Do you own a restaurant, catering business or food-service business? Then you’ll want to know what food trends were hottest in the first quarter of 2013. According to Food Business News, food research company Technomic says the following is what’s sizzling:
Whole grains: Companies ranging from Auntie Anne’s and Jamba Juice to Sandella’s Flatbread Café have added whole grain items to their menus.
Passion fruit: Passion fruit (shown here) is a popular ingredient or flavoring—witness items such as Baskin-Robbins’ Berry Passionate Frozen Yogurt, Tropical Smoothie Cafe’s Passion Fruit Smoothie and Lucille’s Smokehouse’s Spiced Rum Punch.
Upgraded proteins: Companies are upgrading to more “premium” proteins. New this quarter, Good Times Burgers & Frozen Custard added chicken, Long John Silver’s added an upgraded shrimp product and Taco Bell launched new and improved steak.
Wraps: Customers are looking for convenience and portability, which wraps offer. They are also often healthier (or perceived that way) and popular with ethnic food items.
Bowls: Presenting meals in a bowl is a hot trend in fast-casual establishments. It allows combining grains or rice, protein and vegetables in a one-dish item. Like wraps, bowls are often presented (or perceived) as healthier options than, say, a sandwich.
Free and easy: What’s not in food is becoming as important as what is. For instance, health-conscious consumers may be looking for items that are gluten-free, sugar-free or without artificial flavors and colors.
Transparency: Even at the quick-serve level, customers want to know where food is sourced because they’re concerned about quality.
Cheese-heavy sides and indulgent breakfast sandwiches: In somewhat contradictory fashion while so many other trends are focused on health, indulgent sides and breakfast sandwiches are popular too. (We’ve seen this trend before, such as in the 1980s when super-premium ice cream was popular at the same time as low-fat and fat-free everything.)
Snacking 24/7: The lines between traditional dayparts are blurring as snacking becomes increasingly popular for consumers, especially Millennials.
Deals: Freebies, two-for-one menu items and discounts remain popular as consumers continue to watch their dining dollar.
What’s ahead? According to Technomic, “next-generation spicy flavors” will be the next big thing. Restaurants are moving beyond familiar flavors such as jalapeno and habanero to new flavors such as peri peri and peppercorn.
Also hot for the coming year: Growing interest in healthy and ethnic foods will make vegetables and vegetarian options more popular as “center-of-the plate” choices. Rising beef costs will further drive the trends, and non-beef burgers should continue to surge in popularity.
Image by Flickr user Andreia (Creative Commons)