I was at the Speciality and Fine Food Fair recently on the lookout for the next big food trend and hoping to sample some flavour sensations. While I wasn’t quite ready to try the insects that were on offer there were lots of emerging trends that could offer opportunities for caterers to drive profit and customer satisfaction.
1) Embrace healthy indulgence
There is a growing idea that healthy food can also be indulgent and we are also seeing more people who are willing to accept unusual flavours and flavour combinations. This shift in attitude and taste has been popularised by the increasing numbers of consumers who are interested in fitness and nutrition, but don’t want to compromise on their love of tasty food. The success of some high-profile online chef bloggers and vloggers has also been a big factor.
It’s great to see lots of weird and wonderful food inspiration, but the questions I’m always asking are - will it add value, will it work operationally, and are consumers ready for it? The reality is that while insects are creating a buzz they are not going to work on the menus of the majority of our customers. However, there is a desire for alternative proteins and foods with a healthy halo so I’m definitely keeping an eye on this.
2) Regional provenance
Using ingredients with provenance continues to be a great way to add value to dishes but it’s not just about British or Spanish ingredients, it’s now about regional provenance on a global scale. I’ve seen a huge amount of different cured meats and cheeses from different areas of Spain and Portugal in particular. Using these as part of toppings for wedges or chips can add real interest and value to dishes. School caterer? Why not take a look at our blog post on international inspiration for school lunch ideas.
3) Get on trend with flavoured oils
Another easy way to add value through toppings is by using infused oil - lemon and cocoa bean infused oil were among the more surprising and popular varieties I tried at the show. More familiar options, such as garlic and chilli oil were also popular, but all of them would certainly help to give potato dishes a more indulgent, premium edge. Coconut oil or butter is another trend that is massive at the moment and is easy to use as a unique finishing touch for potato dishes.
4) The growth of ‘restless palate syndrome’
The other trend that I’m starting to see more and more of is what some people call ‘restless palate syndrome’, which is a desire to experience multiple flavour sensations – whether it’s sweet, savoury or bitter, all at once. Salted caramel is an obvious example and one which works really well with Sweet Potato Fries, as elaborated in my previous blog, but I expect to see greater use of cocoa, cinnamon and even chocolate beyond the dessert menu, not to mention things like chilli honey.
Adventurous consumers are becoming the norm. With some more quirky casual dining restaurants already using popping candy as a topped fry option and bacon fry crisps in burgers to create taste and texture sensations, whatever trend takes off next, it’s certainly not going to be boring!
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