Trend Watch: Oat mylk, plant-based momentum, shine on

By Sophie Mir

As ever, Canadian restaurants continue to strive to keep up with customer demands and seasonal trends. With summer slowly but surely turning into fall, we’ve broken down three developing menu trends you’ll see across the country this autumn.

Oat Mylk

Soy, almond and coconut mylks have been on menus for a while, but operators are now spotlighting oat mylk as a dairy alternative in recent months. The plant-based mylk option not only appeals to vegan and health-conscious consumers, but also those who are seeking a more sustainable dairy option.

  • Offers sweet flavour additions compared to other non-dairy mylks
  • Menu mentions of oat mylk have increased by 300% in the past year, according to Technomic’s Ignite menu data (Q2 2019-Q2 2020)

Menu examples:

  • Second Cup Coffee Co. – rolled out oat mylk as a dairy substitute earlier this year, along with a lineup of oat mylk-based beverages that includes the Toasted Nut Frappe with Oatmilk and Oatmilk Mocca Flash Cold Brew
  • Starbucks – recently announced that it will launch oat mylk at all company-owned locations starting in fall 2020

Plant-Based Momentum Persists

With operators turning their focus to core offerings to stay afloat, the fast-paced momentum of the plant-based trend we saw earlier in the year was forced to slow down. However, it has recently picked back up again as more operations have reopened. As the year progresses, we expect to see operators continuing to diversify their plant-based selections with even more unique twists.

  • Exciting twists to expect include non-dairy foams and even more novel vegan condiments
  • Plant-based trend has seen huge growth in the past year, with menu mentions of plant-based rising by 25.8% and operator penetration increasing by 4.1%, according to Technomic’s Ignite menu data (Q2 2019-Q2 2020)
  • Macro trend will remain vital proven by the fact that consumers, especially younger ones, continue to prioritize health and sustainable initiatives even through the pandemic

Menu examples:

  • Starbucks – recently introduced launched non-dairy Cinnamon Almond Foam and Soy Foam, available on Cold Brew or Nitro Cold Brew beverages
  • Harvey’s – partnered with Lightlife in July to launch a plant-based burger at all Canada locations

Shine On

According to Technomic’s Canadian July 2020 Omnibus consumer survey data, more than half of consumers (58%) express that foods and/or beverages that are aesthetically pleasing put them in a better mood, especially during this pandemic. Operators are responding by rolling out items with a touch of sparkle.

  • Other opportunities to make menu items more visually interesting include incorporating fantasy elements, such as unicorns or aliens, via unusual designs or toppings, and creating tie-dye colouring or colour-changing effects
  • Macro trend of visually appealing foods and beverages will remain prevalent given the extent of social media-driven innovation at foodservice
  • Almost a quarter (24%) of consumers, including 35% of younger consumers ages 18-34, agree that they are more likely to buy visually interesting foods and/or beverages so they can post pictures of them on social media, according to Technomic’s Canadian July 2020 Omnibus consumer survey data

Menu examples:

  • IHOP – launched Crunch Berries Pancakes, made with blue vanilla sparkle sauce, in the spring
  • Dairy Queen – debuted its Pinata Party Blizzard, featuring edible glitter, in the summer

Sophie Mir is an Associate Editor for Technomic Inc., a Chicago-based foodservice research and consulting firm. Technomic provides clients with the facts, insights and consulting support they need to enhance their business strategies, decisions and results. The company’s services include publications and digital products as well as proprietary studies and ongoing research on all aspects of the food industry.