Q&A: Foodservice Innovation

September 2020

Foodservice operators are increasingly challenged to develop new tastes and flavor combinations while also meeting consumer demand for healthier, more sustainable options. The industry is also adjusting to trends and consumer preferences that have emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kathy De La Bastide, Group R&D Manager at Chaucer Foods, discusses trends driving foodservice menu innovation, and how freeze-dried ingredients can help foodservice operators develop distinctive dishes that align with evolving consumer preferences.

1. Which trends have been driving innovation in the foodservice market?

For the past decade, the foodservice industry has shifted toward cleaner and simpler ingredients that are perceived as healthier and provide a ‘feel-good’ experience to the consumer. Terms like organic, free-range, wild, homemade, farm-to-table, hormone-free, and many others are now mainstream across menus for restaurants and other food and beverage service outlets. Many fast-food chains have also expanded their availability of healthier alternatives and made a great effort to include more premium and sustainable ingredients.

The market has also gravitated toward menu items that provide a unique experience for consumers, distinguishing them from more mainstream and generic meal options. An interesting development, and one likely driven by increased globalization and access to cultural diversity, is the willingness of individuals to explore new flavors and recipes with which they may not be so familiar. The growth of fusion restaurants is evidence that innovation and the blending of different styles and cuisines is increasingly welcomed by the consumer.

2. Are you seeing these trends change, or any new trends emerge, as a result of COVID-19?

Despite the challenges that the foodservice industry has endured over the past few months, we believe that the more health-minded and socially-conscious consumer is a great source of opportunities heading into 2021. COVID-19 has been a boon for brands that carry products that strengthen the immune system and that are high in nutrients like Vitamin C, Zn, Se, among others. Over the long-term, we expect to see more foodservice menus offering functional food and beverage offerings that are aligned with this growing focus on health and wellness.

In the short-term, we are likely to see foodservice outlets prioritize their best-selling menu items and the comfort foods that customers know and love. Many restaurants are also focused on optimizing their meals for delivery and take-out, and innovating ways they can help maximize the restaurant experience at home.

How can freeze-dried fruits and vegetables help foodservice providers innovate new menu items?

Freeze-dried fruit and vegetables are all-natural and have a high degree of traceability, so they are aligned with the trend toward healthier, more sustainable and clean-label foods. Whether used as an ingredient, inclusion, or topping, freeze-dried fruit and vegetable powders can add texture, vibrant color, and important nutrition to a range of breakfast, lunch, dinner and even dessert items.

Freeze-dried ingredients also help solve many menu challenges, including the desire for more vegetarian, vegan, and plant-based dishes. Exotic fruits (like dragon-fruit, acai, and red currant) and vegetables (like purple sweet potato, kale, and ginger) with unique flavor profiles have been particularly popular in the past few years. Recent innovations include using vegetables and legumes as a low-calorie substitute for grains and pastas. Mushrooms are also seeing a surge in popularity due to their versatility, especially in plant-based foods where they can provide meat-like heft and texture.

Whether you are working on something new, or reformulating your menu to meet new trends, our team can work with you to find a solution that adds value. Find more tips for elevating your foodservice recipes with freeze-dried and baked ingredients, or contact us today at customerservices@chaucerfoods.com.

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