“This pandemic has been keeping us at home. And while we’re at home, many people are experimenting with new foods to break up the monotony,” said Mark Brandau, group manager of Datassential during an SFA Ask the Experts webinar, Thursday.
New research from Datassential’s menu trends database, which looks at more than a million menus from over 100,000 foodservice venues, shows that regional American and global flavors are increasingly appearing on menus across the country, showing that the time is ripe to introduce consumers to new flavors and foods.
Brandau shared highlights from the research, including most popular menu trends by category and which dishes were rising in popularity and what’s next on the horizon. They include:
Appetizers. Dishes like elote, a street corn from Mexico, or poke, a raw fish salad from Hawaii are rising in popularity on menus. In addition, East Asian shisito peppers; burrata, an Italian cow’s milk cheese; naan, an oven-baked flatbread; and chicharrón, fried pork belly or rinds, are also appearing more on menus. Brand new to menus are dishes that include harissa sauce, sumac spice, or pomegranate, said Brandau.
Sauces and flavors. Growth in this category comes from increased interest and familiarity with global cuisines. Brandau also noted that sauces like tajin from Mexico and gochujang from Korea are popping up more and more. Nashville hot sauce and Sriracha aioli are also trending. Many flavorings, like matcha, add a pleasing visual appeal to dishes, enhancing the sensory experience, Brandau said.
Alcoholic beverages. Regional American beverages like New England IPA and Kentucky Mules are increasingly showing up on menus, along with international drinks like Japanese whiskey and the Mexican paloma, which consists of grapefruit juice and tequlia. Brandau mentioned that spicy drinks are on the horizon, especially those made with Tajin, hot sauce, or ancho pepper.
Entrees. Once again, poke has high menu penetration, along with the Southern American favorite chicken and waffles. Other entrees growing in popularity include Roman pasta dish cacio e pepe; shakshuka, a Mediterranean egg dish; and Mexican dish tinga. Breakfast, in particular, is seeing a lot of shakshuka dishes, as well as bowl-style meals, according to Brandau.
Dessert. Churros, a Mexican pastry, and coffee-based Italian affogato are climbing in menu popularity, as well as mochi, a Japanese rice dessert. New Orleans classic beignets are also seeing a lot of menu penetration. Brandau said that plant-based desserts are becoming more standard on menus, giving a vegan twist to old favorites like red velvet or stracciatella.
Non-alcoholic beverages. Brandau shared that matcha and chai tea lattes are seeing increased attention on menus. Milk tea and jasmine green tea are steadily gaining popularity, as well as kombucha and Aguas Frescas, a Mexican drink made with fruits, cereals, flowers, or seeds. Floral flavors like lavender, hibiscus, and rose are starting to find new-found popularity among consumers as well.
When asked what the best way to start introducing these new flavors or dishes to consumers is, Brandau suggested finding ways to incorporate it into old favorites or standards. “Even in a dish that we’re eating a lot more of, or getting tired of, there are ways to dress that up with a new flavor.”