By Julie Istead
Thanks to heightened attention from consumers to the quality of food, the ‘Better For You’ dining category is growing faster than the foodservice industry can keep up.
Consumers drive the food and beverage markets, and the demand for products starts to increase well before they hit the mainstream. Take, for example, the current growth of keto and the quick movement of shelf space within the grocery stores that are filling this need.
When it comes to foodservice, these same expectations are present but can’t always be met as quickly as required – regardless of the size of your operation. Smaller chains may be able to make faster moves than larger companies that wrestle with lengthy internal processes and the need to accommodate an existing supply chain. Or, sometimes, the reverse is true; small organizations can’t move fast enough due to financial barriers that aren’t always present for big companies with deeper pockets.
Demand for ‘better for you’ dining is higher than ever
One of the key trends reshaping the industry in 2020 is the demand for foods that offer increased health and well-being benefits. Where once we’d see a temporary surge in “eating better” just after the holidays and fads based on shaky science, today it’s a full-fledged, multi-generational movement.
For example, recent survey data from Dalhousie University revealed that 10 per cent of Canadians self-identify as vegan, vegetarian, or flexitarian – a category of eaters reducing but not eliminating meat from their diets. Data from the Taste Tomorrow study by multinational food product developer Puratos shows that 60 per cent of Canadians report eating more plant-based food. It’s a youth-driven trend led by Gen Xers (this may be the last time you’re lumped in with “youth”) and millennials, and both groups are passing it along to their kids, most of whom make up Gen Z.
Canadians want less bad stuff and more good stuff, but the same taste – that’s all
So, as a restaurant operator, you’re faced with a rapidly increasing consumer base demanding new food items filled with functional ingredients, but with less sugar, fewer artificial additives, and reduced or no animal content. All while ensuring that there is little to no compromise on taste.
Focusing on just one part of the menu, you could hire a senior pastry chef to develop new recipes that look and taste just like “regular” desserts using sugar alternatives or reduced sugar content and/or no animal-based ingredients. Between rising labour and food costs and a shrinking labour pool, not to mention paper-thin profit margins, that can seem almost impossible and extremely time-consuming in this fast-paced, trend-driven foodservice industry.
“Outsource” your science and focus on the creative
What’s needed are cost-effective, ready-made solutions, with the research and development complete, leaving you to step in with the finishing touches. In many cases, the answer is as simple as working with suppliers such as Puratos that are dedicated to providing clean label ingredient solutions with health and well-being at the centre of innovation and product development.
Fillings with higher fruit content, doughs with reduced salt and higher amounts of grains and seeds, plant-based cake mixes, or access to tested foodservice recipes, all provide simple turn-key solutions for meeting consumer demands. Having these at your fingertips allows your business to move quickly and ride the trends forward instead of chasing them.
The key to success in this industry is to be adaptable and innovative in finding ways to get a leg up on the competition and provide quality products that you are proud to serve.
Julie Istead is the director, research & development, for Puratos Canada.