Adaptation – 3 Factions Evolve

Dec. 2, 2011 | by Suzy Badaracco

The cage door opened and they were shuttled, unceremoniously, into another cage. "What the hell is going on?" Teddy said as Lilly was deposited into the new cage next to her. "Oooh look, fresh hay and is that...OMG...radicchio!" Lilly responded, not really caring what was going on.

But seriously, the water bottle is like, totally on the wrong side. I don't have a good feeling about this," Teddy said, nudging Lilly out of the way on her way to the food dish. Later that afternoon they were scooped up again and placed in yet another cage – but with a twist.

Lilly surveyed her surroundings, bubbled happy peeps and saying "dude – AWESOME!" Teddy followed her from the center of the cage, across a wire mesh bridge, and into a duplicate cage. "Double digs," Teddy proclaimed "but you still have to stay out of my way." "I know, you love me, you hate me, you love me, blah, blah" Lilly snorted and waddled off to explore the new cloth tunnel in the corner.

Adaptation is key to survival for any species. Darwin once said, and I will paraphrase here, that it is not the strongest who survive but the ones most adept at change. This too is true of trends, not just species, corporations, and guinea pigs.

I was recently chatting with a magazine about an upcoming article and the topic showcased trends which were masters at adaptation and evolution. I was inspired to comment on them to further recognize their complexity and fearlessness in their progression. The three topics for this blog include 3 factions, or families, and their evolution – bowls, tacos, and cocktails. A follow-up blog will feature 3 single categories – meats, greens, and bubbles (ok yes, bubbles could be a faction, get over it).

The Chameleons

Let's start with bowls whose birth in the United States began with Asian cuisine. The concept of the bowl however is ubiquitous and malleable. Bowls as a delivery medium are unthreatening, even inviting. Because of this they can morph from one cuisine to another.

The QSR and Fast Casual segments have been showcasing bowls for years beginning with the afternoon dayparts and segueing to breakfast. And since many cultures have their own versions of bowls it is easy to introduce them as a path to unfamiliar cuisines for American consumers. Middle East, Africa, South America, Eastern Europe all have dishes traditionally served in a bowl.

Now consider that consumers are trying to emerge into a recovery period. During such a transition, consumers reawaken their senses and begin to crave new experiences again. Their newfound bravery and hopefulness leads them to stronger flavors, unfamiliar cuisines, and twists on traditions they have come to love. Bowls can behave as a doorway for these desires. The question is not about where bowls can go next, it is about – why haven't they gone there yet?

The Explorers

The next faction is tacos. They act as a metaphor for a delivery system just like bowls. While bowls tend to fit best with humble dishes, tacos have more freedom to go lateral or upscale if they wish. Think of the taco as a folded form, not necessarily the corn shell associated with Mexican cuisine. The taco form can go one of two ways. If the traditional form remains intact, it is the fillings that can morph depending on the culture and cuisine desired. The second direction is to experiment with the shell itself. To experiment with other grains, in crisp or soft form, it can lead the consumer in new directions. Lean toward South America, Central America, India and Africa for enticing new drama.

The Enticers

Cocktails are the third and bravest faction as they have the fewest boundaries. Cocktails can be sweet, savory, smooth, textured with particulates, culinary, infused, consumed for breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, and on and on. But the more interesting thing about the cocktail clan is that it is now cross breeding. Beer, cider and wine (still and sparkling) are crossing with liquor and each other.

Although cocktails are the leaders for rule breaking right now, the classics, regional and historical cocktails are just as strong. The one direction which does not work and is not desired by consumers is to take a regional or global concept and "Americanize" it. Choose to either be playful and experimental or tried and true – but pick a side, don't sit on the bridge between.

*To be continued in "Adaptation – 3 Categories Evolve"

Topics: Food & Beverage , Trends / Statistics

Suzy Badaracco / Suzy Badaracco is a toxicologist, chef, and registered dietitian. She holds a Bachelors of Science degree in Criminalistics, an Associates degree in Culinary Arts, and a Masters of Science degree in Human Nutrition.
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