Spicy, Fluffy, Rx-Free

Latest foodservice trends are all about consumer desires

Spices are getting bolder. Breakfast is moving beyond bacon and eggs. And the pig the bacon came from better have been raised without antibiotics.

These emerging trends resonate with consumers seeking more flavor, more options and more transparency.

Spicy Gets Spicier

From chipotle to sriracha, jalapeño to habanero, spicy is as hot as ever.

Sriracha has arguably been the most popular spice of the aforementioned, making its way into burgers, sandwiches, sushi and wings (there’s even a sriracha ketchup). So it makes you wonder: What’s the next big spicy thing?

Technomic’s Flavor Lifecycle, which tracks flavors on their journey from innovation to ubiquity, has found other, more unique spices on menus.

“Aji amarillo, a South American spice, is the leading cutting-edge spicy flavor in appetizers; in entrées, it’s sambal, a Southeast Asian favorite,” says Bernadette Noone, vice president of Technomic, Chicago. “Spicy flavors that are one step closer to widespread acceptance—but still innovative—include poblano in appetizers and red chile in entrées.”

The Flavor Lifecycle tool is also projecting a new platform for wasabi on early adopter salad menus and a new push for sriracha in tacos.

And if you’re looking for a more obscure flavor trend, Technomic also forecasts growth for gochujang (a spicy, salty paste from Asia, made from fermented soybeans, dried chiles and garlic).

Bank on Breakfast

Breakfast is the only day-part with sustained visit growth over the past several years, and c-stores should take note.

“As breakfast traffic continues to grow, competition in the breakfast space will require distributors, manufacturers and operators to become innovative in providing quality and value at breakfast,” says Annie Roberts, vice president of Port Washington, N.Y-based NPD Group’s SupplyTrack.

Breakfast/morning meal visits grew by 5% in the year ending June 2015 over the same period last year, when visits grew by 2%, reports NPD’s Crest ongoing foodservice market research. Quick-service restaurants, including retail foodservice, were responsible for most of the visit gains at breakfast.

And while breakfast sandwiches and bacon, continually popular grab-and-go breakfast foods, have been growing, so have other not-so-portable foods such as pancakes.

NPD found orders of pancakes increased by 7% to 816 million servings for the year ending June 2015 compared to a year ago, when servings were down by 4%.


Sriracha menu incidence grew 72% over a two-year period, according to Technomic.

Transparency’s Latest Target

Products labeled as made without GMOs (genetically modified organisms), artificial flavors and ingredients has become commonplace, stemming from a consumer demand for more transparency and better-for-you options. The latest to come out of this trend is antibiotic-free meat.

Subway recently announced plans to stop serving meat raised with antibiotics at its U.S. units by 2025.

The sandwich chain will begin serving chicken raised without antibiotics in March 2016, while turkey raised to those standards will also be introduced next year. Beef and pork are expected to follow.

Subway, however, is not the first QSR to make such an announcement. McDonald’s in March announced plans to remove antibiotics from chicken at its U.S. restaurants, and Wendy’s in July began testing antibiotic-free chicken in select markets to gauge customers’ response. And both Chipotle and Panera have long used meat from animals raised with minimal exposure to antibiotics.