Taquito entrees, bowl value meals in high demand on Canadian menus

Technomic’s latest Ignite Menu, covering changes in the Canadian foodservice industry between Q1 2021 and Q1 2022, has identified some highly trending items on Canadian menus over the last year.

Overall menu item counts are up 1.7 per cent at full-service restaurants in the last year, showing a strong uptick from the eight per cent decline during the previous year (Q1 2020-Q1 2021).

Dishes showing growth at these operations include global entrees, interesting protein options, value offers and customizable dishes.

Mexican taquito entrees take the first-place spot on the fastest-growing dish list, up 350 per cent year over year. Taquitos are easily adaptable to different types of fillings, making them a good option no matter which meats or veggies may be available to operators.

Vietnamese pho entrees are also rising, up 160 per cent year over year. A soup dish containing noodles and meat, pho entrees also reflect the larger global comfort food trend. Also appearing on the list of fastest-growing dishes is Arctic char, a coldwater fish similar to salmon, which is up 200 per cent year over year. Like salmon, Arctic char is rich in omega-3, making it a healthy functional food.

Unsurprisingly, value offers remain important to consumers, especially considering current inflation rates. As a result, bowl value meals are up by 300 per cent year over year on full-service menus, combining these trendy meals with a wallet-friendly offer.

Another important trend is customization. Since parents like a sense of choice with their children’s meals, it’s no surprise that choice of sides (up 140 per cent) are increasingly appearing on full-service kids’ menus.

Consumers want to spice up their life

Meanwhile, Technomic also noted that the spicy food trend remains strong in the restaurant industry as consumers continue to seek out heat-inducing flavours and ingredients.

Globally, more than half (55 per cent) of consumers want at least some heat, with 25 per cent at somewhat spicy, 24 per cent at spicy, and six per cent at very spicy.

While many consumers are buying spicy foods to simply enjoy eating, SmartBrief reports that social media videos such as the YouTube series “Hot Ones” and general spicy food challenges on TikTok involving hot sauces and other foods with high Scoville scale ratings are also making extra spicy snacks particularly popular.  

Restaurant operators and consumer packaged goods producers are obliging with a myriad of new products to meet that demand.

Savoury foods are the obvious choice for new spicy food products and many brands have introduced products recently that deliver on the trending flavours, such as condiments like Hellmann’s Spicy Mayonnaise and snacks like Ruffles’ Spicy Dill Pickle flavour.

In restaurants, offerings that temper spicy flavours with sweet accents have been on trend at restaurants globally for some time, and for good reason. About a third of consumers globally (31 per cent) enjoy the sweet-heat flavour combination.

Hot honey began appearing on many menus at restaurants in recent years to give many dishes the sweet and spicy flavour combination that customers are craving. For instance, Kraft Heinz is introducing Heinz Infused Honey with Chili, while in the beverage sector, Pepsi united two of its classic products last year to create the limited-edition Mountain Dew Flamin’ Hot.