Colorful meets functional

Flavor ingredients that add both color and healthful appeal to dishes are growing in popularity on menus. Fifty-one percent of consumers are willing to try an unfamiliar ingredient if it provides a functional benefit, Mintel said, and color ups the appeal even more.

Ube, for example, is a purple yam that is popular in Filipino cuisine and lends antioxidants and vitamins to dishes. The ingredient adds a touch of purple to menu items, including desserts and beverages. For example, Warm Belly Bakery in Chicago offers an ube cookie with frosting and coconut flakes.

Black garlic, which often appears in ramen broth, adds antioxidants and a darker color to foods. The ingredient is making its way onto more menus, Mintel said, increasing 13 percent from 2015-17.

Sumac, a dried and powdered fruit of the Rhus coriaria plant, is used as a spice in Middle Eastern and South Asian cuisine that adds antioxidants, protein and a pop of reddish purple to dishes. Instances of sumac on menus grew 34 percent between 2015 and 2017, Mintel said.

Algae, which Mintel said is considered a superfood, adds antioxidants, protein and a green hue to foods and beverages. Nineteen percent of consumers said superfood claims encourage them to order a dish or drink from a restaurant. The smoothie chain Juice It Up! incorporates spirulina, a blue-green algae, into its Blue Vitality Smoothie Bowl.

“Expect to see more health-forward menu items that feature visually exciting flavors and ingredients to boost their appeal among diners,” Mintel said.