Like a good recipe, culinary trends take time to develop. Take a deeper look into “What’s Hot” this year. Understanding culinary trends can give operators inspiration on how to stay on top now and in the future.
Top 2015 Culinary Trends breakdown
1. Locally Sourced/Grown. Hyper-local: The hottest culinary trends remain around locally sourced meat and seafood, locally grown produce and hyper-local sourcing. The stay-close-to-home spirit heightens interest in everything from house-purified water to regional seafood to locally manufactured products like beers and liquors. As the local sourcing trend continues at full speed in 2015, so does the hyper-local sub-trend. Beyond restaurant gardens, hyper-local is extending more fully into house-made, farm-branded and artisan items. From ice cream to cheese, pickles to bacon, lemonade to beer, restaurants are producing their own signature menu items from scratch.
2. Waste Not, Want Not: Environmental Sustainability remains among the top menu trends. In 2015, food waste reduction and management is at the forefront of restaurant operations. Composting, recycling and donating are all tactics of food waste strategies tying into both sustainability and social responsibility. There is also a perception amongst consumers that if their food has not traveled miles to get to their plate, it will just taste better.
3. Mini Gourmet/Generation Z: Children’s menus are drawing more attention from chefs and restaurant operators. This is the era of gourmet kids’ dishes adapted from adult menu items with more adventurous flavor profiles than traditional children’s options. Growing in parallel are healthy versions of those gourmet kids’ items, featuring whole grains, vegetables, oven-baked items and entrée salads. The challenge of appealing to all ages intensifies as younger diners step up demands for speedy high-tech service, heightened experiences, louder music and kinetic visuals.
4. DIY Health: The definition of “healthy” continues to evolve on restaurant menus. At first, “healthy” was focused on nutrition – low calorie, low fat, high fiber content, cutting out trans fats, etc. Then the discussion shifted to “feel good” terms like natural, organic, sustainable, local and fresh. And now the concept of “healthy” is evolving once again, now focusing on functional foods and ingredients such as energy, protein and superfoods, and how the foods are produced. Menus increasingly display pick-and-choose options for everyone from gluten-free eaters to vegans to paleo-diet partisans; offerings are switched out as nutrition fads come and go.
5. Signature Beverages: The microdistillery boom and continued craft beer experimentation are boosting the popularity of craft beers and spirits, and they are transforming the drink menu. Whiskey and bourbon sales are booming in the U.S., creating a market for innovative new products, such as flavored whiskeys on the shelf. Distillers are also creating new hybrid spirits like Vodquila, Jinzu (a combination of gin and sake), and Grey Goose VX (vodka with a hint of cognac). Lighter flavors, lower proofs and bitter flavors will be more prominent on the cocktail menu in 2015. In addition to culinary trends in alcohol, operators are increasingly differentiating themselves with non-alcohol drinks as well – from handcrafted or small-batch sodas to pressed juices to health-halo teas.
Culinary trends are an ever-popular channel of knowledge and research. Knowing what is to come can keep your establishment one step ahead of the game.
*Information courtesy of ConAgra Foodservices, Center for Research, Quality and Innovation.