Trending Now: Food and Flavor Predictions for 2014

penne_spicy_duck_ragout3874As with every year, the end of 2013 and beginning of this year brought a fresh flurry of food trend predictions from the experts. They weigh in on everything from the next “it” foods (i.e., Sea beans are the new kale! Biscuits will replace 2013’s pretzel bun!), to macroeconomic and social psychological factors impacting consumer behavior. It’s a lot to sort through, but thankfully there are some common themes and underlying drivers that emerge when you look at the big picture.

For the second year in a row, there’s wide consensus that better times are ahead for the foodservice industry in 2014. Consumers are still cautious, but are eager to return to foodservice and have done so increasingly for the past two years.  Lower unemployment coupled with higher disposable incomes make good news for foodservice operators.

Here are a couple of the highlights and points of consensus among the experts. For a roundup of trend stories, see “Good to Know” For Mintel’s 2014 Foodservice Trend forecast, click here or email Dan Reidy at [email protected].

Alternative Proteins: Experts agree that beef prices will rise again and remain high, continuing a move by operators away from what was once America’s favorite protein. Health concerns among consumers also impact this, as both boomers and millennials are looking for healthier, more affordable items, and are willing to go vegetarian, at least some of the time. Look for more meatless (vegetarian) items, and more of the “other” proteins like lamb, pork and even goat, especially if any of them are sustainably raised. We may not be ready for lab-produced meat or algae as our source of protein, but the day of extremelyalternative proteins may not be too far off!

Barilla insight: Pasta remains an effective carrier for operators to maintain a strong value perception with guests, using less protein but delivering a satisfying meal and full plate appeal. Savvy operators are also using pasta as an easy and approachable way to introduce less familiar proteins to the menu. Think spicy duck ragu, or lamb Bolognese?

 Better for Me: Several pundits and research firms are touting a continued emphasis on healthier options in dining out. The fact that all of the most powerful demographic groups – millennials, boomers, and Hispanics – are more interested in healthy options than average is what gives this movement staying power. While only a minority (about 21% of consumers, according to Mintel) care about healthy eating more than any other criteria when dining out, a full 40% can be described as “health seekers” for whom finding healthy choices is important when choosing where to dine. What does healthy food mean? Here’s a breakdown:

  • Fresh – more produce and veggies, less processed, more “natural”
  • Smaller portions
  • Healthier prep methods (i.e. not fried)
  • Suitable for alternative diets, like gluten-free

Barilla insight: Barilla’s full line of better-for-you pastas, from the new gluten free to whole grain, high-protein Protein+™, and veggie pastas are an easy way to incorporate healthier choices into your existing menu. Our principles for flavor-pairing with whole graincan help you not just offer a healthier choice, but make it a winning item for flavor as well.