At the end of each year, Technomic takes stock of the trends in foodservice and makes forecasts on what to watch for in the upcoming year. Foodservice is a dynamic business and manufacturers looking at the sector must be aware of, and stay ahead of, big trends to be able to fully capture the growth opportunities available. Two thirds of respondents to just-food’s 2016 Confidence Survey of the food industry said they would seek to grow in their presence in the foodservice channel next year. David Henkes, advisory group senior principal at Technomic, sets out the hot areas in the UK and US foodservice markets.
United Kingdom – the top four foodservice trends to watch
Trend 1: Fast-casual fever
The UK is due for a fast-casual revolution. The centre of industry growth in the US, the limited-service fast-casual segment attracts consumers – especially millennials – with modern settings, higher quality and better-for-you fare while maintaining affordable cheque averages. As US fast casuals like Smashburger and Chipotle continue to migrate to the UK, expect to see more operators in the country launch their own fast-casual concepts, while operators in other segments stay on trend by adopting fast-casual elements, such as build-your-own meals and smaller, more focused menus.
Trend 2: Global hybrids
Chefs are infusing a range of global flavours into modern cuisine to create something entirely new. Ingredients and culinary techniques sourced from the Middle East, South America and south-east Asia will inspire hybrid dishes and fuel more menu-mashup innovation. Look for fusion preparations like tacos stuffed with Korean-inspired fillings and dumplings that pair Asian with European ingredients for an unexpected take on the familiar.
Trend 3: Move over, meat
Vegetables are claiming a starring role in the centre of the plate. Playing into the well-entrenched movement around local UK foods, regionally grown vegetables are more likely than ever to be presented as the full meal. Watch for main-course salads, eclectic interpretations of superfoods like kale, and heartier veggie-centric preparations to delight guests in search of meatless mains that are healthful yet flavourful.
Trend 4: Off the clock
The old meal paradigm is shifting, as dining patterns and eating-out occasions are starting to reflect an ever-evolving consumer sensibility. Consumers are not sticking to strict mealtimes these days; instead, they’re increasingly gravitating toward food and service formats that can seamlessly integrate into their rapid-fire lifestyle. Expect snacks like bar bites and shareable fare to drive appeal during the hours after dinner, while grab-and-go platforms will expand across segments to make eating on the run easier any time of day.
United States – the seven big foodservice trends for 2016
Many of the above trends in the UK are visible in the US but our list for this market is longer and different.
Trend 1: The Sriracha effect
Having learned that Sriracha sauce can add instant ethnic cachet to something as straightforward as a sandwich, chefs are scouting the world for other assertive flavourings to employ in similar ways. Likely bets: ghost pepper from India; sambal from south-east Asia; gochujang from Korea; harissa, sumac and dukka from north Africa.
Trend 2: Elevating peasant fare
Meatballs and sausages are proliferating – traditional, ethnic or nouveau, shaped from many types and combinations of meats. Likewise on the rise are multi-ethnic dumplings, from pierogis to bao buns.
Trend 3: Trash to treasure
Rising prices for proteins raise the profiles of under-utilized stewing cuts, organ meats and “trash” species of fish but the “use it all” mindset has also moved beyond the main dish. How about a veggie burger made with carrot pulp from the juicer?
Trend 4: Burned
Smoke and fire are showing up everywhere on the menu: in charred or roasted vegetable sides; in desserts with charred fruits or burnt-sugar toppings; in cocktails featuring smoked salt, smoked ice or smoky syrups.
Trend 5: Negative on GMOs
Whatever the science says, many consumers have made up their minds: no genetic tinkering with their food. Some diners will gravitate to restaurants touting GMO-free fare; others will demand GMO labeling on menus. That’s a big issue for the supply chain, since many crops (such as soy feed to livestock) have been modified to boost productivity.
Trend 6: Fast food refresh
Consumers gravitate to “better” fast food, transforming and diversifying the industry. “QSR plus” concepts with fresher menus and spanking-bright units exploit a price niche between fast food and fast casual (think Culver’s or Chick-fil-A). “Build your own” formats are springing up in more menu categories. Many quick-service eateries are adding amenities like alcohol. Others are giving up on upscaling and returning to their roots, serving simple, traditional menus at low prices.
Trend 7: The delivery revolution
Proliferating order-and-pay apps and third-party online ordering and delivery services make “dining in” easier than ever and, in some cases, “dining out” a thing of the past. Transformational companies like Uber and Amazon are muscling into the market. App-only services like Munchery deliver food from commissaries, bypassing the brick-and-mortar restaurant altogether.