Healthy dishes fight ‘dude food’ for kitchen supremacy

Vegetables

Healthy food dishes are fighting ‘dude food’ such as burgers, burritos and barbecue foods for menu space as consumers’ appetite for dishes made with nutritious ingredients continues to grow, analyst firm Horizons has said.

The foodservice consultancy’s latest biannual Menu Trends survey, which tracks changes on 800 high street menus, trends in foods and ingredients are translated into dishes on high street menus quicker than ever as operators acknowledge the importance of keeping up with fast-moving food fashions, many of which are currently for healthier options and novel ingredients.

“Customers are now much more willing to try new foods, particularly those with perceived health benefits. Social media has also prompted the sharing of recipes and food ideas, while the popular lifestyle and fitness bloggers have made an impact on what we eat at home, and therefore what we expect to see on eating out menus. More than ever before operators need to keep up with the pace of change,” commented Horizons’ managing director Peter Backman.

The latest Menu Trends survey shows that main course salads have seen a surge in popularity – up 54% on last year and now ranking at number four in the top 20 most frequently listed main course dishes. The use of pulses and fruit has seen one of the largest year-on-year increases, and the term ‘superfood’ is being used 75% more often than it was this time last year.

Vegetarian dishes now have twice the share they had in 2010, while vegan dishes are on the up, with 21% of the eating out brands surveyed now offering a vegan option. Gluten-free terminology is also more common, having risen 89% over the past two years and wheat-free options are up 80% on menus since last year.

Jamie Oliver’s ‘sugar tax’ campaign is thought to be behind a willingness to offer customers sugar-free alternatives. Burger King, for example, is now selling apple fries, while Leon offers porridge sweetened with date and vanilla purée and Itsu offers a low GI agave syrup to top its jumbo oats.

However, while beef burgers, pizzas and chicken burgers remain the top three most frequently listed menu items, beef burgers have seen a 7% decrease in menu appearances since last summer and hot dogs have now been knocked off the top 20 list in favour of burritos (up 56% since summer 2014). Fish & chips have also shown a slow decline in menu appearances over the past two years, with a drop of 26% since 2014.

Many meat-based dishes now appearing on menus are inspired by the long ‘n’ slow cooking of the deep south such as pit wings (at Handmade Burger Co), slow-cooked beef brisket (Best Western) and TGI Friday’s pork belly in a Jack Daniel’s glaze.

“The trend for healthy and lifestyle eating is becoming more popular and high street menus are now reflected this. Operators now have to make a difficult decision about what to keep on their menus. It’s important they stay in touch with what’s hot and what’s not,” added Peter Backman.

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