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Fresh and fast concepts merge major consumer trends

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Food trucks—the restaurant industry’s competitors and incubators—are more than just high concept meals on wheels. From quality and freshness to convenience and portability, the success of food trucks can be attributed largely to their agility in converging and capitalizing on consumer trends. Now, traditional foodservice operations are borrowing ideas from the successes of food trucks to help them stand out. In an increasingly competitive industry, specifically with menus packed with fresh, artisanal and local ingredients delivered with convenience and speed, competition is steep and restaurants are stepping up to the plate.

Fast and fresh

While fast service alone isn’t a new concept for dining, there is a growing demand for convenient food with the freshness and high-quality ingredients previously associated with home cooking. Even vending machines have a role to play in delivering fresh, fast food. A 2019 report from Technomic, titled Now & Next: Lessons from Emerging Channels, found that fresh vending is a rapidly growing foodservice segment, with more than three-quarters of consumers surveyed saying they are more than a passing fad.

According to data from the NPD Group/Supply Track, consumers care more about what is on their plate than ever, all the way down to the oil used in food prep. Minimal processing is the top driver in oil growth in foodservice in the U.S., and artisanal quality oils like expeller pressed, cold pressed and virgin oils are growing in recognition and usage.

Another trend signaling the rise in demand for convenience and quality is the explosion of third-party food delivery apps that bring more culinary choices and quality to a world previously dominated by fast food. Orders on delivery applications like Uber Eats and Grubhub grew by 21% in the past year, according to eMarketer.com. 

Healthy and high quality

In a recent study by the NPD Group, close to half of all 18- to 34-year-olds associate clean eating with improved quality of life, and clean has become synonymous with healthy for the majority of consumers. While there are several different lifestyle diets that have made it more difficult to agree upon an exact definition of clean eating, there is a consensus that it means eating more fresh foods. Topping the list of foods perceived as fresh, highly clean, and highly healthy are items produced with minimal processing, transparent sourcing close to home and organic growing practices. 

Alongside the foundational offerings of speed and convenience, natural and organic are top trends in QSR and fast casual dining. In fact, four in five operators that offer natural and organic menu items say these options have driven sales, according to a 2016 report from Technomic, titled Natural & Organic: The Impact on Foodservice. This is no surprise, considering 41% of consumers report they rate organic and natural as important when deciding where to dine, according to data from The Hartman Group’s 2018 Organic & Natural report. 

Menu call-outs about sourcing (organic, non-GMO, and local) and processing (minimally processed, expeller pressed, and cold pressed) speak directly to the growing market for health-driven dining decisions. With oil contributing so much to food preparation, foodservice operators can turn to a simply different option: Bunge Loders Croklaan’s Whole Harvest line of expeller-pressed non-GMO and organic oils. The oils’ transparent sourcing, non-GMO and organic certification and minimal processing supports efforts to incorporate fresh and fast options into a variety of foodservice concepts.

This post is sponsored by Bunge Loders Croklaan

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