Out-of-the-way food trends offer restaurants a plethora of opportunities
Food innovation firm, CCD Helmsman, released its list of nine “2019 Food Trends That Matter.” Kara Nielsen, vice president, Trends & Marketing, for CCD Helmsman is one of the most respected trendologists in the country and is part of the team that dove into what’s emerging and trending in the food industry. The trends (see poster on page 12) are broken down into three categories: on the horizon, coming into view, and in view. Among those on CCD Helmsman’s list of food trends are Aussie influence, meet fruit meat, mushroom RX, abra-cassava, coffee cascara brews, nutrition of the sea, the veg spread, plant cheese choices, and egg power. Restaurant C-Suite dove into a few of these trends that have a high-impact on foodservice operators and restaurants with Nielsen.
Fruit as meat
More individuals are consuming less meat. A report from GlobalData, highlighted by Michael Pellman Rowland in Forbes, says 70 percent of the world’s population is reducing meat consumption or taking meat out of its diet altogether. It’s no surprise that fruit is ‘coming into view’ as a good meat alternative or a way to reduce meat consumption. Jackfruit has been a darling plant-based alternative to meat. Jackfruit, before it is mature, has a flaky, meaty texture that lends itself well in packaged products. Now, a whole new group of accessible fruits could be joining jackfruit at the center of the plate.
Consumers are starting to have fun with grilling and smoking fruit to replace meat. Is watermelon the new ham? Smoked watermelon can be a fun replacement for this pork product, says Nielsen. Roasting strawberries and other fruits give them a caramelized texture. Restaurants that are keen on giving consumers what they want can adopt fruits for greater use in their meals. They can also make fruit the center of the plate entirely, and develop recipes for appetizers, salads and entrées that are big on fruit.
This gives operators an opportunity to reduce costs, too. With 14 percent of consumers already using plant-based alternatives at home, according to research firm NPD—and 86 percent of them not identifying as vegan or vegetarian—it’s a good time now to make fruit the new meat, instead of just treating it as a supporting cast member.
Coffee cascara brews
Coffee fruit teas are infusions of upcycled, dried coffee cherry husks, or “cascaras”. Coffee cascara drinks come from the coffee house culture, notes Nielsen, and have been used as teas in refreshing beverages ideal for the afternoons. Traditionally, coffee cascara drinks have had profiles on the lighter side of the caffeine-content spectrum. What’s more, these refreshing beverages have been adopted mostly by beverage entrepreneurs in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) space.
From Australia, Caskai is one such beverage, which is made with “sun-dried cascara from the highlands of Nicaragua and Panama,” according to its website. Caskai started selling in the United States in 2017, notes Coffee Daily News. Carbonation and citric acid are also added by the manufacturer to make Caskai a nice pick-me-up beverage.
Nielsen has seen many products that use coffee ingredients, including coffee flour, come and go. Perhaps, they were ahead of their time, she says. Now, there’s definitely a rising interest in coffee, whether in beer or other CPG products. The evolution of coffee cascara brews is timely along this developing trendline in 2019. R&D teams can try cascara brews, which resemble black tea, in housemade beverages. A fast-casual brand would be well-served by adding a coffee cascara brew beverage to its selections.
Beverage R&D should consider coffee cascara drinks
Restaurant chains have been making in-house beverages a staple of their offerings, and rotating beverages seasonally to drive interest. Fast-food and fast-casual restaurant chains have been setting themselves apart with unique beverage offerings that identify with their brand. McAlister’s Deli carries a sweet tea, which has a unique, southern heritage. Flower Child, a made-from-scratch, farm-fresh menu concept, carries refreshing lemonades and kombucha.
Typically, fast-casual chains carry beverages with varying strategies. These pivot off of functional messaging and drinks touting “in-house prepared” claims that fit well with their brand. Freshii and Sweetgreen are two, such players. Sweetgreen, for example, carries Kale Gingerade, Chai Iced Tea, Cucumber Ginger Lime Fresca, Jasmine Green Iced Tea, and Lemon Fresca. Freshii carries functional beverages, like vitamin water. No matter the choice or strategy, these popular beverages are designed to satisfy the lunch rush afternoon pick-me-up occasions, or served as eye-appealing fountain beverages.
Quick-service operators can stock cascara beverages in grab-and-go spaces to create (or add to) a highly-differentiated beverage lineup, and also offer them fountain-style. Coffee cascara drinks can also be incorporated into complex, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, suggests Nielsen. Non-alcoholic beverages combining coffee cascara brews with fruit juice, tea, sparkling water, and other such combinations are prime for adding to a restaurant beverage portfolio. Restaurant marketers can present these as functional “refresher” beverages to energize sales in 2019.
Nutrition of the sea: fish as a high-protein, low-carb meal or snack
Research from CCD Helmsman points to another important trend: fish—particularly sustainable fish—as a high-protein meal option. While some experts are looking to seaweed and sea plants as an opportunity in 2019, Fish is a great, high-protein, low-carb meal or snack that is coming into view in the middle stage of trend evolution, which is evidenced by the CCD Helmsman barometer (analysis). Salmon Cracklet from Williwaw Foods and Irvins Salted Egg Fish Skins are just two such examples. These snacks in the CPG category hint at what is possible as entrepreneurs turn their eyes on fish.
“What else can you do with it (fish), and have the nutrition in it?” Nielsen asks. For restaurants with seafood programs, she says fish skin can be prepared “chicharrón-style.” Restaurateurs can also look at seafood pâté as another option or continue adding fish to soups and stews—a cioppino, which is an Italian-American fish stew originating in San Francisco, is a great option for this. Use fish in salads and don’t just tap salmon. Leverage other sustainable fish options, including pollock, from the family of cod fish. The San Francisco-based trendologist says restaurants should move away from limiting fish to fried and battered applications.
Plant cheese choices
For the vegan set, snack and meal options in the grocery aisle continue to grow. Restaurants must also strive to increase options along this continuum. While cashew cheese and other plant cheeses are fully in view, these
options are not as numerous currently within foodservice. Companies like Daiya and Miyoko’s produce tasty vegan products that can also be applicable inside restaurants.
The smooth, creamy taste of Daiya’s Plain Cream Cheeze Style Spread is a vegan option that may even have non-vegans skipping the real thing. Also, Miyoko’s cashew cheese and butter products came into the spotlight at the MetroCooking DC Food show in Washington, D.C. in December. At the popular foodie event, Miyoko’s featured two fan favorites, the vegan cheese wheel and vegan butter, which is a relatively new product and made with organic cashews.
The best applicability for these plant-based cheeses is the breakfast category. Restaurants can add vegan spreads to accompany bagels and increase the number of dairy-free options at coffee and bagel stations. In thinking about and assessing their own customers, restaurant chains of all sizes should ask themselves if increasing vegan cheese and spreads are good for their operators and will help grow their business.
More 2019 food trends
Australians have already given us avocado toast, but the strongest Aussie influences have been in the coffee space, including the flat white latte. In the food trend context, Aussie influence on U.S. food evokes “feelgood”
food sentiment if one were to base it on the foods already imported here. Think chill and relaxed. Expect more Aussie influence, which is very subtle now, but becoming increasingly pervasive, particularly since there
is a growing Australian population on the West Coast. Experts see meat pies breaking through and also spirulina lattes. Restaurant chains can draw inspiration and menu item development from this budding trend, particularly as they relate to the java space.
In greater numbers, American consumers love their veggie spreads, which is made possible by increased accessibility to Mediterranean foods. Veggie spreads and veggie bowls are good for experimentation within R&D at restaurant chains. Smeared dips and spreads that add appeal to vegetarian selections are in play. Going beyond the dip, “brightly-colored and bold flavored vegetable smears and swoops are brightening sandwiches, salads and meals,” says CCD Helmsman. Colors and playful combinations are bringing a new era of veggie spreads fully into view.
From fruit as meat and Aussie influence to high-protein fish applications, coffee cascara brews, colorful veggie spreads, and plant cheese choices, these 2019 food trends draw inspiration from trendlines already developing and hold a world of promise for restaurant operations that choose to experiment with and adopt them.
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This article was originally published in Restaurant C-Suite Magazine.