Organic. Gluten free. Cupcakes. Bacon on everything.
These days, when a new food trend first rises to popularity, there’s no telling if the innovation will flame out quickly or catch on and become not just a trend but a permanent addition to restaurant menus, packaged meals and dinners eaten at home.
Originally, food trends were spread by cooking magazines like Gourmet and through cookbooks penned by celebrity chefs. But now, social media outlets like Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter give diners the opportunity to spread trends on their own. Many savvy smaller marketers are taking advantage of the personal nature of social media promotion. Food trucks, for instance, got traction because of the Twitter savvy of the owners of the Kogi Korean taco truck.
Signs That a Food Trend Is Here to Stay
When a food trend shows sustained growth, you can typically assume that it is on its way from fad to full-time menu item. A new white paper, Healthy and "Health Halo" Industry Report from Food Genius, says that availability of gluten-free items has more than doubled in the past year, going from 4 to 9% of restaurant locations. Other health-oriented trends have grown as well, such as low-fat, organic and "natural" labeling.
Innovative foods can also be seen as permanent changes when they've gone beyond the cutting edge hipster hang outs and into standard menus. In past years, bacon was a hot trend, showing up on much-shared Pinterest boards as an ingredient in everything from cupcakes to vodka to donuts. But, while foodies have moved on to other food trends, bacon's place in regular restaurant menus has been confirmed. It has a permanent place atop fast food burgers in chains like Wendy's and Burger King, as well as a spot in menu items throughout the day in chains like Denny's.
How to Catch a Food Trend Wave
The trends that stick are the ones that fit a restaurant or food producer's established clientele. What do your customers enjoy? Is the demographic that you cater to health-conscious or do they prefer indulgent offerings?
By scouting out trends and going with those that fit your brand and your clientele, you can use food trends to keep your offerings fresh and increase your customers' interest. A restaurant in the fast casual sector, for instance, typically appeals to younger consumers who want quick meals but still seek quality. This group is willing to pay a premium for qualities like locally grown produce, organic ingredients and options that appeal to specific diets such as gluten-free eating.
Restaurant Hospitality talked to industry experts to get their idea of what trends would be big in 2015:
- Clean eating. Whether organic, local or using short lists of fresh and easy-to-pronounce ingredients, food offerings that appeal to a desire for clean and healthy eating will continue to be successful.
- Mash-ups. Croissants and donuts merged to make cronuts; then, the cronuts were used as the buns for monster burgers. While individual food trend mash-ups will enjoy just a brief moment in the sun, the mash-up as a method will continue to be big.
- Local chains. Diners are getting more and more interested in where their food comes from. But, at the same time, diners still desire reliable quality. Smaller, local and regional chains can fulfill both those desires.
Food fads will come and go. But, innovative foods that tap into larger consumer trends can catch a wave and enjoy longer lasting success. Watch the trends that come along. See how they are received by consumers in your niche. Experiment with these popular food trends and you will find that you connect with your dining audience in fresh and new ways.