Trend watch: marine eats, wellness, and all things plant-based

By Sophie Mir

Here are some of the leading menu trends to watch on Canadian menus.

Marine Eats

Offering savoury umami flavour complexity and a wide array of vitamins, minerals and trace elements, aquatic-based ingredients are emerging on menus in two ways. First, operators are shining a light on new seaweeds and other marine-based ingredients, and second, familiar sea-based flavours are popping up in new applications.

  • Ingredients to watch: nori, wakame, kombu, kelp, dulse, spirulina and salicornia
  • Can often be used as a natural salt alternative
  • Expanding beyond entrees and snacks into condiments and even desserts

Menu Examples:

  • Donna’s in Toronto offers sweet corn with shrimp butter
  • Elbow Room in Calgary menus tiger prawns, with gochujang ebi mayonnaise
  • Toque in Montreal spotlights tuna belly carpaccio, with fried wakame

Beauty and Brains

As consumers’ definition of health moves from the emphasis of nutritional advantages (such as lower fat or lower cholesterol) to functionality — that is, fare that provides holistic gains — operators are highlighting ingredients that are known for providing physical, mental and emotional benefits, thus bringing health into the modern era.

  • Ingredients to watch: collagen and aloe (clears skins); CBD oil and hemp (elevates mood); Blue Majik spirulina (boosts energy); medicinal mushrooms (improves cognitive health)
  • Some 61% of consumers associate fare with functional benefits as healthier, according to Technomic’s 2018 Canadian Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report
  • Educating consumers on these functional benefits (e.g., through social media or detailed menu descriptions) is key

Menu Examples:

  • Jugo Juice rolled out its limited-time Papayah Smoothie, featuring collagen
  • Calii Love in Toronto menus the Blue Majik Spirulina Latte 
  • Turtle Jack’s Muskoka Grill offers its Power Bowl, made with hemp hearts

Plant-Based Extensions

Last year, we saw an influx of imitation meats across all mealparts, including plant-based burger patties in lunch and dinner entrees and vegan sausage in breakfast sandwiches. In 2020, the plant-based trend is growing beyond imitation meats to include more creative plant-based items and in different applications.  

  • Includes plant-based eggs, milks (besides almond and coconut), cheeses, sauces and condiments 
  • Almost a third (32%) of consumers express that they are eating more meals with vegetarian or vegan options/substitutes compared with two years ago, according to Technomic’s 2019 Canadian Centre of the Plate Consumer Trend Report
  • On the horizon: restaurants creating proprietary plant-based meats to save money and differentiate themselves from competitors

Menu Examples:

  • Tim Hortons debuted the Plant-Based Just Egg, spotlighted in breakfast sandwiches
  • Earls Kitchen + Bar recently introduced its Vegan Buffalo Cauliflower, served with vegan ranch
  • Cafe Van Houtte spotlighted oat milk, which was highlighted in Iced Dirty and Golden Chais in 2019

Sophie Mir is an associate editor at Technomic Inc., a Chicago-based foodservice research and consulting firm.

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