Seven industry experts look ahead at this year’s foodservice trends

Kim Collishaw: The gourmet ice cream sandwich is going to be huge this year. Not just two cookies with a scoop of ice cream. I’m thinking homemade chocolate wafers with a good quality interesting ice cream made with a hot new ingredient, like caramelized white chocolate, then dipped in toffee, chocolate bits or toasted nuts. I think the jazzed up gourmet ice cream sandwich will replace the cupcake, which in my opinion is passé. Meanwhile, rustic-looking cakes will be a big wedding trend this year. These cakes have no icing, they are filled with a cream or a light mousse and fresh fruit, stacked like a wedding cake and dusted with icing sugar – nothing too refined or perfect looking.

Which trends from recent years do you think will continue to influence Canadian menus in 2014?

Ryan Marquis: In previous years, full-flavoured foods with bold taste have been trending upwards. I believe this will continue to influence Canadian menus and product development because the trend is appearing to be long-lasting. Patrons eating out will choose meals with big bold flavours because the average consumer is becoming more adventurous, leading them to bolder food choices.

Karyn Johnson: Flexible and customizable menus remain in demand. Whether for allergies or preferences, customers want to control what they order. Craft beer will continue to be notable on menus. Unique beer lists provide differentiation from competitors. Craft beer suits menus for a wide range of restaurant service styles and can be paired with a wide variety of foods, making it an approachable alternative to wines.

Paul Rogalski: Continued movement to local and hyper-local fare. Chefs are finding great importance in the knowledge of where food comes from and the sacrifice of life for our nourishment. In addition, cooking methods that showcase the natural flavour of the dish without crazy manipulation will continue to be popular. I also expect to see more menus showcasing healthy choices and nationally well balanced dishes. The opposite of this will also flourish, where fat is king and large portions of protein prevail. Finally, whether casual or fine dining, house-made charcuterie is still on the rise and might never go away – which is a good thing.

Kim Collishaw: You will continue to see dessert buffets offering a wide variety of petite desserts, often served in liqueur glasses, tiny ramekins, espresso cups and on spoons. This trend has been popular in catering for a few years, but I believe restaurants will pick up on this trend and offer a selection of petite desserts after dinner. Also, look out for dessertscapes. These plated, deconstructed desserts are a masterpiece of flavours and textures, with many different small elements artistically presented on a large plate.

How will health concerns continue to influence trends and what new menu developments do you see taking place as a result?

Ryan Marquis: With consumers becoming more conscience about health, it has led manufacturers to follow suit in their production by sourcing ingredients that are low in trans fats, gluten and sodium. With this trend we will see healthier options throughout many menus in all categories of the restaurant trade.

John Placko: I see gluten-free products and ingredients taking a steep incline for the next two to three years. I also believe high-sugar beverages will continue to come under attack. If you watch what the large soft drink companies are doing by buying smaller niche companies with water, coconut water and better-for-you offerings, it must be driven by a consumer demand to drink healthier beverages. Helping the customer to decide on what to buy is also a challenge. They don’t always believe the marketing on the label. Nutritional panels on the products makes it confusing for the consumer to decide what’s acceptable. Retailers and food manufacturers who help with clear, concise and honest information will come out ahead with consumer loyalty.

David Evans: Healthy eating has a direct impact on the cost of operating the health-care system. From a big-picture perspective, we have to eat healthy now so we do not become a financial and physical burden on future generations. One trend that supports this is more ancient grains being used as sides and starches. Grains such as amaranth, quinoa, chia and forbidden rice have been around for a long time and are all making a resurgence because of their unique flavours and health benefits.

Liana Robberecht: Gluten intolerance/sensitivity has increased every year as more and more people become aware of the condition and the potential benefits of reducing gluten. At the Calgary Petroleum Club we are purchasing and dedicating a deep fryer to address cross-contamination issues with gluten. Type 2 diabetes and obesity will also continue to influence menu options with lower sugar and caloric choices available. I don’t believe this will ever replace the comfort food trend, but it will definitely provide healthier options to those who require or desire it.

How will international and ethnic influences impact Canadian foodservice?

John Placko: There’s no doubt that flavour profiles in all sectors of the industry are getting spicier. If I was to call out two cuisines that we’ll see more of, I’d have to say Australian and Peruvian. Both have unique flavour profiles. Native Australian ingredients give a unique flavour to a dish, particularly ingredients like wattleseeds, pepperberry, lemon myrtle and forestberry (strawberry gum). I’ve seen more kangaroo being served in Canada than I have in past year, and 95 per cent of people that I’ve introduced to kangaroo really like it.

Paul Rogalski: I also think we will see the continued rise of South American influence in our market – Peruvian and Brazilian flavours topping the list. Also unique flavours from the home front will showcase regional terroir, capitalizing on indigenous ingredients that might not be so common such as wild herbs, berries and regional wood or grass as smoking agents.

Liana Robberecht: Canada is a mosaic of many cultures and in no other area is this more true than cuisine. Chinese, Indian, Korean, Jamaican – you name it. I foresee Korean and Peruvian flavours gaining popularity in the coming year. An increase in uses of Szechuan pepper and Latin flavour profiles in unique ways (maybe crispy chicken wings), the emergence of house-made kimchi and more interesting varieties of grains and empanada fillings on menus will be only a few ways in which you’ll see this happening.

What other major factors do you think will influence upcoming food trends and why?

Ryan Marquis: I believe that kitchen craftsmanship will slightly influence some trends this coming year. Chefs over the past couple years have been trying to inspire a more natural approach to in-house cooking. Thus, artisanal and house-made foods and beverages have become more popular. A lot of this trend is attributed to buying local and organic fare. Now diners are forming loyalties to specific chefs who display their culinary artistry in charcuterie, craft beers, and pickled vegetables just to name a few.

Karyn Johnson: Though interest in local food will remain, the potential Canada-EU free trade agreement may make European imports with newly lowered costs more appealing to restaurant operators. Pressure on restaurants to become increasingly sustainable will continue, affecting how restaurants operate, plan menus and source ingredients; this includes taking ecological, economical, and social impact into account.

Kim Collishaw: Two trendy dessert ingredients that will be everywhere this year are coconut oil and tea. Coconut oil is this year’s super food (sorry kale). It happens to be a delicious dessert ingredient – think coconut panna cotta and coconut rice pudding. Infusing tea in savoury foods has been popular for a few years. This year it’s tea-infused dessert like Earl Grey-infused crème brûlée and chai-infused tiramisu.

Liana Robberecht: Responsible, ethical purchasing from chefs will continue to be a major influence on what we see on menus. Traceability and accountability in everything, from produce to proteins. The public wants to know where their food comes from and they want to feel confident in how it was processed. Not only do people like to know where their food is coming from and that it’s being processed in an ethical way, they like it to be well made. When chefs take the time to create the small simple items that are so often replaced with mass-produced products, our customers notice and appreciate it. We like when people take the time to create something delicious for us.

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