Our Top 5 Foodservice Trends for 2015

As a leader in foodservice manufacturing, it’s our job at Foothill Farms to stay on the forefront of what people crave. Here are our thoughts on five menu trends we expect to grow in 2015.

Written by Melissa Caringer, a food and fashion freelance writer www.linkedin.com/in/melissacaringer

As a leader in foodservice manufacturing, it’s our job at Foothill Farms to stay on the forefront of what people crave. So we took a look at which of our products have been flying off the shelves, where the overall industry is moving and what our customers are requesting most. Here are the five trends that bubbled up to the top for this year.

1. Reinventing Ranch

Easy Prep. Endless Possibilities.
Easy Prep. Endless Possibilities.

Ranch is the “girl next door” of dressings. Friendly and familiar by day and surprisingly irresistible when prepped for a night out. “Ranch has an incredible opportunity to be redefined and made (or modified) in house. It can be completely reinvented and used to spice up an old favorite or familiarize a new concept,” Jorge Cespedes, research and development chef at Food IQ, told Flavor & The Menu. And it’s not just about taking salads to the next level. An upgraded ranch dressing can be your signature sauce offered on sandwiches, as a pommes frites or kale chip dip, drizzled over soups or as a taco topping.

The possibilities for ranch dressing mix-ins are endless, but going with of-the-moment flavors is an easy way to get noticed. Add some locally grown mint for a refreshing twist, or blend in a superfood like avocado. Give it a hot hit of wasabi or go bold with regional barbecue sauce. Find inspiration and recipes for Curry Ranch, Thai Ranch, Mango Habanero Ranch and more here.

2. Comfort Meets Adventure
Asian and Latin cuisines have trended for years. Why? They infuse a sense of comfort with an invitation to explore. Brothy pho soothes. Slow-cooked carnitas are the epitome of soul food. Meanwhile the exotic marriage of spicy and sweet or smoky and herbaceous lures our palates east and south. In 2015, look for the breakout of Korean, mainstreaming of Vietnamese and upscaling of ramen noodles, according to Technomic. And ever-popular Latin flavors will see in uptick in breakfast offerings, predicts the National Restaurant Association.

All you need is Sweet Thai Style Chili Sauce mix, hot water and a whisk.
All you need is Sweet Thai Style Chili Sauce Mix, hot water and a whisk.

It won’t just be ethnic restaurants capitalizing on this love affair with Asian and Latin flavors. They’re hitting the mainstream with huevos rancheros on breakfast menus and ramen nights at corner restaurants. Any operation can get in on this trend with the right sauces and seasonings. Get tips on easily adding Sweet Thai Chili condiments, Mandarin Orange Chicken and more to your menu here and find Charro Beans, Orange Chile Brownies and others here.

3. DIY Health
“What do you have that’s healthy?” Is this person looking for something that’s gluten free? Fat or preservative free? Farm-to-table? Made with whole grains or superfoods? Low sodium or high nutrient? Real food? Today what is considered healthy can vary drastically from person to person. It may be about food they think is good for their bodies or food that makes them feel good about themselves. That’s why 2015 is all about a DIY approach.

Mix greek yogurt with Cilantro Lime Rice Seasoning for a great tasting fish taco!
Mix greek yogurt with Cilantro Lime Rice Seasoning for a great tasting fish taco.

According to Food Genius, the better-for-you movement has yet to lose steam and is now being complemented by another Millennial-driven trend: customization. So let diners choose from a variety of offerings that cover one or more health concerns. Some of the dishes you already serve may work perfectly as-is. Just start calling out their benefits on your menu (eg, That mac and cheese is already vegetarian). Another quick way to get (and stay) on the radar of today’s health-conscious guests is using sauces and seasonings like Flavorwise to help meet health concerns without sacrificing flavor.

4. Back to Scratch

Back to Scratch
Back to Scratch

Get ready for a sweeping movement back to scratch cooking. It’s all about balancing food and labor costs with preparing home-style dishes back of house. Particularly look for schools to go in this direction as they cut back on reheating processed foods and do more themselves. The challenge will continue to be labor restraints.

There are various schools of thought on overcoming this challenge. Some believe that it’s about investing in new equipment. Others, like the principal of Food Systems Solutions LLC Kate Adamick, say “Most school district food service departments don’t need a bigger labor force to return to scratch-cooking, they need a better trained labor force.” Some combination of equipment, labor, training and the right products is likely where the sweet spot lies. Check out Foothill Farms sauces and seasonings to quickly and affordably transform whole foods into mouthwatering, scratch-made dishes.

5. Think Small

Diners will continue to order them instead of entrées this year, making their meals three plates instead of one.
Diners will continue to order them instead of entrées this year, making their meals three plates instead of one.

From tapas to dim sum, small plates are still big news. Diners will continue to order them instead of entrées this year, making their meals three plates instead of one. The low-commitment, high-flavor bites satisfy cravings for variety and create a social, sharing experience. They also allow chefs to stretch their legs and dabble in a variety of global flavor palettes.

One innate challenge of small plates is that the variety of menu options may mean a need for additional prep and ingredient storage areas. Depending on the complexity of the dishes, more staff may be required too. That’s why sauces and seasonings that bring a big dose of flavor to small plates with little prep or storage will be your best friend in 2015. For small plate ideas, click here.

Melissa is a food and fashion freelance writer currently based in Milwaukee, WI.
Melissa Caringer

Melissa is a food and fashion freelance writer currently based in Milwaukee, WI. Since 1998, she has written about up-and-coming food trends, shadowed chefs, participated in focus groups and tasted her way across the country in search of the best bites. If you have a question for Melissa or Foothill Farms, please leave us a comment below.

Move over Meat: Vegetables Take Over the Center of the Plate

It’s apparent that customers want vegetables on the menu for health, ethics, or simply just to indulge in a delicious vegetarian recipe.

Meatless doesn't mean "less"!
Meatless doesn’t mean “less”!

Demand for vegetarian dishes are on the rise.  The National Restaurant Association’s “What’s Hot 2014 Culinary Forecast” says meatless or vegetarian menu items are a growing trend.  Why are vegetables taking a more central role on the plate?  Conversation in the industry suggests that an increased price of proteins have given chefs the opportunity to introduce new vegetable dishes to the menu while Technomic reports the total menu incidence of vegetables has risen over 11% in the last three years.  It’s apparent that customers want vegetables on the menu for health, ethics, or simply just to indulge in a delicious vegetarian recipe.

Bread & Butter is a simple, satisfying vegetarian side.
Bread & butter is a simple, satisfying vegetarian side.

How do you meet this demand? Try an easy crowd pleaser like Mediterranean inspired Hummus served with pita chips or toasted bagel chips.  This smooth, delicious bean based appetizer has long been a staple in a vegetarian menu for its universal appeal. A second appetizer idea is Bruschetta with Italian Salsa. Fresh basil, minced Kalamata olives, red onion, green pepper, and buffalo mozzarella cheese on top of sliced French baguette bread gives those wanting a heavier appetizer a vegetarian choice.

Soups and sides are another great area to innovate. Beer Cheese Soup is a nice menu item to feature especially if you have your own in-house brewed beer or regional preference. Our recipe includes cheese sauce, diced onions, BBQ sauce, pretzels, and works with an ale of your choice.  Serve this with pretzel bread or sticks and you are sure to have a crowd-pleaser. Want a lighter soup? Pair a grilled cheese sandwich with Tomato Basil soup. This soup is easily made with our Instant Brown Gravy Mix, tomato paste and fresh or dried basil.

Corn salsas are easy vegetarian sides
Corn salsas are easy vegetarian sides

What about sides? Think roasted vegetables topped with Gorgonzola Cream Sauce and you’ll be thinking deliciously!  Broccoli, cauliflower, and asparagus all become the “center of the plate” stars topped with this easily prepared creamy gorgonzola sauce.  This sauce is so versatile it can be used with your choice of vegetables, prepared in any way desired: grilled, roasted, pan seared, or broiled.  Let’s not forget about Mexican vegetarian side dishes, always popular on the menu.  Charro Beans and Corn & Black Bean Salsa are both a great venue for vegetables and are made of pantry staples which are easily kept on hand.

Vegetable Stir Fry with Asian Stir Fried Rice
Vegetable Stir Fry with Asian Stir Fried Rice

Round out your vegetarian menu with vegetarian entrees. Asian inspired dishes like Vegetable Stir Fry with Asian Stir Fried Rice are good choices because of the variety of vegetables and sauces that can be combined and served over rice or Asian noodles. Italian pasta dishes also fair well for vegetarians. Try offering a Vegetable Lasagna with White Sauce or cheese tortellini tossed in cream sauce with peas and mushrooms.

Vegetables are moving from a side dish to the center of the plate:  make sure your menu is ready to move, too!  Vegetarian diners, or those simply wanting meatless options, are broadening out this formerly niche market.  Bringing new vegetable dishes to the table will keep your food menu on trend and customers coming back for more. Foothill Farms® offers vegetarian recipes you can easily prepare for your guests:  just search “meatless” in our recipes.

 

Straight from the Chef’s Mouth – A Guest Blog by Chef Martin

Sometimes cooks get hung up on not being able to make a dish properly because they are missing an ingredient. I remind myself and my colleagues that when the dish was made for the first time it was just that person’s impression of how THEY thought it should taste. It doesn’t mean it is set in stone until the end of time! You can selectively omit and recreate!

Loosen Up and Experiment with Flavor

Chef Martin
Chef Martin

It took me a while to realize that there comes a time when you stop playing by the rules; following recipes by the book. Sometimes cooks get hung up on not being able to make a dish properly because they are missing an ingredient. I remind myself and my colleagues that when the dish was made for the first time it was just that person’s impression of how THEY thought it should taste. It doesn’t mean it is set in stone until the end of time! You can selectively omit and recreate!

It is important to understand how ingredients complement each other, and then go to town creating your own unique, tasteful memories. Experiment! Obviously there are dishes that are classic in everyone’s mind: pot roast, mac n’ cheese, spaghetti, chicken noodle soup, fried chicken, mashed potatoes and of course apple pie. Comfort foods get their reputation from the whole dining experience, not just the way it tastes. Biting into a slice of apple pie might bring back memories of your grandma’s apple pie served at her dining room table but for someone else it will be a different experience altogether. Don’t let “comfort food” pin you down! In my experience, people like culinary twists to old favorites.

I love to experiment in the kitchen. My wife is always amazed on days that we have nothing in the pantry, or so she thought, and I come up with a dish that she enjoys eating. She will ask me what the dish was called and my response (and dead giveaway that I experimented) is “Anything you like…I made it just for you.” Chefs know the way to a woman’s heart is through her stomach!

I love that young chefs are being given “market baskets” as part of their testing. It reminds me of the story of how the first Caesar Salad came to be. I believe in simplicity, I am not overly impressed with chefs putting dishes together with twenty ingredients. That kind of culinary snobbery tends to confuse the pupil in understanding what is complimenting what.

With summer just around the corner, I am reminded of a couple of cool ideas that I have tasted lately that have given me a WOW moment: watermelon and basil and cantaloupe and lime juice. Unique flavor combinations are gaining in popularity. A recent Technomic report asked 1500 consumers how appealing they found 12 different flavor combinations both in 2009 and in 2013. Eleven of the 12 saw rise in their popularity in 2013. Tomato-basil received the strongest reception followed by honey-ginger. The next three top favorites were chipotle-lime, rosemary-orange and mango-habanero.

Chef Martin Experiments with Flavor
Chef Martin Experiments with Flavor

Foothill Farms and I have created new recipes; blending unique flavors to create delicious, appealing dishes, dressings, sauces, and salsas. Food should be fun! You shouldn’t be judge on how close you got to copying someone else’s effort.

Check out these recipes:

It’s Time to Dress It Up For Business: Is Your Salad Ready?

New research shows that opening the door to the thriving soup and salad market can bring in additional sales. Technomic, a leading research group for the foodservice industry, found that 43% of consumers chose a certain restaurant based on their salad options alone. It is important for us in the foodservice industry to recognize these emerging trends so that we stay informed and offer what today’s consumer is demanding.

Fast casual restaurants, the fastest growing segment of the restaurant industry, have profited from offering “Signature Salads”. Salads encompassing exotic lettuces, meat or seafood toppings, nuts and berries, and a wide variety of cheeses suggest higher-quality ingredients; giving off the aura of nutritious and satisfying. Another key part of the emerging demand for salad is for the flavorful dressings that compliment them. Dressings are no longer relegated to “on the side” but instead have become the cornerstone of a salad.

Asian Chicken Salad
Asian Chicken Salad

Ethnic offerings entice tired palates to try an alternative twist to a safe favorite. For example, Foothill Farms® Avocado Ranch Dressing elevates the ever-popular ranch to a more complex, gourmet offering. This dressing compliments the Mexi-Cali Cobb Signature Salad, a blend of fresh baby spinach leaves, black beans, grilled shrimp, and pureed avocado. A second signature salad utilizing Ranch Dressing as a base is the popular Asian Salad. Our Wasabi Ranch Dressing gives romaine lettuce, grilled or smoked chicken, cilantro, wonton strips, purple cabbage, and sesame a spicy kick (another trend for 2014)! If peppery makes you cautious, chefs use our 1000 Island or Honey Mustard Dressing mix to create an Asian Dressing that gives taste buds a sweeter, honey-ginger fix. Another “Signature Salad” that pleases the less adventurous eater while still encouraging the desire to branch out is a steak, ham, or bacon topped salad. These salads draw guests looking for lower carb options but who aren’t ready to sacrifice the “meat” on their plate. Foothill Farms® Blue Cheese Dressing drizzled atop mixed herbs, roasted red peppers, provolone cheese, red onions, seedless cucumbers, and sliced cherry tomatoes, adds just the right amount of hearty and tangy to satisfy the inner lumberjack.

Steakhouse Blue Cheese Dressing
Steak Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing

Last but certainly not least, especially with the growing trend of vegan and organic-demanding consumers, is the vegetarian garden salad. Fresh from the farm rules the day when salads offer a variety of lettuces, herbs, peppers, mushrooms, berries, fruits, onions, and squash. Our Lido Italian Dressing & Seasoning mix allows you to create your own “Signature Dressing” by adding your choice of vinegars – wine, balsamic, or white. If your goal is green (no pun intended), adding “Signature Salads” to your menu is a sure way to tempt your patrons’ taste buds and keep them coming back for more! Using dry salad dressing mixes like Foothill Farms®, allows foodservice professionals to create multiple varieties of gourmet. For more salad recipe ideas, please visit http://www.foothillfarms.com/recipes.

Strawberry Spinach Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette
Raspberry Vinaigrette served atop fresh strawberries on a bed of spinach leaves

Customization Options are in the Sauce!

Consumers want more power over the dishes they are eating through flexible menus and by choosing their own ingredients for a particular dish. Having a few classic or signature sauces on hand that are easily adaptable will increase the options served on a daily basis and help satisfy even the most discerning customer.

We are no longer working in a one flavor fits all industry. The number one food trend according to Technomic’s 2013 Year in Review: 10 Macro Consumer Foodservice Trends is customization. Consumers want more power over the dishes they are eating through flexible menus and by choosing their own ingredients for a particular dish.

Our chefs enjoy seeing how many dishes one sauce mix can create!
Our chefs enjoy seeing how many dishes one sauce mix can create!

How do you achieve this daunting prospect of individual choice in foodservice? Look no farther than the sauce! By offering a spectrum of sauce choices customized from a few Foothill Farms® basic sauce mixes, food professionals leave room for individuality on a much bigger stage. Having a few classic or signature sauces on hand that are easily adaptable will increase the options served on a daily basis and help satisfy even the most discerning customer.

Chicken, fish, beef…let’s face it, if a sauce is drizzled over it, the dish instantly moves up the gourmet ladder. Foothill Farms® Béchamel Sauce mix easily transitions into a mild Mornay Sauce, ready to embrace a baked tilapia filet. The same mix can make a velvety smooth Veloute´ Sauce to serve over a grilled chicken breast. Moreover, our Béchamel Sauce mix is the base for our Blue Cheese Sauce and Gorgonzola Sauce recipes. Looking at our product this way illustrates the benefits of using dry mix. Sauce mixes become customizable food art simply by adding a handful of fresh ingredients.

Likewise, a kid and senior-friendly Alfredo Sauce has a multitude of applications. It can be tweaked to form a Ragin Cajun, palate-pleasing blackened fish topper, transformed into a creamy, Memphis BBQ Parmesan Sauce, or whipped into a pasta-ready Garlic Alfredo Sauce. Do we have you mentally creating new dishes already?

Shrimp and Broccoli Alfredo
Shrimp and Broccoli Alfredo

Wait, we haven’t even discussed dessert! Satisfy the sweet tooth with Foothill Farms® Crème Anglaise Custard Sauce which is every bit as customizable as the entrée sauces. Crepes or bread puddings topped with Lemon Crème, Raspberry Rum Crème, and White Russian Crème will finish any dinner on a high note while Chocolate Peanut Butter Crème and Almond Crème beckon for a partner of ice cream or cookie wafers. Implementing dessert sauces stretches menu offerings and accentuates chefs’ craftsmanship.

Serve a sauce as a dip!
Serve a sauce as a dip!

If the goal is to take menu choices further without increasing food costs, trying dry sauce mix is worth the experiment or should we say EXPERIENCE! Trust us! Behind-the-scenes, our chefs enjoy seeing how many dishes one sauce mix can create!