments but also, as familiarity rises, at larger chains.
In addition to calling out the specific ingredients that might just be the next Sriracha, the data also revealed where some of the top macro trends are heading:
Southern accents get regional
What started with familiar comfort foods is evolving into local variations, such as Nashville hot chicken, Alabama white barbecue sauce and North Carolina sweet potato pie doughnuts. Appalachian flavors are among the latest to emerge, with dishes such as pole beans, kilt greens and blackberry dumplings.
Condiments as differentiators
Instead of relying solely on sauces, operators are using relishes, drizzles, savory jams and pickled preps to transform simple dishes into standouts. Many are housemade and feed into the zero-waste trend.
What’s healthy now?
The majority of consumers aim to balance health with indulgence, according to Technomic’s Healthy Consumer Trend Report. So menus are calling out healthful ingredients in heavier items, such as mentioning kale on burgers and apple on pizza.