Restaurant Menu Food Trends of COVID-19

Back in December we did a blog piece on our most anticipated food trends, never knowing what 2020 would bring, what with COVID-19 and the impact the pandemic would have on the restaurant industry. Eight months later and we are looking forward again. Here are some food trends on the spotlight today.

  1. Wellness and Immune-Boosting Foods

Menu items that are focused on wellness, as well as foods that are thought to boost the immune system, will trend as consumers become more focused on staying healthy. Recent surveys have found that most consumers are expecting to eat more healthy and fresh foods after the pandemic (1). According to Mike Chapman, Chief Executive Horticulture in New Zealand, fruits, and vegetable consumption has exploded since the onset of COVID-19 (2). The Kerry Group, a public food company headquartered in Ireland, stated that “consumers who are concerned about immune health are shopping for products with a range of ingredients including probiotics and various herbs and spices” (3). This even applied to cocktails high in botanicals due to their perceived health benefits (3, 4).

So, what foods will consumers be looking for? The CDC discussed the importance of a balanced nutrition in their recent report, stating that the best way to obtain immune-boosting nutrients (e.g. vitamin C, D and zinc) is through foods, especially fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole grains (5). A blog article from the Harvard School of Public Health identified vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, selenium, iron, and protein (including the amino acid glutamine) as critical for the growth and function of immune cells, as well as probiotic and prebiotic foods (6).

Here is a list of immune-boosting foods that will fit into this trend (4,6,7):

Foods high in Vitamin C: Citrus (oranges, kiwi, lemon, grapefruit), Bell peppers, Strawberries, Tomatoes, Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower)

High in Vitamin D: Salmon, Swordfish, Tuna fish, Sardines, Beef liver, Egg yolk

High in Zinc: Shellfish (oysters, crab, lobster), Beef, Poultry, Pork, Legumes, Nuts, seeds, Whole grains

Probiotics: Kefir, Yogurt with live active cultures, Fermented vegetables, Sauerkraut, Tempeh, Kombucha tea, Kimchi, and Miso.

Prebiotic foods: Garlic, Onions, Leeks, Asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, Dandelion greens, Bananas, and Seaweed.

Botanicals: Echinacea, Green tea extract, Lemongrass, Ginger, Turmeric, Elderberry, Cinnamon

  1. Plant-based

The uncertainty of the meat and dairy supply chain, as well as the linking of COVID-19 hotspots to meat processing plants, has accelerated the rise of plant-based foods, widening consumer appetite for alternative meats, vegan “eggs,” non-dairy milk and cheeses. According to Mark Driscoll, a sustainable food systems consultant, “sales for plant based and meat-alternative products have increased during lockdown with global sales of global plant-based meat alternatives showing growth of about 17% this year” (8). As a result, we are likely to see a trend in flexitarian diets, as “meat eaters will likely shift even more toward plant-based products,” said Driscoll.

Here is a list of trending plant-based foods:

Meat alternatives: not just Impossible or Beyond meats, but alternatives like Jackfruits and Soy/ Faux Chicken.

Vegan subs: vegan “eggs”/ aquafaba.

Non-dairy products: non-dairy milk (oat milk in particular), non-dairy chocolate, non-dairy cheese.

  1. Individually portioned menu items

Sanitation is going to be on the back of most consumers’ minds from now on, and we can expect shareable menu items to take a backseat while individually portioned meals and items will increase in demand. In an interview with Mike O’Hanlon, head of catering partner business at ezCater, orders containing individually packaged menu items have more than doubled as the result of the Coronavirus pandemic (9). The Spillover Restaurant in Miami, for example, is now focusing more on salads, sandwiches, and entrees, while removing the shareable dishes, to emphasize guest safety (10).

Packaging will most likely evolve alongside individually portioned meals and the rise of take-out, and we think the trend of individual servings and lunchbox type meals to continue as more people prefer social distancing and small gatherings.

More on food packaging trends can be found in our previous blog article “What’s packing your food? Delivery Packaging Trends.”

Conclusion

While it may seem like the pandemic has shifted food trends drastically, that does not really seem to be the case when we consider how long these health-focused, plant-based trends have been around. If anything, COVID-19 may have accelerated an already-growing trend of wellness. In other words, these trends may be here to stay.

References:

Goliath Consulting Group is a national restaurant consultancy headquartered in Norcross, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta. Goliath offers a host of consulting services including restaurant menu development and consultation. For more information visit www.goliathconsulting.com or contact us at getresults@goliathconsulting.com

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