NRA identifies menu trends for 2012

by Meat&Poultry Staff
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WASHINGTON — Children’s nutrition and local sourcing will be the hottest trends on restaurant menus in 2012, according to the National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot in 2012 survey of approximately 1,800 professional chef members of the American Culinary Federation.

Smartphone apps and tablet computers were also cited by the chefs as top technology trends. Plus, six out of 10 chefs said they consider a food truck as an entrepreneurial business venture.

The top 20 menu trends for 2012 include: locally sourced meats, seafood and produce; healthful kids’ meals; hyper-local items; sustainability as a culinary theme; children’s nutrition as a culinary theme; gluten-free/food allergy-conscious items; locally produced wine and beer; sustainable seafood; whole grain items in kids’ meals; newly fabricated cuts of meat; farm/estate-branded items; food trucks/street food; artisan spirits; house-made/artisan ice cream; health/nutrition as a culinary theme; non-traditional fish; fruit/vegetable kids’ side items; children’s mini-meals (i.e. smaller versions of adult menu items); and culinary cocktails.

Top menu trends in the What’s Hot in 2012 survey reflect the macro-trends that have been growing over the last several years, said Joy Dubost, Ph.D, R.D., director of Nutrition & Healthy Living for the National Restaurant Association. “Nutrition — especially when it comes to children — is becoming a major focus for the nation’s nearly one million restaurants, in tune with consumers’ increasing interest in healthful eating,” she added.

Local sourcing of everything from meat and fish to produce to alcoholic beverages is another major trend predicted for 2012, she added. Local farms and food producers have become an important source of ingredients for chefs and restaurateurs who want to support their business community and highlight seasonal ingredients on menus, she said.

More than six out of 10 of the chefs said they would consider launching a food truck as an entrepreneurial business venture.

In October-November, NRA surveyed 1,791 American Culinary Federation member chefs and asked them to rate 223 food items, beverages, cuisines and culinary themes as a hot trend, yesterday’s news or perennial favorite on restaurant menus in 2012.

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