From new global mashups to evolving customer-facing technology, 2019 promises to be an exciting year.

If there’s one thing that’s constant in foodservice, it’s change. Every year brings a new wrinkle, a fresh food trend, an innovation that wasn’t even foreseen 12 months ago. This goes beyond the question of “What’s the next sriracha?” to encompass developments that are both current and structural, long-term movements that will continue to affect the industry for years to come.

WHO IS THIS REPORT FOR?

Not all of the trends discussed here will affect these segments in the same way, but as channel boundaries continue to blur in the consumer’s mind, demand and relevance will spread.

  • Retail: Convenience Store and Supermarket Prepared Foods
  • Restaurants: QSR, Fast Casual, Midscale, Casual, Fine Dining
  • Onsite: B&I, Lodging, Hospitals, Long-Term Care and Senior Living, K–12, C/U

WHAT ARE WE FORECASTING?

By focusing on the macro of developing trends—rather than the minutiae—this report will help you prepare for the coming year.

  1. As ingredients and flavors from cuisines like Mexican, Mediterranean, and Asian continue to mainstream, consumers are becoming increasingly interested in food and beverages that reflect Korean influences, Indian mashups, and a deeper dive into Middle Eastern.
  2. Popular menu specialties and techniques that are trending now reflect a focus on healthier options and culinary mastery, including fun, customizable poke bowls; sophisticated texture options that emphasize the crisp and the crunchy; and the continued evolution of plant-based diets.
  3. Customer demand for new experiences, better convenience, and enhanced personalization are leading to the development of interesting new integrated food and beverage concepts, grab-and-go upgrades, 24/7 snacking options, and the technology that helps put it all together.

TRENDING SPECIALTIES & TECHNIQUES

Healthy Drivers, High-Impact Prep

It may seem as if today’s food and beverage trends are all over the place, careening from newer-than-new beverages like nitro cold-brew coffee to heirloom grains that have been enjoyed for thousands of years, from funky, fermented kombucha to comforting old-fashioned fried chicken and biscuits. The fact that these divergent offerings can and do coexist on menus is one indication of how popular they are.

Consider poke. This Hawaiian-style fish salad has caught on in no small degree thanks to its healthy image. Low-fat yet flavorful, easily made gluten free, and loaded with protein and vegetables, poke checks many of the better-for-you boxes. It’s also attractive and Instagram-friendly, reflecting the knife skills and attention to presentation that go with it. Small wonder that, according to Datassential, it’s particularly popular with the influential Gen Z and Millennial demographics.

Another trend that’s benefiting from consumer interest in healthier options is plant-based dining. With more consumers eating less meat and more fruits, vegetables, grains, and other plant foods, the menu landscape is changing to accommodate not only vegans and vegetarians, but also a growing number of so-called flexitarians. These consumers still eat meat, but they’re eating less of it, and they’re challenging operators to create plant-based menu items that are just as satisfying and tasty as traditional offerings.

Certainly, the popularity game will be won by those who can offer food and beverage options that answer demand for craveability—that unique combination of qualities that includes texture as well as flavor. That’s one of the reasons that crisp, crunchy foods like fried chicken, chips, toast, nuts, and crudité are so on-trend right now.

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