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.

Creative Ways to Include Regional Dishes to Your Menu

As a foodservice professional, how do you tap into specific regional dishes that may be unfamiliar to your own local cuisine?

One of the greatest attributes of our great American food nation is the variety and quality of its distinctive regional cuisines. Think of a state and you’ll likely think of a dish for which it is famous. It’s this specific regional appeal that consumers are looking for. What are some great ways to add some regional flare to your menu? Come with us on a trip across the U.S.

NORTH

Starting in the northeast, explore the many variations of clam chowder with New England Clam Chowder , a cream based soup with clams, seafood, and savory potatoes. Manhattan, Rhode Island and New Hampshire each have their own unique regional flavor. Seldom do you think of Maine without picturing a plastic bib with a giant, red lobster on front. Although traditionally steamed or boiled and presented on a platter, it is also an attractive ingredient in pastas like Lobster Mac & Cheese.

Lobster Mac and Cheese
A creamy, indulgent, comfort food with a rich lobster flavor.

Massachusetts brings us Boston Baked Beans and New Jersey lush cranberries. Side dishes of signature baked beans or foods utilizing cranberries or cranberry sauce are favorites year-round. Cranberry Nut Bread Pudding is a nice dessert to make a guest’s mouth water.

Two foods that want to claim territory are pizza and wings. A special crust, sauce, or topping will add signature to the menu. Up North, the menu features classic New York Style pizza which is a thin, hand-tossed crust pizza with gooey mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce. New Yorkers often buy this favorite by the slice then fold it in half and eat it like a sandwich. Buffalo offers its famous hot wings which consist of a deep-fried, unbreaded wing coated in vinegar-based cayenne pepper hot sauce and butter served alongside celery sticks and blue cheese dressing.

Hand-crafted thick, rich and creamy dressing perfect for salads, dipping sauces and sandwich spreads.
Hand-crafted thick, rich and creamy dressing perfect for salads, dipping sauces and sandwich spreads.

Moving your menu to Philadelphia allows you to showcase the popular Philly Cheesesteak sandwich with its thinly sliced steak, grilled onions and peppers, served on a roll and topped with melted cheese. This versatile sandwich can become a favorite anywhere in the nation!

MIDWEST

Midwest cuisine brings out the barbeque fan in all of us with its delicious BBQ varieties. Missouri is home to two styles of BBQ: Kansas City and St. Louis style barbeque. Kansas City BBQ uses a variety of meats including pulled pork, ribs, beef brisket, chicken, and turkey that are cooked with sweet tomato and a thick molasses base BBQ sauce. Kansas City’s specialty is called burnt ends, which are the extra crispy tips of cooked beef brisket. St. Louis BBQ features thick-cut pork shoulder steak, which is slathered with a tomato and vinegar BBQ sauce of a thinner and less sweet consistency than Kansas City sauce.

The “Windy City” of Chicago offers a hearty Chicago style deep dish pizza which is made in a cast iron pan dusted with cornmeal. The crust is placed inside to cover the entire bottom and sides of the pan and cheese is sprinkled directly onto the crust followed by meats and vegetables. Smooth tomato sauce is poured over the top before baking and the end result is nothing short of fabulous.

SOUTH

Perfectly creamy and extra cheesy grits topped with grilled shrimp and bourbon sauce for the perfect southern comfort food.
Perfectly creamy and extra cheesy grits topped with grilled shrimp and bourbon sauce for the perfect southern comfort food.

Bring the heart of the South into your kitchen with some Southern regional favorites. Grits, a traditional southern dish made of hominy (ground corn) is made into a porridge. While popularly served for breakfast, grits can be flavored with butter, sugar, or syrup. However, grits are no longer just a breakfast food and have found themselves on the dinner plate, especially when cheese is added. Grits are also commonly used to accompany shrimp as a side dish. Another true Southern favorite is Chicken fried steak or “Country” fried steak, a steak that is breaded and fried like southern fried chicken. Chicken fried steak is served with a country gravy poured over it.

Serve on top of biscuits or Southern chicken fried steak.
Serve on top of biscuits or Southern chicken fried steak.

Explore New Orleans cuisine on your menu by featuring the Creole or Cajun styles developed in this area, the history of which helps us understand the differences between the two. Creole cuisine is a blend of French, Spanish, Native American, and African traditions and is seen as fancy, classical cuisine because of the aristocratic lineage. Creole cuisine uses fine ingredients, like shrimp and oyster, as well as ingredients that are not native to the region. In contrast, Cajun cuisine uses a simpler more rustic style of food, with entire meals often made in one pot. Wild game like rabbit, duck, crawfish, and alligator are often used in Cajun cooking as these dishes rely on more of the plants and animals native to the region. Cajun cuisine also tends to be spicier than Creole cuisine.

TEXAS (The debate is still out – West or South)

Let’s steer our menu over to the great state of Texas and explore Chili con carne. Chili cook-offs are so popular because there are so many ways to prepare and enjoy chili, and everyone seems to have an opinion. The only ingredients allowed in true Texas chili are chunks of slow cooked steak, chili peppers, cumin, and other spices and this version does not add beans. Sweeter spices like cinnamon and allspice, which are common in Cincinnati chili, are not added to Texas-style chili. A cheesy variation of chili is the addition of creamy melted cheese to create Chili Con Queso. Along with chili recipes are Tex-Mex recipes, which are the fusion of American and Mexican cuisine. Combining flavors from both sides of the border, Tex-Mex meals include nachos and fajitas.

The robust blend of herbs and aromatic spices entices palates with all the flavors of a sizzling summer cookout.
The robust blend of herbs and aromatic spices entices palates with all the flavors of a sizzling summer cookout.

WEST

California is famous for the avocados grown in the Southern regions and currently produces 95% of the national avocado harvest. This fruit has surged in popularity because of its distinctive flavor and nutritional value, including high dietary fiber and protein. Our Mexi-Cali Cobb Salad with Avocado Ranch Dressing recipe is a light, delicious dish that takes advantage of this California gem. Speaking of ranch dressing, the West also boasts the ever-popular Ranch dressing which was invented in Santa Barbara in the 1950s and has become the most popular salad dressing across all states. The creamy dressing, typically made from buttermilk, sour cream, yogurt, onions, garlic and other seasonings can not only be used as a dressing for salads, but also as a dip for chips.

Fresh lime juice provides a zesty citrus punch while chopped cilantro adds freshness to this ranch dressing.
Fresh lime juice provides a zesty citrus punch while chopped cilantro adds freshness to this ranch dressing.

We can’t leave California without visiting Northern California’s wine country. Combine a dry, white wine with butter and Monterey Jack cheese for a delightful sauce to adorn fresh caught seafood like sea scallops.

As a foodservice professional, how do you tap into specific regional dishes that may be unfamiliar to your own local cuisine? Foothill Farms® dry-mix, speed-scratch products will help you do just that. From New England clam chowder to Tex-Mex dishes, our products and recipes will help deliver consistent, flavorful dishes no matter what region your menu features on any given day.

Keeping America in Mind this July 4th … and Beyond!

Celebrating America and supporting American growth initiatives is a great way to spend July 4th! At Foothill Farms®, we are keeping American products a priority on every other day, too.

We commit to manufacture our food products from American sources as much as possible.
We commit to manufacture our food products from American sources as much as possible.

As July 4th celebrations of barbeques and fireworks begin, we are reminded of our commitment to celebrate America’s great traditions with our families, friends, and coworkers. Being a foodservice provider to schools, we also acknowledge our commitment to manufacture our food products from American sources as much as possible to exceed U.S. government regulations regarding federal nutrition programs. According to the regulations, a food product must be processed in the U.S. and at least 51% of each product must contain domestic ingredients. Buying American supports our domestic farmers but also helps ensure that food safety inspection standards are being met. Put simply, if the food is grown here, it is easier to monitor all stages of growth, harvest, cleaning and packaging processes right here in America. All Foothill Farms® products are processed in U.S. plants located in Bolingbrook, Illinois, New Sharon, Iowa and in Columbus, Ohio. And ingredients are sourced from America when possible. One exception to this would be crops that are not grown in the United States. Examples of products that are not available in America are spices which are grown around the equatorial regions. Cassava, of which tapioca starch is made, is primarily sourced from Thailand and provides the type of starch used in our sauces. Cocoa trees, which provide the cocoa for desserts and frozen treats, live exclusively in the tropical climates of Africa, Asia, and South America. Dehydrated vegetables come from other countries as U.S. grown vegetable are largely sold fresh, canned, or frozen.

Flavorful sauces, dressings & dips to entice kids to eat more veggies!
Flavorful sauces, dressings & dips to entice kids to eat more veggies!

Foothill Farms® admires the USDA’s Farm-to-School initiatives, which have been implemented by 44% of public schools and another 13% launching a program in the near future. Farm-to-School programs have the dual benefit of instilling healthy learning habits to future generations but also providing funding of school programs directly into the local community. Local farmers reap the benefits of providing healthy fresh ingredients to the schools right in their own communities and kids are eating freshly grown products. Our products can complement the Farm-to-School program by adding flavorful sauces, dressings and dips to entrees and sides in order to create tasteful dishes that entice kids to eat more vegetables. Learn more about the Farm-to-School program www.fns.usda.gov/farmtoschool/census and check out this infographic.

Celebrating America and supporting American growth initiatives is a great way to spend July 4th! At Foothill Farms®, we are keeping American products a priority on every other day, too.

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

 

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: