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Flavors on the Rise

Flavors on the Rise

Flavors on the Rise

Sriracha. Nashville hot chicken. Kale. While relatively mainstream now, these flavors were once uncommon.

Flavors on the Rise


The beverage menu has not been immune to the plant-based movement, with “milks” made from nuts and oats now seen as mainstream. In addition, plant-based protein boosters, such as nut butters, are showing up in smoothies as well as globally inspired sauces and stews.

While some operators look to high-end proteins to increase their price point, others are conveying value through proteins offered at a lower price in approachable formats.

It’s not just increased traffic that contributes to better overall sales. As operators look to increase check averages, they are turning to upgrades such as signature sauces, high-end proteins and more labor-intensive preparation methods to impact a dish’s perceived value. Brands are then devoting menu real estate and marketing materials to telling the stories about the flavors behind these higher-priced menu items.

As states across the country loosen their cannabis laws, operators are keeping an eye on its potential menu applications. Meanwhile, diners, especially younger ones, are seeking foods that can help reduce stress or improve digestion, among other body-optimizing attributes. Thirty-two percent of adult consumers say they are willing to pay more for foods high in antioxidants, while 24% say the same of those deemed anti-inflammatory, according to Technomic’s Healthy Eating Report.

Drinks featuring seasonal fruits such as mango and peach are seeing the addition of herbal and floral flavors, providing operators an opportunity to create new takes on familiar favorites, according to Technomic’s Beverage Consumer Trend Report.

Lower-carb lifestyles have made a comeback, as consumers striving for cleaner eating have turned to trendy diets such as keto, paleo and Whole30. Even chains known for calorie-bomb offerings hope to cash in on the craze—Chipotle recently introduced a line of Lifestyle Bowls that cater to customers on the three diets above, as well as those seeking extra protein.

Restaurant Business partnered with Technomic for this report. Technomic’s Ignite food trends data is an online tool that tracks current and past menus on an ongoing basis. This report represents ingredient data tracked at more than 5,000 emerging chains and high-volume independents, collected from Q3 2017 to Q3 2018. Growth is calculated by the yearly percentage change in the number of operators menuing specific ingredients.

Though plants get much praise for moving to the center of the plate, meat and fish are often still firmly rooted there. Quail and other game proteins are piquing interest, even at chains, with Arby’s last fall offering a duck breast sandwich at a small number of locations for a limited time.

Demand for plant-forward fare continues to impact menus in a major way. Despite the growth of branded meat replacements, the most popular plant-centric sources of protein will be blends, says Technomic in its Healthy Eating Report, citing the example of brown rice and quinoa combined with mushrooms and black beans.

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