We were excited to be at the Flavor Experience conference last month in Monterey, CA, an event that always delivers fresh insights from leading experts and top operators from multi-unit foodservice. In case you missed it, we’ve gathered our top takeaways below, and have our culinary team weighing in from the Test Kitchen.
Pasta (and other comfort food) is getting us through the pandemic
Maybe no surprise here, but consumers say pizza, pasta, burgers and sandwiches are among the top foods they want most right now from restaurants. What might be surprising is that nearly half (48%) of consumers say they aren’t tired of anything yet – these popular comfort foods are retaining their appeal. Still, a big majority (78%) of consumers say they are ready for something new.
What’s the new flavor?
Asian and Latin flavors look likely, as they are mainstream and popular but still ethnic enough to be edgy and “new.” Middle Eastern, Thai, and Vietnamese all were singled out by Datassential’s Mike Kostyo.
A few of the top growing entrée flavors:
- Hot chicken: +135% 4-year growth
- Cacio e pepe: +93%
- Tinga: +52%
Keep on keeping it spicy
We touched on this in the last edition, but it bears repeating. Spicy flavors are now an expected flavor profile, with nearly all of the top growing flavors having some level of heat. Here are a few of the standouts:
- Nashville hot: +367% 4-year growth
- Gochujiang: +117%
- Spicy honey: +97%
- Calabrian chile: +60%
The need to keep it simple
In every presentation, roundtable and workshop at the Flavor Experience, we heard a common refrain about the need for simplicity. Meeting consumer needs for something new and exciting that they aren’t likely to make at home – without outpacing what understaffed restaurants can manage – is a delicate balancing act. Add in the challenges in supply chains, and keeping it simple becomes a mantra to live by.
Leaning on a popular comfort-food like pasta keeps innovation in the operation’s wheelhouse – an item you know your team can execute, is food-cost friendly and widely available. Now that Barilla pasta is available in both shelf-stable dry and pre-cooked frozen forms, application possibilities are virtually limitless. Layer on trending flavors and seasonal variations, and you have a recipe for success! For more menu ideas, see what our chefs had to say about these trends.
Source for all stats: Datassential as presented at the Flavor Experience, September 2021