Technomic has identified trends emerging for the second half of 2014, including hot peppers and sauces beyond Sriracha, barbecue flavors in QSR handhelds, and classic snack brands incorporated into new menu offerings.
According to a news release, Technomic leveraged its consultants and editors to assess these trends, in addition to its Digital Resource Library and MenuMonitor database.
Emerging trends include:
The Next Sriracha: Thailand's chile-and-vinegar condiment is the "new chipotle.” Now, customers are seeking newer and even bolder taste sensations imparted by peppers and sauces from Asia, Latin America and North Africa, including habanero, serrano, harissa, shishito, togarashi, sweet chili, ghost pepper and spicy mayos and aiolis.
Barbecue: Authentic regional interpretations of slow-cooked barbecue continue to have broad appeal, but the latest trend is the application of barbecue sauces and flavors to handheld offerings such as sandwiches and pizza (see new launches from Burger King and Pizza Hut), often with barbecue pulled pork as the core protein, the release said.
Snacks: Classic snacks are being incorporated into novelty foods, such as Subway's Fritos Chicken Enchilada Melt or Dunkin' Donuts' iced coffee flavors inspired by Baskin-Robbins ice creams.
Asian-style small plates: Asian-influenced bites include Lazy Dog Cafe's Dim Sum Dumplings and the Chicken Sriracha Bites served with ranch dressing at bd's Mongolian Grill, and even fine-dining restaurants are incorporating dim sum-style service, the release said.
Bubbly beverages: Specialty teas; lemonade-and-iced-tea blends; restaurant originals such as housemade sodas; smoothies beyond fruit, featuring unique ingredients ranging from kale or peanut butter - all are seeing increases in menu incidence. Fast casuals are driving this trend. For example, Pret A Manger added Beet Beautiful Juice with apple, carrot, beet and ginger; Grand Traverse Pie Company unveiled a Pie Smoothie; and Panda Express is testing an in-store tea bar. When it comes to adult beverage trends, IPAs and other hoppy craft beers are proliferating menus.
Shrinking menus: Across all mealparts, casual-dining chains (and even some limited-service concepts) are reducing menus. Operations can slow down when menus get too big; a less-is-more approach can create a more user-friendly customer experience, Technomic said.