Taking 2016 retail trends to foodservice

Taking 2016 retail trends to foodservice

Photo: Thinkstock

I am busy squirreling away the gurus’ predictions for 2016 food trends so that I can share with you those I think will have the biggest affect on foodservice in 2016. Look for that article at the start of the new year.

As I sift through these trends, I make note of which apply more to foodservice versus retail and restaurants. Ultimately, most trends hit all three arenas. It’s just a matter of where the trend shows up first and where it has the most lasting impact.

So, while you’re awaiting the top trends hitting foodservice in 2016, I thought I’d give you a heads up about those making a splash at retail. Perhaps they’ll get the juices flowing so you can give your customers a fresh start to the new year.

Bottled Beverages Continue to Blow Up
There is no end in sight to the expansion of the bottled beverage category. Bottled cold-brewed teas and coffees are the next big caffeine buzz with tea- and coffee-flavored mashups also being seen. Kombucha has been around for a while now, but seems to be hitting its stride and going mainstream rather than dropping away. Manufacturers are stocking the shelves with endless iterations of fresh juices and water infusions, seeing what sticks.

These trends are a great guide for doing it yourself and refreshing your beverage stations. If you’re not willing to try them out just yet, perhaps selling them at retail will give you an indicator as to which are seeking demand and have staying power.

Pulses are Vibrating
If you haven’t heard, beans, lentils and chickpeas are now officially called pulses. In fact, 2016 has been labeled the International Year of the Pulses by the United Nations. I even have the honor of attending a culinary event later this month dedicated to this very celebration. While I can’t say for sure, I’m guessing this annual honor has been bestowed because pulses are an economical and sustainable plant-based food rich in protein, fiber and phytonutrients. Food manufacturers are adding pulses to chips and pastas as a more nutrient-rich option to their traditional counterparts and providing every possible flavor profile to bean-based dips, whether that be black beans, white beans, chickpeas or lentils.

Want a more vibrant pulse in your operation? Go to your local retailer and see all the different flavor profiles for packaged hummus and bean dips and chips. The flavor profiles can give you great ideas to provide variety to the hummus and other bean dips and spreads on your salad and sandwich stations. They can also provide inspiration for a new twist to your lentil soup or black bean burrito.  

Canned Seafood on a Sustainable Comeback
Protein-rich foods have seen a big boom in recent years due to all the positive research coming out about their role in satiety and weight management. But, as you know, animal proteins are expensive and consumers are seeking more sustainable options. In light of the trend toward everything being fresh, a notable diversion is that consumers are returning to canned fish such as salmon, tuna and sardines. Why? The research keeps coming in touting the health benefits of eating fish, and canned varieties are an extremely affordable lean-protein option. The category has expanded, and now offers better quality, greater variety and more sustainable options. It’s hard for the average consumer to know where fish species come from and whether they are sustainable. The canned tuna and salmon brands bringing you the most sustainable options tell you right on the package via claims and certifications.  

Canned fish on the salad and sandwich station, or incorporated into a hot meal, aren’t the trendiest of foodservice options. Perhaps signage indicating their health benefits and sustainability practices will make them sexier to your customers?

Acai Bowls on a Roll
If you follow food trends on social media, surely you’ve seen a beautiful photo (or 100) of an acai bowl. They’re an easy way for consumers to make a meal at home loaded with healthy and tasty ingredients. Plus, they’re customizable. I don’t think it’s appropriate, or even feasible, for foodservice operators to jump on every trend out there, but this one could be an easy way to shake things up in your dining room.

If you’ve already got a yogurt parfait station, make it exciting again by adding an acai blend or replacing it for yogurt on some days. It also makes a great mid-afternoon snack, so it can be a featured station when hot meals are no longer being served. If you do participate, I recommend working with your registered dietitian to choose an acai blend that is lower in sugar and offering real and alternative milk options with no added sugars. Also, there’s an opportunity to demonstrate proper portion size with an appropriate-sized bowl.

What do you think of these trends? Will you be incorporating them into your operation in 2016? If so, how? I’d love to hear about what you are doing in the comments section below.

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