Menu traits consultants from Panera Bread, Buffalo Wild Wings, Luna Grill, Culinary Tides, Qdoba and Pure Green predict the approaching yr’s high menu traits.
With 2020 being probably the most difficult years of most individuals’s lives, it isn’t surprising that menu consultants are predicting that 2021 will characteristic two extraordinarily completely different taste profiles — Team Comfort Food vs. — Team Healthier Options. Although there was a little bit of a debate on which might take the highest spot, most consultants agreed that we’re in for a reset.
“There was nothing new for 2020, since not only did we go into quarantine, so did trend parents,” Suzy Badaracco, president of Culinary Tides, informed FastCasual. “With parents being quiet, there was no forward motion for trend inspiration for the last year. We have to start over for 2021.”
To predict the approaching yr’s menu traits, Badaracco mentioned we should look again on the regional and world taste traits that had been hitting previous to COVID-19. Those included ceviche, hummus, ramen, toast, poke, mocktails, all-day breakfast, sourdough and regional desserts. Others which have a powerful foundation for a resurgence had been regional seafood dishes, regional BBQ, flexitarian blends, peasant meals, ethnic breakfast, congee and world grilling.
“It feels like companies moved forward with what was in their pipeline for 2020 and didn’t adjust for the reversals and accelerations that occurred due to COVID-19 and recession,” she mentioned.
Mindy Armstrong, the director of menu technique and product innovation at Buffalo Wild Wings, agreed, saying that her crew was revisiting the traits of 2019 and early 2020.
“Funky and fermented flavors, for instance, and globally inspired condiments, sauces and seasonings, like eel sauce, fish sauce, harissa, gochujang, piri piri and za’atar as examples,” she mentioned throughout an interview with FastCasual. “I believe we’ll also see American regional cuisine get a new dose of interest and new variations of comfort foods with a globally-inspired spin. Think ramen, pho, dumplings, tacos and BBQ.”
Michelle Goncalves, VP of culinary at Luna Grill, agreed to some extent, saying that Luna’s 2021 menu will concentrate on classics with a twist.
“We’ve found that during COVID-19, guests were leaning into their tried and true favorites, the familiar,” she mentioned. “We have done well with that strategy, but we also see ‘familiar fatigue’ with consumers. People are getting bored of the same old thing. We have a line-up of new news we are very excited about.”
Luna can be leaning into fusing flavors.
“We look for opportunities to take key Mediterranean ingredients and flavors and leverage them on products to bring them to the forefront,” Goncalves mentioned. “There may be flavors a little less known like schug which provides a burst of fresh herbs and citrus that really come to life on any dish. Or garlic… grated, chopped, infused with olive oil or as a sauce. There are so many great products that a drizzle of our fresh garlic sauce can make the ordinary… extraordinary.”
Known for his or her sauces, the cooks at Buffalo Wild Wings are exploring new and trending flavors to feed that innovation pipeline.
“New pepper varieties are of particular interest for consumers seeking heat and a desire to try something new or beat their last spicy experience,” Armstrong mentioned. “Flavors with smoky layers of heat, the umami-flavors of fermented flavors and a refreshed line-up of unexpected flavor combinations are all on my mind in 2021. Like, I’m hearing about an interest in maple, so what could we mix with maple in 2021 to give this favorite flavor profile relevance next year?”
What’s the weight loss program of the yr?
While Badaracco mentioned the recognition of strict diets like keto was waning, she referred to as intermittent fasting the “top diet.”
|Qdoba Mexican Grill is launching its Mexican Cauliflower Mash this week in all U.S. places. Provided.|
“No one has time for a strict diet that has a high price tag and rules to follow,” she mentioned. “Also, keto also goes against the plant protein trend as on keto you cannot eat grains, beans or legumes (limited).”
Ross Franklin, the founding father of New York City-based Pure Green, nevertheless, believes that keto remains to be going robust, calling it “one of the most popular nutrition plans in the world right now.”
“Pure Green is currently formulating a keto-based handcrafted smoothie and keto-based bowl in order to better serve those who are practicing the diet plan,” he mentioned.
The energy of the plant
Although they’re on reverse sides of the keto debate, Franklin and Badaracco agreed that plant-based choices will preserve gaining floor, a indisputable fact that Luna Grill understands as nicely.
“We have done a great job of embracing this trend and have made products from bowls to burgers with our plant-based partner,” Goncalves mentioned. “You just have to find the right seasoning magic and you can really create some amazing products,” she mentioned. “Finding unique ways to deliver an interesting pairing of sauce, spice and seasoning can make eating our Mediterranean food an adventure.”
Badaracco warned, nevertheless, that excessive taste profile — tremendous spicy, excessive chilies or surprising bitter — will flop this yr. Now just isn’t the time for kimchi or Scandinavian fermented fish or ghost chili, for instance.
“When it is a stressful time, extremes on the pallet are not desirable,” she mentioned. “That is why mac and cheese and meat loaf come again every recession. BTW, that is the recession’s fault — the calmer, extra sedate flavors.
Indulgent flavors are on the high of customers’ needs.
“Healthy has to play the girlfriend, not the main girl,” she said. “The main women are familiarity, indulgence, consolation, value and security. Any well being overlay should take a again seat to all of the others. She will not come ahead till the recession resolves.”
While COVID-19 pushes for immune operate and cognitive well being operate, Badaracco mentioned there have been no particular menu gadgets straight affecting both of those.
“In reality, with stress, despair, nervousness main for cognitive well being operate — indulgence, security and familiarity are the highest drivers,” she mentioned.
Comfort vs. wholesome
Not everybody agreed, nevertheless.
Hoyt Jones, president of Jersey Mike’s Franchise Systems Inc., mentioned his customers had been searching for wholesome and sustainable choices together with antibiotic-free meats, natural produce and vegetarian meal decisions.
Qdoba Mexican Grill was on an identical web page, contemplating that it is launching its Mexican Cauliflower Mash this week in all U.S. places. The low-carb various to rice is constructed from oven-roasted cauliflower and blended with bitter cream, cilantro and pico de gallo. It has 6 grams of carbs per four.5-ounce serving, based on an organization press launch.
“Given the profitable check in Indianapolis, we determined to make this a nationwide menu merchandise,” Karin Silk, VP of menu and off-premises, said in the release. “Our new Mexican Cauliflower Mash offers customers the chance to decide on a healthful various with out sacrificing taste.”
Panera’s cheese flatbread (picture offered).
As low-carb life proceed to develop in recognition, the low-carb weight loss program market is predicted to develop at a fee of 6.four%, based on Data Bridge Market Research. Qdoba’s Mexican Cauliflower Mash is a direct results of utilizing this perception and persevering with to innovate based mostly on rising client demand, Silk mentioned.
Carbs, nevertheless, are on the menu at Panera Bread, mentioned Claes Petersson, head chef and chief food innovation officer, who has been exploring new components for the chain’s not too long ago launched Flatbread Pizzas.
“But we can’t cease there,” he told FastCasual. “Whether bringing new flavors to gadgets presently on our menu or contemplating a completely new providing, we all the time flip first to our in depth pantry of recent, clear components as a supply of inspiration for scrumptious, cravable food our visitors can be ok with.”
Pure Green, in fact, is betting on the healthier profiles, nevertheless, stating that celery juice has gained traction lately, pushed by celebrities and influencers. Pure Green is releasing a 100% natural cold-pressed celery juice
“With a lot of the inhabitants working from house resulting from COVID-19, extra persons are searching for a mind enhance to assist enhance focus in the course of the work week, and have been discovering an answer in nootropics,” he said. “With this in thoughts, Pure Green will quickly be releasing the Lil’ Joe Shot, a 2-ounce shot that stacks the double advantages of caffeine from cold-brew espresso, with polyphenols of cacao juice. Cacao is the uncooked type of chocolate and has a bunch of medicinal advantages.”
Badaracco disagreed, saying that celery juice ties into sure traits — retro (’70s), well being and wallflowers — it isn’t approachable and has no ties to any regional or world taste traits to floor it.
“Celery’s taste profile at greatest in impartial, at worst is grassy,” she said. “It just isn’t crave worthy by itself. Consumers usually are not within the temper to strive one thing with no connection to every other present pattern. It could be higher to look in 2022.”
The backside line
Whether they lean into healthier choices or consolation food, cooks have the chance to re-introduce flavors that may have handed their peak in a “regular” yr.
“Familiar flavors, like BBQ, citrus varieties and vibrant floral flavors are nonetheless in play,” Armstrong said. “In 2021, I am guessing we’ll eat rather less animal protein, drink rather less alcohol and see fewer LTOs for flavors which might be broadly accessible within the mainstream house, like sriracha, schezuan, avocado-everything and broad flavors and not using a sense of place.