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