In other words, this fall consumers want foods that are visually striking and offer new flavor experiences, but they also increasingly are aware of the world’s limited resources and therefore want responsibly and sustainably produced options, Stacey Kinkaid, senior director of product development at US Foods, told FoodNavigator-USA.
To help independent restaurants meet these sometimes competing interests, US Foods is launching 27 new products that can be used in multiple ways and which fit into five key trends: authentic global flavors, vibrant colors, a celebration of vegetables, new world butchery and modern fine dining.
Authentic global flavors
According to data from the National Restaurant Association, more than half of consumers want to try a novel global food, but Kinkaid says reproducing authentic ethnic cuisine can be a challenge for smaller restaurants and foodservice providers because they often require hard to obtain ingredients and spices.
To help overcome this challenge, US Foods is offering ready-to-prepare products that fit into three regional cuisines in which its research suggests Americans are particularly interested, including Mediterranean, Mexican and Japanese.
“One example of a product that would fall into these cuisines is a new Monarch Creamy Miso-Ginger Dressing that is really taking off and is made with miso paste imported from Japan and has spicy ginger notes to it,” Kinkaid said. “It also is really versatile in that it works not only as a dressing but also as a topping for seafood or vegetables.”
An example from the Mediterranean is the Chef’s Line Artisan Chia Ficelle Roll, which Kinkaid described as a “much skinnier baguette,” that can be used in a bread basket, sliced as croutons in a salad or on soup or as the base for fanciful appetizers, such as dips, or during different dayparts, according to Kinkaid. She also added US Foods gave the classic “a twist” by adding chia seeds for a trendy nutritional boost.
The company’s Chef’s Line All Natural Slow-Cooked Pork Shoulder in Achiote Sauce is another flexible option from Mexico that can be used shredded on sandwiches, in tacos or plated as a main. Because the pork shoulder comes pre-cooked and separate from the sauce, US Foods saves its customers time and allows them to customize the product to meet their needs.
US Foods settled on these products and cuisines in part because they are familiar to many consumers, but also still early on the adoption curve and therefore can be difficult to find outside of the regions where they originate, Kinkaid said.
With the rise of social media, how foods look – and how photogenic they are – increasingly influences consumers’ food and beverage selections, and when well executed can turn them into brand ambassadors, Kinkaid said.
As such, US Foods launched several “naturally beautiful products that are vibrantly colored and Instagrammable,” she said.
For example, she noted the commpany’s new Devenshire Premium Black Raspberry Ombre Cake with Vanilla Icing, “is just so beautiful to see because it has four layers of cake that are each a different shade of purple going from darker to lighter, and as you go through each layer there is a vanilla icing that makes it visually striking.”
Another example is Molly’s Kitchen Flamin’ Battered Onion Rings, which US Foods made a vivid red by adding beet powder and cayenne to the batter, Kinkaid said.
“We tried to take foods that don’t normally have a lot of color and we added color to make them more engaging,” she added. However, she stressed, an essential component of this strategy is using natural colors as many consumers are turned off by artificial colors.
Celebrating vegetables at the center of the plate
According to Dataessentials, nearly 70% of consumers want to eat more vegetables, and one in five are cutting back on dairy for health reasons, according to Mintel research.
“We thought about these trends in a couple of ways. One is to help add more plant-based alternatives to classic animal-based products, and then another ways is how we could help by offering vegetable-based products can could used at the center of the plate or a substitute for other products,” Kinkaid said.
“An example of this would be our Molly’s Kitchen Cornmeal-Breaded Green Tomatoes that we actually ship and can replace an English muffin for eggs benedict,” she said.
New world butchery
At the same time consumers are seeking out more vegetables, some also want higher quality specialty meat, which might take the form of new cuts or factor in animal welfare concerns, Kinkaid said.
For example, US Foods offers several new products from animals raised without antibiotics, including a Metro Deli All Natural Soppressata and a Stock Yards All Natural Pork Burger. The second example not only checks the animal welfare box, but also offers a new twist on an old favorite but replacing the traditional beef in a burger with pork, Kinkaid said.
Finally, US Foods recognized consumers’ rising desire to have it all – both high end food historically reserved for more expensive fine-dining establishments, but also the comfort and price point of casual dining.
“We know that there are a lot of classic ingredients that people expect to see in fine dining, but that people also are looking for a more casual atmosphere and more casual eating experience, so we took some of those classic ingredients and put a modern twist on it,” she said.
For example, the company made a classic and higher end pearl onion more accessible and “poppable” by breading it so it is crisp on the outside and tender on the inside, according to US Foods.
A limited time bourbon and maple syrup ice cream infused with praline pecans also elevates traditional fall flavors while still offering them a format that is easy to share and familiar, Kinkaid said.
Reflecting on the new fall line-up as well as what the future might hold, Kinkaid said that sustainability and waste reduction is a trend that underlies all five of these macro trends for fall and likely will gain importance going forward.
“Consumers want products that are responsibly farmed, limit waste and have a sustainable story behind them, and that will continue to be an important trend to track in the future,” she said.