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.

 

Gluten-Free Infographic Helps Foodservice Operators Offer New Menu Items

Foothill Farms® created an infographic titled A Foodservice Guide to Gluten Free. The infographic informs restaurant owners about the importance of offering gluten-free menu items. It contains relevant data from leaders in the foodservice and research industries illustrating trends in dining behavior, popular gluten free menu items, and tips to ensuring a gluten free dining experience.

The gluten-free eating trend is on the rise and restaurant owners and chefs are taking note. More and more people are eliminating gluten because of dietary restrictions or lifestyle choices. One in every 133 Americans has Celiac Disease, an autoimmune disorder triggered by consuming gluten protein. Because of this statistic, we created an infographic titled “A Foodservice Guide to Gluten-Free“. The infographic informs restaurant owners about the importance of offering gluten-free menu items. It contains relevant data from leaders in the foodservice and research industries illustrating trends in dining behavior, popular gluten-free menu items, and tips to ensuring a gluten-free dining experience. The infographic also details a new FDA regulation that determines how much gluten can be in a product before it can legally be labeled gluten-free as well as details on cross-contamination in kitchens.

FDA regulations enforce proper gluten free labeling
Celiac Disease Statistics

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. If a person with Celiac or gluten-sensitivity chooses a dish at a restaurant that is labeled gluten-free, they do so for health reasons. If they get sick with symptoms similar to a gluten reaction, they will likely not return for a second dining experience. Secondly, if a family member is gluten-sensitive or has Celiac Disease they are likely to influence dining decisions. We offer 67 gluten-free products, including mixes for dressings, gravies, sauces, soup bases, cheese sauces, seasoning and desserts. Recently, our marketing staff created an easy reference sell sheet for operators wanting to offer gluten-free menu items which is located under the resources/marketing materials tab on our home page. For K-12 customers, our gluten-free sell sheet has been expanded and targets a wider scope of dietary restrictions. The “Kids’ Allergens, Intolerances and Special Diets” sell sheet features Flavorwise™ products in an easy chart that showcases gluten-free products as well as products free from nuts, crustaceans, lactose, HFC, no added MSG and vegetarian products. It is also housed under the resources/marketing materials tab on our website.

We hope that our infographic is helpful to you! That’s why we created it!

Increase Sales with Gluten Free Menu Items
Trends in Gluten Free Menu Items

 

Rest Easy this Summer: Plan Your K-12 2014/15 Menu Now!

Begin your summer grilling and chilling with the peace of mind your K-12 menu is already mapped out for the 2014-2015 school year. Foothill Farms® easily takes menu planning to meal execution by offering a bevy of dressing, seasoning and sauce mixes that can take you through the year with ease

Begin your summer grilling and chilling with the peace of mind your K-12 menu is already mapped out for the 2014-2015 school year. Foothill Farms® easily takes menu planning to meal execution by offering a bevy of dressing, seasoning and sauce mixes that can take you through the year with ease. If you spend hours worrying about sodium levels, don’t worry about our Flavorwise™ product line. It was created to be flavorful yet sodium conscious. Each product has 310 mg sodium or less per serving, 0g trans fat, is low fat or fat free and contains no cholesterol or added MSG.

AUGUST

For starters, keep kids’ memories of delicious summer barbeques alive in August by going back-to-school with BBQ Teriyaki Meatballs with Asian Noodles on the lunch menu. Our BBQ Teriyaki Sauce Mix and Asian Noodle Seasoning combine with water chestnuts, turkey meatballs, and whole grain spaghetti to make a dish that sizzles. Another smart end-of-summer choice that accompanies Mexican-inspired entrees like tacos or nachos is our Corn and Black Bean Salsa.

Corn & Black Bean Salsa
Corn Salsas

Serve it with corn tortilla chips and the kids will say “gracias”! If your students are not quite ready to give up burgers, keep them interested and surprised with a sweet and savory Teriyaki Pineapple Sauce on top of a turkey patty. To satisfy fresh vegetable requirements, serve raw vegetables with a rich BBQ Ranch dip or use it to dress a traditional side salad.

SEPTEMBER

As the summer menu wraps up, consider popular Asian dishes to keep the menu infused with flavorful rice and noodle options. Asian Style-Walking Tacos keep nutrition headed for a tasty destination with its cabbage, diced chicken and whole grain Asian noodle ingredients. Our Asian Noodle seasoning can help you easily master a popular Vegetable Stir Fry with Asian Stir Fry Rice or create a scrumptious General Tso’s Chicken with Asian Noodles. Our low-sodium Flavorwise™ original Stir Fry Sauce mix can even turn pizza into Stir Fry Pizza– a simple and instant yummy upgrade!

OCTOBER THRU FEBRUARY

As cooler autumn and winter temperatures prevail, warm and hearty soups bring comfort when there is a chill in the air. Soups such as Taco Soup, Minestrone, or a classic Broccoli Cheddar keep students satisfied with wholesome ingredients. Cincinnati 3-Way Chili with its Greek influence and rich cinnamon and clove undertones, deepens the use of Chili Seasoning Mix, which also makes an amazingly simple turkey chili. Just add some topping choices of shredded cheese, crackers, or maybe even a touch of sour cream to make these soups and chili recipes shine even brighter. Fall brings the opportunity to use seasonal cranberries, but with a fun twist. Foothill Farms® Cranberry Salsa recipe incorporates the heat of jalapeños and the sweetness of cranberry which can be used as a dip or a wrap.

Broccoli Cheddar Soup
Broccoli Cheddar Soup

MARCH THRU APRIL

Thinking of how to wrap up winter dishes and bring in spring flair? Wraps and sandwiches are a fresh way to showcase Foothill Farms® sauce mixes such as Cilantro Lime Rice seasoning mix. This mix features chopped cilantro and a tropical lime twist that pairs well with either white or brown rice becoming the base for a healthy, lighter wrap. Lettuce wraps, with your choice of healthy ingredients, can also be featured in the early months of the year topped with a creamy Avocado Ranch Dressing. Buttermilk, avocado, lime juice, and mayonnaise flavors combine to create a more flavorful, but still nutritious, ranch dressing. Another light dish that creates the perfect food vehicle for encouraging kids to eat their beans is Foothill Farms® Hummus. Chick peas or great northern beans are the base for this delicious dip which can be served with fresh vegetables or crackers.

MAY THRU JUNE

As the end of the year approaches, let Latin twists take you to summer with delicious fajitas made with Asado Style Fajita Seasoning Mix (Low Sodium). Succulent chicken, beef, turkey or pork take on slow-roasted flavors which feature onions, chile peppers, and paprika. Don’t forget the salsa! Change up everyday salsa by adding fresh tomatoes, beans, or corn to our Salsa Seasoning Mix. The mix is equally great with fruit! Pineapples, peaches, pears, and mangos are a few of our recommendations. Keep the theme Latin inspired with Cheese Enchilada Mini Pierogies which is an easy way to keep the menu both nutritious and simple to prepare.

YEAR LONG DESSERTS

Desserts need no season; they are popular any month! Whole Grain Oat Topping Mix tempts at any time of year when baked over fresh or frozen fruit for an old-fashioned style crisp topper. Our Bread Pudding Mix with Cinnamon adds an exclamation point to the meal with its delicious rich flavor. This kitchen-friendly mix can be used with any leftover whole grain bread products such as pancakes, rolls, and buns.

Whole Grain Oat Crisp Topping
Whole Grain Oat Crisp Topping over fresh berries

Now that your meal planning has a great start with Foothill Farms®…dig out your sunglasses, kick back and relax knowing next year’s menu is full of flavorful recipes. From August to June, we have you covered.

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

Latin Sauces take the Express Track…Destination: Big Flavor!

Orange Ancho Chile Sauce Mix
Orange Ancho Chile Chicken with Avocado Flatbread

For a Latin sauce with flair, just add water.  It really can be that simple!  As food professionals, we know better than to overlook the importance of a quality accompanying sauce.  It elevates the main dish and turns great into extraordinary.  However, the reality of creating the perfect sauce from scratch for every individual recipe can translate to losing valuable prep time and drive up expense as the list of ingredients increases.  Can the solution be as easy as adding water?  It actually can be that simple if you are using Foothill Farms® instant mixes which include delicious cheese sauces, ethnic sauces, classic sauces, and specialty sauces.  Within the line of sauces, there are low sodium options from our Flavorwise™ product line.  Foothill Farms® mixes create reliable, delicious flavor that still offer options to customize recipes and showcase your individuality as a food artist.

Red Enchilada Sauce Mix
Enchilada Sauce with Cheese Rolls

Our Latin sauce mixes embody the trending concept of speed scratch, which incorporates ready-to-use food products to expedite prep without sacrificing flavor.  Foothill Farms® products are allowing food professionals to save time, money, and create consistent dishes with much less fuss and increasing menu possibilities.

Versatility? Yes.  Foothill Farms® Orange Ancho Chile Sauce Mix can take you from Orange Ancho Chile Chicken with Cilantro Lime Rice to Orange Ancho Chile Chicken with Avocado Flatbread without skipping a Latin beat.  Spicy Chili Orange Sauce gives a signature flavor of sweet and spicy to wings, chicken and ribs without spending valuable time on prep.

Healthy? Yes.  Foothill Farms® Classic Red Enchilada Sauce Mix with Guajillo Chiles-Reduced Sodium keeps an eye on nutrition for your healthful menu items without compromising flavor. It is a part of our Flavorwise™ product line and contains no added MSG, no partially hydrogenated oils, no high fructose corn syrup, no artificial colors or flavors, low in sodium and preservative free.  Using this one sauce mix can expand your menu at least three times with Beef Enchilada Empanadas, Cheese Enchilada Mini Pierogies, and Carne Asada Sauce.

Beef Enchiladas
Beef Enchiladas

Cheese, please? Yes.  Foothill Farms® has 16 cheese sauce mixes to explore ranging from traditional cheddars, to creamy whites, to spicy nacho cheese, to exceptional specialty cheese sauces. Serve Chipotle-Cheddar Cheese Sauce alongside fresh baked bread or onion rings as a specialty dip, compliment juicy burgers with a rich creamy cheese experience or mix it with pasta for a unique mac n’ cheese. Don’t forget the chips and dip! Pepper Jack Queso gives a little menu twist and livens up this popular appetizer staple.

Standard Fare? No.  We are constantly adding new recipes to provide a spectrum of dishes to keep adding to your food repertoire.  Adding new twists with innovative recipes can keep the menu fresh while keeping costs in check with the mixes that will become a staple in the kitchen.

Foothill Farms® will keep the Latin sauce movement alive in your kitchen and help keep your focus on easy flavor with lots of versatility.  Latin heat just got easier.

Pepper Jack Queso
Pepper Jack Queso