Global foods and flavors are captivating American palates and chefs’ imaginations, making a strong showing on menus and grocery store shelves. Eight in 10 consumers now eat least one ethnic cuisine a month and 66% of consumers eat a wider variety of ethnic cuisines now than five years ago, according to a 2015 survey from the National Restaurant Association. Diners are eagerly exploring dishes from around the globe, but Latin cuisine may have the strongest influence on Americans’ appetites.

Mexican food is one of the top three most-consumed global cuisines, according to the NRA survey, but Americans are also branching out and exploring flavors from across Latin America and the Caribbean. From Peru and Puerto Rico to Brazil and Bolivia, Latin cuisine is increasingly familiar to US diners as it finds a place on more menus and chefs turn out dishes that run the gamut from authentic to modern fusion.

The Culinary Institute of America launched The Center for Foods of the Americas more than a decade ago, and the research hub eventually evolved into the school’s San Antonio, Texas, campus, which began offering a Bachelor’s degree program in Latin studies in 2014. (read more…)

Vegetables continued to take over more menu categories and replace meat at some meals for a growing number of consumers this year, and the trend is predicted to grow even bigger in 2016.

Rising interest in healthy eating, the movement towards local foods and a growing acceptance of meals that don’t center around animal protein are all driving vegetables’ prominence and popularity.

Locally grown produce ranked third on the National Restaurant Association’s annual What’s Hot culinary forecast for 2016, and NRA director of research communications Annika Stensson said the coming year is expected to bring more restaurants featuring vegetables at the center of the plate. As more consumers warm to the idea of meals without meat, we will see more chefs “celebrating produce in and of itself — everything from staple items like carrots and beets, to less familiar items like watermelon radishes, fiddleheads and kohlrabi,” Stensson told The Packer. (read more…)

Sweet, salty and spicy flavors have been captivating consumers for years, but a new taste is carving out a space on menus and supermarket shelves. The rise of bitter flavors began in earnest this year as consumers’ continued love of kale, Brussels sprouts and bitter IPAs carried over into an appreciation for black coffee, cocktail bitters and charred foods.

The trend may stem from consumers’ desire to be “challenged” by new flavors, Mintel analyst Marcia Mogelonsky told FoodNavigator earlier this year. “Salty/sweet used to be cutting edge, and now it is so routine,” she said.

Bitter flavors have made the strongest showing in the beverage sector, in drinks ranging from coffee concoctions to craft cocktails to green juices made with kale and other bitter greens. As consumers’ acceptance of bitter flavors grows, bars are including the term in more menu descriptions to drum up interest, according to a report from Datassential Menu Trends, which found that “13.4% of beverage menus contain bitter in the menu description and it is the largest penetrated menu part. (read more…)

When looking ahead to the trends that will matter in 2016, Datassential focused on both the macro-level food trends that are redefining the industry, as well as the micro trends that are impacting specific ingredients or segments. We looked at the major trends that are influencing the culture and economy overall, from generational shifts to economic drivers, and combined it with

Datassential’s industry-defining data from services like MenuTrends and LOCAL to understand how the food industry will be affected in the year ahead. These are the trends you need to know in 2016:

MACRO TRENDS:

  1. Don’t call it ethnic: For groups like Generation Z (born 1997 or later), which will comprise 40% of the population by 2020, ethnic cuisine is their cuisine. Not only is this a multicultural generation itself, but overall this generation is more likely to prefer cuisines like Korean or Vietnamese to “American” or Southern. They don’t go out to eat for cuisines like “Mexican” or “Japanese,” they simply go out for tacos and ramen.
  2. (read more…)

The delivery space continues to heat up — with good reason. The weekly use of delivery services has nearly doubled over the past five years, according to a Technomic & American Express study.

For restaurant brands, the pressure to deliver superb pickup and delivery experiences has never been higher. Our newest endeavor at Olo is focused on helping restaurant brands answer the challenges of delivery at scale (more on that later). On the delivery services side, players like Postmates, Caviar, DoorDash, OrderUp, and many more are referring to themselves as “pickup services” rather than “delivery services.” In other words, they are the agent of the guest and are simply picking up the order for the guest at a fee — oftentimes with no formal relationship with the restaurant.

One day, I read a press release that McDonald’s was launching a delivery trial with Postmates (a well-known last-mile delivery company) in Manhattan. (read more…)