Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Top 5 Food Trends Seen at the 2017 National Restaurant Association Show

The National Restaurant Association Show hosted its 98th annual National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show and Beverage Alcohol for Restaurants (BAR) at NRA Show from May 20–23, 2017 at Chicago’s McCormick Place. In this article, I will highlight noteworthy trends in food that I saw at the show. A separate article on beverage trends will be published.

1. Bowling for Breakfast

Menu trend analyst Nancy Kruse highlighted Wagamama's Ramen Breakfast in her "Menu Trends 2017" session. McDonald’s decision to offer an all-day breakfast effective October 2015 has brought more attention to the additional revenue potential of breakfast. Restaurants adding more breakfast options are embracing traditional egg, sausage, and cheese sandwiches as well as breakfast bowls and ethnic egg casseroles such as the Tunisian shakshuka. The “Bowling for Breakfast” FOODamental Studio session ties into to the rising demand for comfort foods such as ramen noodles served in a bowl. In the session, Abra Berens, Chef at Granor Farm, demonstrated how to use eggs, beans, and vegetables to make a breakfast bowl. 

2. Filipino Flavors

Ricardo Jarquin, Brandon Domingo, Josyline Javelosa, Ph.D., Consul Melchor Lalulino, Jr

Filipino cuisine was center stage at this year’s show. Two FOODamental Studio sessions featured chefs preparing Filipino dishes that represent a melting pot of culinary influences from Spain, China, Malaysia, Japan, and the U.S. At a “Breakfast Beyond Borders” session, Carlo Lamagna. Executive Chef at Clyde Common and creator of the Twisted Filipino pop-up dinner series, demonstrated how to prepare arroz caldo, a type of congee with chicken bits. The National Restaurant Association cited ethnic-inspired breakfast items and authentic ethnic cuisine as two of the top 10 food trends in its 2017 Culinary Forecast.

In the “Cool as Kinilaw” session, Chef de Cuisine Ricardo Jarquin and sous chef Brandon Domingo from Travelle Kitchen + Bar taught me and other attendees how to make kinilaw, a Filipino style ceviche made with coconut milk. Agriculture Attaché Josyline Javelosa, Ph.D., of the Embassy of the Republic of the Philippines and Consul Melchor Lalulino, Jr (both pictured) of the Consulate General of the Republic of the Philippines attended the kinilaw session. The Philippines pavilion at the show hosted exhibitors featuring a wide range of foods including banana chips, calamansi concentrate, coconut amino sauce, and single-origin dark chocolate.

3. Diners Want Plant-based Options

Though only 3.3 percent of U.S. adults follow a vegetarian-based diet according to a 2016 Harris Poll commissioned by the Vegetarian Resource Group, growing numbers are looking to eat more plant-based options for a number of reasons including health concerns, animal welfare, and environmental sustainability. Plant-based foods also have higher appeal among college students and Millennials. The same Harris Poll found that 5.3 percent of U.S. adults ages 18-34 are vegetarian, compared to 3.3% for all U.S. adults. The age 18-34 group is also keen on eating vegetarian meals when eating out. 43% of the ages 18-34 stated that they always or sometimes eat meals without meat, fish, or poultry when eating, compared to 37% of the total U.S. adult population.

Restaurants at all price points are adding more vegetable-based options. The White Castle fast food chain made news when it added Veggie Sliders made with Dr. Praeger’s vegetable burger to its menu in 2014. It recently introduced a Black Bean Slider, also made with a Dr. Praeger’s product. 

At the NRA Show, a number of companies offered a wide variety of plant-based products to appeal to flexitarians and reducetarians looking to eat less meat. Beyond Meat calls its The Beyond Burger, “The world’s first 100% plant-based burger that looks, cooks, and satisfies like ground beef.” The makers of The Beyond Burger have designed it to be very close to a beef patty with similar levels of protein and calories (20 grams of protein and 290 calories per 4 oz. patty) as well as providing the “bleeding”, courtesy of beet juice extract. Similar to Beyond Burger, Eleni’s Modern Mediterranean’s plant-based gyro slices and shawarma slices offer 21 grams of protein per serving. The Tofurky booth showed boxed sandwiches made with its deli “meats” as a grab and go option.  Passport Food Group, LLC offered Wing Hing Popcorn Tofu, a crispy seasoned organic fried tofu, to capitalize on the popularity of popcorn fried chicken and shrimp. Pinnacle Foods Group offered Gardein Meatless Italian Pizza Crumbles made to simulate pork crumble.

4. Hummus Growing in Popularity and Options

Hummus continues to grow in popularity in the US, with retail sales growing by 3 percent to reach $788 million during the 52-week period ended October 3, 2016, according to IRI data. Sabra, the number one hummus brand in the U.S., sees plenty of room for future growth as household penetration of hummus is only at about 29% in the U.S. At the NRA Show, multiple exhibitors showcased their hummus including Sabra, which is owned by Strauss and distributed by PepsiCo in the U.S. Makers of the chickpea-based dip and spread are aiming to distinguish themselves from rivals by touting their products as offering fresh taste. Baruvi Fresh LLC’s Hummustir offered a kit that allows foodservice operators to easily make fresh hummus by combining packets of organic chickpea puree, organic tahini, and spices, and stirring. Ithaca Hummus calls its hummus “cold crafted” by touting its use of cold pressed lemon juice, blending while cold, and the use of high pressure processing (HPP).

5. Minis in Breads and Desserts

Foodservice operators are aware that many consumers are seeking to watch their calorie and carbohydrate intake. They also want to offer grab & go items in the chiller case and reduce food waste. Food makers offered several mini breads and desserts to meet consumer demands for small indulgences and snacks. Pinnacle Foods Group introduced Duncan Hines Perfect Size For 1 Cakes mixes in flavors such as Strawberry Shortcake that can be microwaved in cups. The Eli’s Cheesecake Company offered 3-inch Butter Tarts and Salted Caramel Tarts in bulk or individually wrapped formats. On the savory end, Boulart’s Ciabatta Bites are now individually wrapped in heatable packaging. FGF Brands, Inc's Stonefire Ancient Grain Mini Naan offers the advantages of ancient grains (quinoa, spelt, buckwheat) and 40 fewer calories than its original Naan.

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