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Foodservice Trends to Watch for 2021

Flavor & The Menu magazine does a wonderful trend forecasting issue every year, and this year I was honored to be among the distinguished panel of experts they chose to participate for their Top 10 Trends 2021!

Here are 4 quotes of mine they chose to support the various trends in the issue, as well as a little additional context around why I think they’re important for 2021!

“Operators need to lean into functionality across both food and beverage. Whether it’s emerging trends like CBD, the immediate need for immune-enhancing vitamins in beverages or something as simple as satiety through use of a product like lentils that has protein and fiber, operators can capitalize on a variety of strategies. One idea is the simple tactic taken by smoothie shops of adding immunity, protein, or cognitive boosts to beverages. Another is the notion of building dishes packed with vegetables known to have immunity-boosting vitamins. Think of it as the new definition of a power bowl.”

Although Flavor and The Menu chose Immunity as a trend, I feel that it is important to broaden that definition to encompass functionality in a larger sense. We all inherently know some foods are functional, just think about milk, you know it has calcium and that is good for bone health, or that carrots are good for your eyesight! Now consumers are expanding that definition into popular claims around protein and satiety, or even further into items that help with our gut health like kombucha, and even skin health with collagen. Where does your brand fall on the trend scale for functionality and are you doing enough to be ready for it?

“Regional American specialties are a great way to celebrate our country’s food heritage, and pimento cheese has earned its way onto cheese boards, charcuterie platters and other shareable options.”

This one is just fun. I love Pimento cheese, and I’m so happy to see it on the trend list. Over the past few years on a variety of trend treks I’ve seen Pimento grow it’s presence on menus. You can even apply it to sandwiches. Check out this short video (scroll to “Mike & Patty’s” and jump to 1:20 into the video) on the pimento cheese breakfast sandwich from Mike & Patty’s in Boston – although they creatively call it “Carolina Caviar”!

“A big trend I’m seeing is premium meats on breakfast sandwiches. You don’t have to upgrade everything on each of your sandwiches, however a serious callout about the meat portion, along with a delicious egg, cheese and bread combination can be game changing. Brisket, braised pork belly, pulled pork shoulder and Cadillac bacon (sugar-coated and baked) are easy ways to put a premium on the meat.”

It’s no secret I work with Eggs so I really wanted to call out one of the hardest hit dayparts during the pandemic – breakfast. Breakfast sandwiches are such a dominant feature in breakfast away from home and they continue to dominate. They’re a great canvas with which to offer something familiar, while at the same time providing your brand differentiation with a premium meat.

“Now is not the time to ease up on innovation or slow down on building your product pipeline. The best-positioned brands will have a robust pantry of products that can flex up and down to meet evolving consumer demand.”

This feels inherently challenging and perhaps even counterintuitive in these crazy times when you’re worried about business continuity. My business focuses on the larger QSR brands, and I can tell you the best positioned ones continue to innovate. Check out one of my most popular blogs “5 ways to supercharge innovation during the pandemic“ for some simple ideas to help you fill up that ever important pipeline.

Please be sure to dive into other sections of the Flavor & the Menu 2021 Top 10 Trends issue with insights and advice from many great minds in the restaurant industry, you’re sure to learn something new to apply to your business in 2021!


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