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Food Trends Shaping The Restaurant Industry

Our relationship to food is evolving. Through new practices, discoveries and experimentation, we’ve found new ways of thinking about how food and health intertwine. Pulling from the latest data and first-hand experience, this is the next wave of trends and challenges shaping the food service industry.

Real Food, Sustainability and Radical Transparent Sourcing

Simpler ingredients, transparency and balanced choices are all on consumers’ wish lists. According to Datassential, half of consumers think it’s important to consume food and beverages made with “clean label ingredients.” Not surprisingly, more than two-thirds also support menu labelling. And Technomic’s 2016 Healthy Eating report finds that nearly 40% of consumers are more inclined to visit restaurants that provide healthy options—even if that’s not what they order.

Going back to basics, with nourishing, “clean”, GMO-free, sustainable and organic foods is now a priority in Australia, particularly in light of food and health safety in recent years. One only needs to look at the Food Recall Australia website to get an idea of the types of food contamination, some of which are unavoidable and others plain careless.

Consumers are demanding to know both what’s in their food and what’s not in it. According to Technomics, 75% of consumers agree that restaurants should be more forthcoming about where they get their ingredients from. There’s certainly a general consensus that we’re hungry to know the story behind our meal. Was it locally-sourced or did it fly 3,000 km to get here? Is it seasonal? How long did it take to get from seed to plate? Or was it sitting on a shelf, losing its nutritious benefits over the space of a week?

It’s not just the restaurant-goers who are looking at where their food comes from. Chefs are more food waste conscious that ever, with many turning their wastage into new inspired meals. Suncoast Fresh supplier, Wild Forage Australia, and Noma chef, Nick Blake works with chefs to choose seasonally and sustainably, saying “if we’re looking at sourcing fish, we might go for the lesser-known fish that isn’t overfished and find ways to use it to create a great dining experience, whether its fermented or fried as a garnish. Everything can be used, including the eyeball which is often treasured as much as the fillet.”

When looking at produce too, chefs are beginning to adopt the root-to-stem cooking style, in which the entire fruit or vegetable is used. Beet-green or broccoli stem pesto or pickled watermelon rinds have been introduced to diners as a new and exciting flavour profile.

We’re also seeing the “craft” market explode. In a world of mass-food manufacturing and so many products vying for consumer attention, consumers are looking for simple cues that the food product they are purchasing is better than the rest. Enter “craft”. This concept is not limited to beer and refers to any food product that is hand-made with real ingredients. Craft food and beverages allow the makers to not only offer a sustainable product, but also create a compelling narrative around the authentic creation of the product. Statistics back up this theory, with a Deloitte consumer survey finding 33% of people were willing to pay significantly (up to 40%) more for food products which have an authentic/transparent story associated with their production.

Boom in the Experience Economy

A restaurants brand is no longer just about the food. Quality food is the standard expectation and is just one of many components that drives a diner’s experience. What should that experience look like? Deloitte surveyed 2,000 diners to understand these evolving expectations. The participants were asked to rank five guest-first experiential elements in order of importance, assigning 100 points across the elements: Engage me, empower me, hear me, delight me and know me. Across all generations – baby bomber, Gen X, Millennial and Gen Z – the most important element of a sit-down dining experience was “engage me.”

Experiential Elements Relative Importance
Engage Me (The restaurant interacts with me in a friendly, authentic, and hospitable way) 34
Empower Me (The restaurant provides me real-time information to help me make decisions) 22
Hear Me (The restaurant understands my situation and listens to my needs) 20
Delight Me (The restaurant creates moments that surprise me and exceed my expectations) 12
Know Me (The restaurant remembers me, my preferences, and my needs) 12
  100

 Source: Deloitte Consulting LLP 2017 restaurant customer experience survey

The Rise of Vegans, Vegetarians and Flexitarians

Veganism is less of a trend and more of a movement, with concerns now extending beyond animal welfare to include health and environmental implications. Veganism, vegetarians and flexitarians aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. In fact, Australia is the world’s third fastest growing vegan market. The Mintel Food Report 2017 claimed that 14% of Australian’s are avoiding red meat in their daily diet, while 10% said they were eating more non-animal sources of protein compared to a year ago. Businesses and restaurants know this too, with vegan packaged to-go food growing in popularity too.

The thing is, vegans aren’t looking for a limp salad. They want meaty flavours, minus the meat. We’re talking wild Australian mushrooms, locally-sourced wholesale vegetables and exotic foraged foods to elevate a simple veggie dish.

 Do you agree with these trends? What do you think is on the way out? Leave your thoughts on what’s happening in the restaurant industry in the comments below.

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