Many of this year’s hottest food and restaurant trends are efforts that stem from seeds sowed in previous years, from the ongoing quest to cut artificial ingredients from menus to the rise in retail restaurants aimed at encouraging shoppers to linger longer, according to Baum + Whiteman’s 2016 forecast.

This year’s restaurant menus are taking the quest for “clean” ingredients to a new level, with chains such as Chipotle Mexican Grill, Panera Bread, McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts simplifying recipes and touting their short ingredient lists. The trend and other health-focused movements ranked high, including the growing move toward veggie-centric plates and vegetarian meals.

Pasta sales have dipped across the globe during the past five years, including a 6% dip in the US, as consumers have cut carbs and gluten, the report says. In response, chefs are creating spaghetti-shaped “noodles” from veggies including zucchini, beets and sweet potatoes, and they’re also working produce-based purees into pasta dough to add a veggie kick to traditional pasta. (read more…)

For many, ringing in a new year means clinking glasses of bubbly together in celebration. At Datassential, we’re toasting 2016 with our latest MenuTrends Keynote Report covering insights in alcoholic beverages. Our report covers all the bases, from consumer sentiment on alcohol preferences to operator data on what’s being served and where. The following is just a small shot of all of the insights covered in our report – a little aperitif to start you off.

Alcohol appeals to…

Alcoholic beverages are both widely available and widely consumed in the US. According to Datassential MenuTrends, more than half of all restaurants serve some type of alcoholic beverage. While it should come as no surprise that non-alcoholic beverages are more widely consumed in any given day (water is the most common, followed by brewed coffee), beer and wine don’t fall far behind. Beer is the most consumed alcoholic beverage, with 16% of adults drinking beer on any given day, a higher consumption rate than many non-alcoholic drinks like specialty coffee, sports drinks and energy drinks. (read more…)

A new promotion and campaign touting the premium ingredients and recipes that make Papa John’s pizzas worth paying a bit more for ranked high with SmartBrief’s food and beverage readers this week, coming in second after a tale about the soaring popularity of meat-based jerky from established companies and emerging startups such as Epic, which was recently acquired by General Mills.

PepsiCo’s plans for a restaurant, bar and event venue called Kola House also made the top five, as did news that grocers Meijer, Lucky Supermarkets and Whole Foods’ 365 are vying for retail space in the Twin Cities and a story about the will of Williams-Sonoma founder Chuck Williams, which leaves his massive cookware collection to the Culinary Institute of America.

Here’s the entire Top 10 list of this week’s most-read food and beverage stories:

  1. Jerky craze shows no sign of slowing
  2. Papa John’s shifts focus from price to premium pizza
  3. Meijer, Lucky’s, 365 scout out crowded Twin Cities market
  4. Williams-Sonoma founder wills eclectic cookware collection to CIA
  5. Pepsi to court social-savvy consumers with Kola House
  6. CAVU Venture Partners raises $156M to invest in CPG brands
  7. Hershey to expand distribution of Krave brand
  8. Kroger chooses new division presidents
  9. How Campbell’s chefs stay on top of the latest trends
  10. Whole Foods chooses Chicago area for 365 expansion

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As a restaurateur, you either give your customers what they want or you could go out of business.

Where sustainability is concerned, you can leverage your customers’ opinions and attitudes to better understand what environmental efforts you should undertake, which could generate more sales.

A short case study from our neighbors to the North is helpful here.

Tips from a Canadian success story

In Canada, selling root beer and burgers is good business. With 845 locations, A&W Food Services of Canada, Inc. has a successful business model and is committed to reducing its environmental footprint. When they wondered where to begin their eco-efforts, they asked their customers.

The company crafted an environmental strategy focused on waste diversion, based on consumer market analysis and feedback.

“The majority of our sustainability initiatives are guest-led,” said Tyler Pronyk, director of distribution, equipment and packaging.

“We became the first national QSR chain to exclusively serve beef raised without the use of hormones and steroids, and that was sparked by consumer demand. (read more…)

This post is sponsored by AFS Technologies.

Scenario planning has long been used in managing resources and making marketing and sales decisions at the enterprise level. But thanks to greater connectivity and mobility, the technology is now becoming a critical tool for the marketing and sales departments, especially in managing consumer goods brands and promotions. We recently spoke with Alex Ring, vice president for trade promotion management at AFS Technologies, who called scenario planning a “Swiss army knife,” as it enables trade marketers and sales to deal with every possible contingency.

What is one of the biggest challenges you see with beverage companies and how can scenario planning help?

The greatest challenge marketers and sales face is the number of beverages and various “flavors” of a brand, and finding the right balance in promotions. If you go back 10 or 20 years, the typical approach was to encourage the salesperson to do the math and make sure they were considering events promotions, different price points and coming up with the balance that would work. (read more…)