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Globally, foodservice continues to see strong growth; in 2018 the top 25 foodservice markets grew at a collective rate of 5.7% in value, and 2.8% in real terms, with consumers spending US$3.3trn in those countries.

Emerging markets like China, the Philippines and Malaysia are booming, while larger, more established markets like the US, Canada and Europe are more mature and showing slower levels of growth (but still faster than the retail segments in those markets).

Despite varying economic and cultural differences, there are similar macro trends that are driving growth and innovation across the globe. Technomic’s research has identified eight global trends that companies – whether chain operators, distributors or manufacturers – must understand and incorporate into their strategies. The specific ways these trends play out may differ slightly from country to country, but these macro trends represent consumer needs as they relate to their needstates and usage of foodservice globally.

Trend 1 – Accessibility

When we talk about foodservice “accessibility”, we refer to an umbrella term that speaks to the consumer demand for food anytime, anywhere. Globally, almost 60% of consumer foodservice occasions are consumed “off-premise” and the trend points to continued consumer interest in convenient options for ordering and receiving food outside the traditional in-restaurant dining occasion.

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The primary way this trend has been playing out in global markets is through the explosive growth in food delivery (and primarily third-party delivery through players such as Uber Eats, Grub Hub, Deliveroo, etc.) but increasingly operators are also investing in solutions for off-premise catering, takeout and drive-through. The implications for this will play out for years to come through smaller restaurant footprints, technology-enabled solutions and new service solutions to meet the demand of the on-demand consumer.

Trend 2 – Health Redefined

“Health and wellness” has been an ongoing trend within foodservice, and while we’re not suggesting “indulgence” is going away; Technomic continues to see consumers hone in on health-oriented items and reward restaurant operators who meet their evolving needs.

A big part of the shift has been a focus on quality becoming a quintessential part of health definitions across markets and consumers that have become weary of additives and artificial flavors are gravitating toward more natural and authentic items.

However, now there’s been continued evolution with how healthy is defined by consumers and this plays out in three key areas:

Plant-based fare and veggie-forward items; our global menu tracking shows a huge movement toward plant-based items on menus. In general, this is greater emphasis on vegetables is driven by environmental and animal welfare concerns and vegan/vegetarianism is becoming a much more mainstream diet trend.

Health claims that speak to functional benefits; translating nutrition facts so consumers know how certain ingredients will benefit them. Consumers increasingly are looking for foods that have a positive impact on their well-being.

Sustainability; at the intersection of health and general dietary concerns, consumers want their meals to be healthy for them and the planet.

Trend 3 – Mine

This trend has been evolving for years and at its most basic includes growth in the consumer demand for “made to order” or “build your own” that allows customisation.

However, as more consumers express dietary preferences and restrictions, the need for consumers to be able to build items that meet their needs is increasingly common. Consumers want choice and flexible options and increasingly find value in restaurant and foodservice operators that can provide this.

Trend 4 – Snacking

For the most part, snacking is a fairly ingrained behaviour across all markets that Technomic researches, and it has persisted because it gives consumers flexibility and options.

In fact, over half of consumers in every country we track – with the exception of France – note that they snack at least once a day, and 44% of global consumers snack more than once a day, up slightly from 41% in 2017.

This has spelled opportunity for foodservice operators and manufacturers that cater to this needstate; we see a renewed focus on craveable, affordable and portable items, particularly within limited-service restaurants, while operators have also been able to capitalise on interest in healthy snacks – items that can be functional and replace meals.

It also plays out for full-service/sit down restaurant operators, where a focus on upgraded bar menus, shareable items and finger foods allow these operators to engage consumers for incremental occasions outside of meal time.

Trend 5 – Technology

Technology has been redefining the guest experience for years, and operators continue to turn to technology to help solve for rising costs and demands for convenience.

Already, the ordering process has become highly automated with in-store kiosks, apps, online ordering, facial recognition and facial ordering becoming more common across the global scene, and it’s becoming easier for consumers to place and receive their order without ever talking to an employee if they don’t want to.

One caveat to the tech movement should be noted, however: while technology can add value to the overall occasion, it’s important to remember that tech is still secondary to critical attributes like quality and price

Trend 6 – Channel Blur

The industry is fundamentally changing in response to consumer behavior, with an increasingly diverse array of operators jumping into foodservice.

For many of these new operators, prepared food offerings are seen as a way to differentiate themselves from the competition.

Competing for “share of stomach” means that restaurants no longer only compete with other restaurants, and segments such as convenience stores, supermarkets, food trucks, meal kits and other retailers all provide legitimate options for consumers looking for variety and flexibility.

Trend 7 – Transparency and Conscious Operating Practices

As noted earlier, sustainability is a trend that can address consumer demand for “healthy” items as these items are seen as better for consumers, but sustainable or conscious operating practices are increasingly becoming table stakes for operators.

Environmental concerns are impacting restaurant and foodservice operators around the world, and calls for reducing usage of plastic straws, excessive packaging, plastic containers and other single use items have been seen in the US, Europe, South America and Asia.

Other ways in which this trend manifests itself is through a reduction in food miles, a focus on fair trade items, transparency in food preparation and sourcing methods, and moves toward “zero-waste” kitchens.

Trend 8 – Fun

Importantly, companies in the foodservice industry must never forget it is a business built on hospitality and enjoyment – and this extends to menu items that provide experiences that go beyond food as fuel.

Often, this involves food and drink that’s shareable on social media – Instagrammable menu items that incorporate surprising colours, textures and appearances, or whimsical items that offer a sense of escape, are all creating fun items that consumers love to eat and drink and share.

Foodservice continues to evolve as a global industry, and trends are increasingly global in nature. While these trends may play out somewhat differently market by market, they can be found in every country around the world.