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In what is likely a response to consumer demand for healthier items, or an operator response to pricier beef, pork's presence on restaurant menus nationwide has jumped 7 percent in the past year.
According to foodservice marketing research firm Technomic, the increase is part of an overall shift toward rustic, natural ingredients such as Chipotle's use of naturally-raised pork for its carnitas.
Bernadette Noone, director of Technomic MenuMonitor, a searchable online database that collects information about restaurant menus quarterly, said there are various reasons behind pork's rise. For example, the cost of beef has risen sharply this year, while pork hasn't been nearly as volatile. In its Q3 earnings call, Domino's Pizza CFO Michael Lawton said the top commodities have increased more than 8 percent over the same period last year.
"The higher cost of beef has made pork a nice substitute in combo dishes," Noone said. "Where customers were once seeing chicken and beef on the menu, they may now see more affordable chicken and pork dishes."
Additionally, according to Technomic's 2011 Beef and Pork Consumer Trend Report, health is the primary reason cited among consumers who expect to purchase pork more often at restaurants, according to Noone.
Bacon sends numbers up
Noone added that the popularity of bacon is another factor in the overall rise in pork dishes.
"For the last few years we've seen bacon-related menu items increase by over 7 percent annually," she said.
The versatility of bacon has put it front and center among numerous product launches throughout the past year. Darrel Suderman, Ph.D., president of Food Technical Consulting and founder of Food Innovation Institute, said this is because bacon is an American favorite, which makes it a low risk ingredient in product innovations. It's also one of the few food products that can incorporate a smoky flavor, and its salty taste can be an easy way to spice up existing flavors.
The QSR segment in particular has provided a boon for bacon. The NPD Group reported that total bacon servings have held steady throughout the past two years, but at QSR establishments, there has been an increase in bacon products by 7 percent in 2010 and 2 percent so far in 2011.
New pizza launches boost numbers
Technomic's MenuMonitor tracked new menu items with pork from July through September of this year. Pizza establishments had an abundant representation, from Amato's Pizza's new Cuban Panini to Breadeaux Pizza's Bar-B-Que Pork.
Some other new items contributing to the pork increase in that timeframe include:
Read more about trends and statistics.
Photo provided by stevendepolo.
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