Each new year brings a fresh flurry of food trend predictions from the experts and pundits. They weigh in on everything from the next “it” foods (e.g., tacos are the food of the year; ugly root vegetables are the new kale), to macroeconomic and social psychological factors impacting consumer behavior. Each year at Barilla we sift through the noise and look for points of consensus and core principles that make the most sense.
First, the economic indicators look quite positive for the foodservice industry in the year ahead. Disposable incomes are up; unemployment is down, as are gas prices. It’s not perfect, with flat wages and high underemployment, but pent up demand for foodservice should continue to be fulfilled in 2015.
Here are a couple of the highlights and points of consensus among the experts; for a roundup of trend stories, see “Good to Know.”
I Want It My Way
Chipotle’s success, along with that of fast-casual pizza and sandwich chains have demonstrated the power of letting customers have control over their food. “Build-Your-Own” formats of all types, from burgers to burritos and pastas, will continue to capture consumers in 2015. In addition to control over choosing the ingredients, consumers also want to be able to opt for smaller portions, and to eat almost anything, anytime. Breakfast at 2pm? Absolutely! Half-size portion of that entrée? Of course! A collection of small plates, and no entrée? Definitely! It’s in part driven by younger demographics, those used to the “whatever, whenever” lifestyle, which is why it’s here to stay.
Barilla insight: Pasta is a natural platform for “Build-Your-Own” offerings, combining a cost-effective and familiar base for experimentation with sauces, proteins, and other ingredients. Many non-commercial venues have long known pasta bars are a profitable and operationally smart way to leverage the trend, and now fast-casual concepts are getting in on the action.
Several pundits and research firms listed “clean cuisine” as a top trend. This includes both the “clean label” movement, where consumers are looking to avoid highly processed foods, additives, preservatives, hormones and antibiotics, but also “clean” in the sense of ethics. Consumers (both Gen X and millennial) expect transparency in their food; to know where it’s coming from and how the people and animals involved in creating it were treated. Of course, on top of that is the issue of sustainability. It’s become a basic table stake that foodservice operators have to be doing something to safeguard the long-term health of the planet and the food system. In essence, people want to feel good about what they’re eating – that they’re making a “good” choice both for themselves and for the planet.
Barilla insight: Though it’s less known here in the US than in Italy, Barilla globally has taken a leadership position on issues of sustainability and the food system, through the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition’s (BCFN) research and promotion activities, especially around the Mediterranean Diet. Those principles also inform the products we sell. Our pastas are non-GMO, carry an “all-natural” designation and are a healthy and sustainable food choice. We can help you educate and engage your guests with promotional tools developed by the BCFN, like our “Double Pyramid” for health and sustainability, and the “Si-Med” promotional program.