Food and beverage manufacturers, distributors, and restaurants need to stay on top of food trends to stay relevant, draw in new customers, and keep people coming back for more with their mouths watering and stomachs grumbling. There are several ways to perform and manage useful research on what’s hot and what’s just on the cusp of blowing up. As with fashion, trends aren’t always driven by consumers but rather tastemakers, trendsetters, and industry telling the people what they should be into. Forecasting worthwhile trends is a skill to develop. Once you’re a seasoned trend hunter, you’ll also learn how to avoid gimmicks that burn hot and fizzle out quickly – and are therefore not worth investing time in.
The National Restaurant Association publishes an annual culinary forecast that can kick-start your research. The document is based on information gathered from about 700 professional chefs about their opinions on which food, beverages, and culinary themes are hot this year. Some examples for 2018 include sustainable seafood, Thai rolled ice cream, house-made condiments, donuts with unique filling, and gourmet kids’ meals. It’s a great resource to ascertain what real cooks are making in their kitchens that people can’t get enough of. Other associations and outlets produce reports, so look for common themes across them.
Social Media is another excellent free resource to dive into. It’s a massive, chaotic, and dense source, but after spending some time searching the right hashtags and groups, trends will emerge. Instagram, in particular, is great for food and beverage trends due to the ongoing popularity of customers posting pics of their unique breakfast, the night of tapas, or beautiful dessert trays. Check out foodie groups on Facebook and see what people are retweeting on Twitter. Looking at Likes, Retweets, times posted, and positive/negative comments can offer extra insight (retweets aren’t always glowing endorsements!).
Utilize helpful software that can respond to the fast-paced challenges of the food and drink industries. An Enterprise Resource Planning system can help with real-time visibility for consumer preferences in response to a trend. Demand management based on seasonal trends and buying patterns is easier. It can also assist with keeping current with government regulations and requirements, meeting distributor needs, packaging and promotion. There are several other benefits outside of trendsetting and analysis that can bolster your resource managing capabilities. Consultants like IWI Consulting Group can assist you with tailoring the system to your specific needs.
Look into past food trends. What started as a trend and lasted? Which broad themes can be seen throughout several products and start-ups? What was gimmicky and didn’t have legs to stand the test of time? When brainstorming and planning to innovate, it’s just as important to see what failed as well as what worked. Research into cultural shifts, economic climate and markets, and demographics can also help inform why failures or successes occurred.
You can get in on a trend by taking a general theme and being creative with it. This can help your product or menu item retain longevity because it may be loosely based off a hot new idea but with a solid foundation and substance that can be sustained. If a trend is easy to execute with relatively little investment of resources, it’s worth doing in the short term. But it is risky to invest a lot in a trend that will fall flat in a year’s time. You’ll also only want to hop on top of trends that suit your brand or that can be adapted to do so.