Dine on this: 6 restaurant menu trends to impact manufacturers in 2016
There’s no question that the food manufacturing and foodservice industries are inextricably linked and common trends frequently exist between the two. Often trends that start in foodservice slowly make their way to food manufacturing as they become more established, and other times vice versa. The advent of social media has made this process even more swift.
"The smart [manufacturers] certainly monitor what’s going on [in foodservice]," said Bob Goldin, executive vice president of Technomic Inc., which released its 2016 Food Trends report based on an analysis of quantitative menu data earlier this year. "They can’t respond to every little niche trend out there, so I think they look at overarching trends."
Here are foodservice trends for 2016 that have also made their way into food and beverage manufacturing.
Natural, minimally processed foods
Food and beverage manufacturers have talked endlessly about how to make their products more natural and with cleaner labels. This year, a number of major manufacturers announced plans to eliminate artificial colors and flavors, and this has proven to be true in the foodservice industry too, according to the National Restaurant Association’s (NRA) 2016 What’s Hot culinary forecast, an annual list of restaurant menu trends.
Bold, spicy flavors
From sriracha to ghost peppers and all that’s in between, bold and spicy flavors have made their way into both grocery stores and restaurants, as confirmed by restaurant consulting firm AF&Co.’s 2016 Trends Report. Everything from Heinz ketchup and Blue Diamond almonds to Rogue Ales & Spirits’ Sriracha Stout has adapted to consumers’ rampant love of the hot red sauce, which has also started appearing on many restaurant tables in the past few years. Technomic calls it, "The Sriracha Effect" and includes ghost pepper, sambal, goshujang, harissa, sumac, and dukka as other spicy additions to menus in 2016.
Along with this trend, bags of Doritos Roulette entice consumers with the chance of coming across a particularly bold bite, claiming to contain "one super spicy chip in every handful."
In its What’s Hot report, the NRA includes sustainable seafood and environmental sustainability as two of the top 20 restaurant menu trends for 2016, with more restaurants using more sustainable ingredients in their menus. Sustainability has also played out in food and beverage manufacturing in the past few years and will likely continue to do so. PepsiCo announced more than $375 million in savings since working toward its sustainability goals set in 2010.
Sustainability has taken many different forms, from cutting carbon emissions and conserving water throughout the supply chain to sustainably sourcing ingredients, such as cocoa and palm oil, and food animals. Recently, the FDA approved GMO salmon, the first genetically modified animal permitted in the U.S., which has been lauded by some for its potential sustainability and condemned by others, particularly environmentalists and health-conscious, anti-GMO consumers.
Annika Stensson, director of research communication for the NRA, believes consumers are one of the drivers behind the sustainability movement in the food manufacturing and foodservice industries.
"Sustainability is obviously a big part of people’s lives in areas other than foods," said Stensson. "You have hybrid cars, for example, or household cleaning products that are biodegradable, or energy saving and water saving that people do in their houses. [Consumers] want to reconcile their food choices with that philosophy as well."
General Mills pledges to cut carbon emissions by nearly 30 percent http://t.co/1rsvdN4NMh— MPR (@MPR) September 6, 2015
Kombucha and matcha tea
Kombucha and matcha companies have seen explosive growth over the past few years, and part of that has been the use of these two tea drinks in specialty alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages served at bars and restaurants, AF&Co. noted in its report. As mixologists get crafty with these botanical beverages, kombucha and matcha continue to gain popularity as what consumers deem to be healthier alternatives to soda and sugary beverages.
Kombucha has seen sales in the U.S. increase five times since 2013 to about $600 million per year, but manufacturers have also run into legal issues because of the alcohol produced as a result of the fermentation process. As for matcha tea, DoMatcha, a producer that sells to Whole Foods and U.S. specialty stores, reported a 30% jump in U.S. sales, while Ippodo, another matcha producer, saw U.S. sales grow 20% to 25% in recent years.
The NRA named ancient grains as one restaurant menu trend for 2016, and manufacturers haven’t been far behind. Quinoa is the arguably the best-known ancient grain, but many others have found their way into a wide range of grain-based products, from breads to cereal, including General Mills’ Cheerios + Ancient Grains, which debuted last year.
Other ancient grains that may pique manufacturers’ interest in the coming year include chia, amaranth, millet, farro, spelt, freekeh, einkorn, teff, sorghum, kamut, and kaniwa (quinoa's cousin).
Food waste reduction
Food waste happens at all levels of production and consumption, and that includes both food manufacturing and foodservice. More restaurants and manufacturers are recognizing the need to find ways to reduce food waste either in-house or throughout their supply chain.
While the NRA points to this as a top food trend for restaurants in 2016, manufacturers and industry groups have taken their own strides to make an impact on the 31% of food at the retail and consumer levels that went uneaten in 2010, according to the USDA.
The Food Waste Reduction Alliance, a joint venture of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, Food Marketing Institute, and National Restaurant Association, released a food waste guide for the industry, highlighting the efforts of Campbell and ConAgra.
The U.S. government is also starting to get involved. In September, the USDA and EPA officially set the country’s first national food waste reduction goal — a 50% reduction by 2030. Recently, a bill was introduced in Congress in the hopes of standardizing manufacturers’ "best by" dates so consumers don’t waste food that is still safe to eat.
In 2016, the food manufacturing and foodservice industries will learn more from each other than just what the next hot flavor or ethnic cuisine might be, as both industries strive to meet consumers’ demands for food that better aligns with their interests for their health and the health of the planet.