Lentils have long been a "superfood."
Not every new item that catches on with natural and organic food devotees will cross over onto mainstream restaurant menus. But enough of them do—kale, quinoa, Greek yogurt—that it’s worth your time to check out the list of 10 natural and organic food trends compiled by the analysts at Boulder, CO-based Sterling-Rice Group. Not only do some of these items hold special appeal for customers; many are food-cost friendly.
Number one on the list: lentils. A nutritional powerhouse, lentils were a superfood before the term “superfood” was coined. The experts at Sterllng-Rice say that now their time has come.
“Thanks to the wave of demand for products high in protein in fiber and free of gluten and soy, the star of many a Middle Eastern dish is branching out into everything from pasta to waffles,” these experts say. “Expect lentils to keep showing up in both familiar and new forms as consumers continue their quests for new plant-based protein sources as well as protein-fortified items across all dayparts and types of food.”
Also coming on strong: grass-fed beef. Some operators already use this type of beef and call it out on their menus. More might want to, because consumer demand for it continues to grow.
“Grass-fed steak is a request no longer limited to restaurants. Consumers are now looking products from happily grass-fed cows, pastured chickens, and pen-free pigs,” the analysts say. “Expect this trend to continue to go mainstream, a la Chipotle, in foodservice as well as grocery and consumer packaged goods.”
Here’s what the Sterling-Rice analysts have to say about the rest of the items on their trend list:
3. It’s more than a gut feeling. Consumers continue their quest for prebiotics, cobiotics and probiotics. Our bodies' plumbing systems get more attention than ever. There are now foods whose main goal is to keep your gut happy.
4. Beets can’t be beat. Moving beyond salad plates, these nutritious veggies are showing up in in everything from juices to fruit leathers to yogurt.
5. Drink your grains. When it comes to getting your daily dose of whole grains, keep your bowl in the cupboard and grab a glass. Food manufacturers are now delivering whole grain goodness in new and unexpected forms, namely, beverages.
6. Honey that is decidedly not for the bees. With growing concern about Colony Collapse and the resulting increase in honey sourced from China, food companies are now making bee-less honey from fruit-based formulations.
7. Top-notch toppers. Savory sauces and dressings are boosting the nutritional stats of salads, pastas and other entrees. This trend may go sweet with calcium-rich chocolate and caramel sauces and creamy high-protein cake frosting.
8. African superfoods. From nutrient-dense baobab fruit snacks to moringa leaf snack bars and bissap tea, Africa is the latest hotbed of exotic superfoods.
9. GMO-free is the way to be. Move over, USDA organic certification. The GMO-Free Project Verified seal is the new badge of honor to display.
10. Nondairy goes scary. Ever consider sipping pond scum? Now you can. Algae milk is the new kid on the crowded nondairy milk block. With impressive nutrition stats, lack of allergenic ingredients and a sustainable production story, it's a worthy contender. Many of these trends apply mainly for food manufacturers. Others seem like they might never make the leap from the health food market to foodservice. But if your restaurant attracts diners who favor good-for-you items, keep this information in mind as you’re creating new specials or reworking your menu.
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