While walking the exhibit floor at NRA Show 2012 in search of foodservice fads, most of the things I noticed didn’t seem to fit the bill of a typical hot-ticket item. During a session on how restaurants can adapt international trends to improve their business, food and beverage lecturer Robert Gallicano compared fads to tidal waves: They grow quickly before cresting and eventually crashing out of sight. But trends, he said, are more like an ocean tide “rolling in and out.”
On the show floor, the tide was definitely coming in for food trucks, gluten-free items and specialty wine. While none of these things is new to the foodservice scene, they are all gaining the everyday following that elevates an item from fad to lasting trend. Food trucks are losing their novelty status as they become a go-to lunch destination for diners in search of all types of cuisine. Gluten-free is picking up steam as it gains followers with dietary restrictions. And specialty wine is expanding to appeal to consumers across many demographics.
Here’s a look at companies fueling the trends.
Food trucks keep on rolling. Not having a solid brand and choosing the wrong location are two of the most common mistakes made by food-truck operators, Roaming Hunger’s Ross Resnick said during a session for prospective food-truck owners. Often, these are mistakes that food-truck operators have to make before they learn the best way of doing business. But Los Angeles company Mobi Munch is looking to change that. Mobi Munch offers custom-designed trucks, point-of-sale systems and proven consulting for burgeoning food-truck owners. “We did the trial and error, we made the mistakes,” Mobi Munch’s Dael Cohen said. The company also offers brand-building services and rents trucks, allowing restauranteurs to get into the game more quickly.
Gluten-free is more than a gimmick. When the influx of gluten-free products started arriving on the scene, many people wondered how long gluten-free fever would persist among consumers. Today, demand for these products is still high. Susannah Faulkner, university outreach specialist for Udi’s Gluten Free Foods, compared the growing awareness of and need for gluten-free products to a sudden prevalence of peanut allergy 10 years ago. “Ninety-five percent of people who have celiac disease don’t know that they have it yet,” said Faulkner, who is celiac. While most consumers who are drawn to gluten-free products do it because of dietary restrictions, some athletes have noted that they have increased stamina when they cut gluten out of their diet, Faulkner said. No matter the reason consumers turn to gluten-free, the increase in choices is welcomed. “When I was 4 in the late ’80s, gluten-free didn’t taste this good,” Faulkner said
Wine, any way you want it. Wine is shaking any reputation it once had for being complicated and inaccessible. Additional products are opening up the world of wine to consumers looking for the perfect drink for a multitude of occasions. The Skinny Vine from Treasury Wine Estates is geared toward women who are watching their waistline, with fewer calories per glass. At the International Wine, Spirits & Beer Event, happening alongside the NRA Show, Treasury Wine Estates challenged attendees to take the Skinny Vine Challenge, pouring its product side by side with a full-calorie wine of the same type and asking participants to guess which was which.
For those looking to indulge in wine during an activity in which glasses and a corkscrew might be cumbersome, Copa Di Vino’s ready-to-drink wine pairs portability with the experience of drinking out of a wine glass. “It allows wine to be consumed as easily as beer, pop and the rest of the beverage world,” said company owner and founder James Martin. Six varieties of wine are available in either a glass or plastic wine glass that is sealed with foil and able to be resealed with a plastic lid. “We’re a lifestyle brand,” Martin said. “We don’t think wine should be challenging because of packaging.”