13 emerging restaurant trends for 2016 that likely will influence CPG food & beverages

By Elizabeth Crawford contact

- Last updated on GMT

13 emerging trends that likely will influence CPG food & beverages

Related tags: Food

Demand for more plant-based, vegetable-forward food has been growing the past few years, but the trend will hit new heights in 2016 – taking over the center of the plate and more often than before fully replacing animal protein, predicts trend tracker Andrew Freedman, president of AF & Co.

He acknowledges that most restaurants have always offered one vegetarian option, but the emphasis is on “one,”​ which will no longer be enough.

“Plant-based diets will get even more popular,”​ fueled in part by a desire to eat healthier, but also more environmentally sustainable, Freeman explained during a Nov. 9 webinar and in his recently released 2016 Trend Report.

The report explores emerging trends at restaurants and hotels, which often are leading indicators of what is to come in packaged food and beverage.

The plant-based trend already is visible in the rise of meat alternatives, such as jackfruit​ and tempeh​, as well as the emergency of ancient grains and dairy alternatives.  

Other trends Freeman spotted emerging at restaurants that could influence packaged food and beverage, include:

  • Hawaiian flavors​ – This is part of the growing interest in local foods and distinctive American regions. The trend could be a boon for Spam, which is an island favorite.
  • Sliders minus the burger ​– Restaurants are serving up “mini bite indulgences,”​ that allow consumers to enjoy a flavorful treat without the guilt. But they are no longer restricted to burgers. Now sliders come with fish, pulled pork, meatballs and shelf fish, Freeman said.
  • Fiery foods beyond sriracha ​– These include spicy-sweet combinations and cocktails with a kick. Spice is particularly well suited for snacks that are small because they are less intimidating, flavor-company Kalsec​ previously told FoodNavigator-USA.
  • Lobster rolls ​– Long a Northeast staple in the summer, decadent, buttery lobster rolls are gaining traction across the country, Freeman said – calling it “the sandwich of the year.”
  • Discarded scraps made delicious​ – The nose to tail movement is morphing to include all types of foods. The movement is gaining traction as a way to reduce costs and food waste. In the CPG space, ConAgra has embraced this concept to create mixed-flavor puddings that are the result of packaging blended pudding created when one flavor transitions to the next in machinery.
  • House milled flours​ – Building on the trend to make in home condiments, pickles and craft cocktail infusions, restaurants are starting to mill their own flour, Freeman said. This could pave the way for small-batch milled grains or for farms with limited yield to manufacture and market their products to consumers.
  • Cucumber are cool​ – “Cucumbers are the ‘it’ vegetable”​ at restaurants, which are serving them smashed, sliced fried and fresh, Freeman said. This trend could translate to RTD smoothies, juices and other fresh snacks. CIFI​ earlier this noted the demand for cucumber juice from manufacturers, while DRY Soda​ and Saga Dairy​ say it is a top flavor. 
  • Compressed melon and root vegetables​ – Casual and high-end restaurants are embracing compression as an adventurous but accessible technique.
  • Stuffed dumplings ​– Samosas, empanadas, blintzes and all other types of stuffed dough pillows are in demand, Freeman said. These trendy treats would translate easily into freezer aisle items that are a quick, yet flavorful, meal solution.
  • Brunch gets bigger​ – “Breakfast and brunch will go over the top with decadence and indulgence”​ in 2016, predicts Freeman. This bodes well for eggs, bake-and-serve pastries and baking mixes that will help consumers replicate brunch at home on a smaller scale.
  • Ice cream sandwiches are elevated ​– A summer staple for many children, ice cream sandwiches are becoming more sophisticated with restaurants offering combinations like chocolate chiffon in cocoa shortbread with caramel milk chocolate crunch, Freeman reports. On the CPG side, Coolhause​ already offers fun flavors to satisfy children and adults. 
  • Fried chicken ​– This fan favorite appears on waffles and next to mashed potatoes. On the retail side, players can set their products apart with convenience, quality and, in the case of Hip Chicks​, animal welfare claims. 

In beverages, Freeman sees demand for mocktails, kombucha, “treatful”​ coffee and matcha, among other trends in spirits and craft beer.

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