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Restaurant Flavor Trends of 2018 Previewed at Flavor Experience

Texas Pete® was on fire at this year’s top gathering of chain menu developers and researchers Flavor Experience event in sunny Newport Beach, CA. Insights shared at this national flavor huddle have predicted the rise of every significant restaurant trend of the past 13 years and here are the most important trends in foodservice affecting multiple segments within our business.

Keynoting this year’s list of menu minds was Gerry Ludwig, Consulting Chef for Gordon Food Service. Ludwig’s team traverses the continent, in search of emerging trends for big chain attendees to the conference. This year, Ludwig’s team evaluated 1,197 menus and tasted 107 menu items at restaurants in New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago. Texas Pete® received four shout-outs from Ludwig for trend-focused recipes it served to attendees during the conference as an example of culinary prowess of emerging trends on the street.

From Buffalo Masala Fried Cauliflower to Heirloom Vegetable Cornucopia to Korean Aussie Short Ribs, the Texas Pete® menu demonstration incorporated most of tomorrow’s restaurant trends.

Want to explore 11 Texas Pete® trend-focused recipes served at the Flavor Experience? Click here to explore the recipes.

The move of vegetables from a flavorless side to a center-of-the-plate superstar will continue. A megatrend driven by Gen Z and Millennial consumers who look for something more than just flavor continue to drive the veggie/better-for-you movement. This group wants food to be functional, providing antioxidants, vitamins and other important nutrients.

Proteins will increasingly be treated as a side or part of the entrees ingredients and not center stage. Key cities driving this trend are New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles. Early mainstream examples are caprese salads led by heirloom tomatoes flavored with anchovies or crispy pieces of Chinese lap cheong sausage. Batter-fried jalapenos, fried garlic, charred cauliflower basted in wing sauce and crumbled candied turkey bacon are other examples of the vegetable movement.

Boozy Cereal Milk

Cha! by Texas Pete® Chicken Skins

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Chef Micheal Fiddler

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Chef Gerry Ludwig

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Flavor Experience General Session

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Lunch Session at Flavor Experience

New spices and ingredients that are part of the trend include nduja (pronounced n-do-ya) a spreadable Italian salami as part of a BLT, activated charcoal sprinkled or smoothied into a beverage to aide digestion and relieve hangovers, turmeric, (an anti-inflammatory) bee pollen, labneh (tastes like sour cream and Greek yogurt) and the continued growth of jackfruit as a flavored vegetable replacement for pork BBQ.

Indian cuisine will nudge into the American mainstream in tiny steps by adding a touch of curry or chickpeas into familiar menu items. Imagine a masala-spiced chicken wing or grilled cheese lightly touched by cilantro.

Speaking of chickpeas, look for hummus to be made with different vegetables, such as cauliflower, and hummus drizzled over a salad as a dressing. Similarly look for fried rice to move beyond Chinese in flavors such as green peri-peri fried rice underneath a fried egg and sticky rice lightly broiled with peppers to deliver a crispy rice.

Menu developers say Millennial-minded mash ups of ethnic cuisines are so common among trendsetting restaurants that labeling a cuisine no longer apply. Mash ups that are the most successful involve Southern and Hispanic twists to a familiar menu items.

Alternate dining models created by Millennials are deploying everywhere. These alternate tavern models may involve games, craft beer and a food truck to deliver flavor innovations. The menus are daypart agnostic, efficient and affordable allowing customers to customize their foods. North African and Middle Eastern carriers, like falafel handhelds are prevalent within the space.

Look for an increased use of alcohol as an ingredient to add excitement to the menu and increase margins. A case in point is bourbon chicken wings and as beverage with a new mission, cereal milk. Kid cereals such as Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Co-Co Puffs or Lucky Charms marinated the milk, then strained, with a bourbon, rum or dark rum added. Another twist, brunch memosa made with Tang instead of orange juice.

Sour is the taste bud driver that is emerging as Gen Z consumers take their childhood preferences alcoholic beverages and food preparations, such as pickled, citrus and vinegar flavors.

Tap into these trends or try one of our fresh recipes from the event. No matter the trend, there is opportunity to set your operation apart and there is a Texas Pete® sauce ready for any trend.