Menu, product trends to watch in 2015

by Erica Shaffer
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CHICAGO – The environment, global influences and menus for children are just are a few categories the National Restaurant Association (NRA) pegged as trends to watch in 2015. NRA bases its predictions on its What's Hot culinary forecast over time.

First up, sustainability has gained in popularity across business segments, and it will remain among the hottest trends in foodservice menus, the NRA reported. As prices for food continue to climb, minimizing waste and surplus will be a cost-management tool for foodservice operators. Following on the heels of sustainability is reducing food waste.

“Composting, recycling and donating are all tactics of food waste strategies tying into both sustainability and social responsibility,” NRA noted.

Another trend to watch is the evolution of local sourcing. The NRA predicts hyper-local food sourcing will grow beyond restaurant gardens into house-made, farm-branded and artisan items. Also, look for foodservice establishments to produce signature menu items from scratch — ice cream, cheese, bacon and beer are likely candidates.

Pickling and fermenting are staging a comeback but with a modern twist, according to the NRA. Foodservice operators are exploring house-made pickles, ethnic flavors and specialty vinegars and other small-batch products.

Consumers went global in their quest for new flavors and dining experiences, and they aren't likely to return soon. Ethnic cuisine continues to make inroads into mainstream America, the NRA reported.

“Micro-trending in this category is fusion cuisines, as well as authentic and regional, underscoring the breadth and depth of flavors being explored,” NRA said. “Also, ethnic ingredients, including cheeses, flour and condiments, are increasingly finding their way into non-ethnic dishes.”

Additional items gaining momentum include ethnic street-food, children's entrees and ramen.

Speaking of children's menus, offerings are expanding beyond hot dogs and chicken nuggets. Chefs and foodservice operators are adapting dishes from adult menus for the younger set. NRA reported that healthy versions of gourmet meals are growing. Ingredients include whole grains, vegetables, oven-baked items and entrée salads.

Finally, as new trends arise other trends are fading. The popularity of hybrid desserts such as the croissant-donut peaked, while the momentum of gluten-free cuisine is slowing, according to NRA.

“Similarly, the trendiness of Greek yogurt is decelerating,” NRA said. “Only time will tell if these items will become perennial favorites or yesterday’s news.”
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