Trend Watch: Bourbon BBQ, plant-based pizza and elk

By Sophie Mir

As is the norm these days, plant-based proteins continue to steal stomach share from their meaty counterparts, and the options available have crashed past burger boundary onto pizzas. But while Beyond Meat and its competitors are gaining traction, premium, out-of-the-ordinary elk, as in the massive deer stalking North American forests, is increasingly popping up in Canadian restaurants. Same goes for Bourbon BBQ sauce, a marriage of two familiar favourites that’s appearing just about everywhere. Below, we get into the details of these three trends.

Boozy BBQ

Barbecue sauce remains a consumer favourite, with over 68 per cent stating that they either love or like it, according to Technomic’s 2017 Canadian Flavour Consumer Trend Report. To diversify their menus with new flavours, operators are taking this staple sauce and infusing it with bourbon, offering consumers a nice balance of familiar and novel tastes in familiar and novel places. Classic applications include on burgers (both plant-based and not), pork and poultry, while pizza and sandwiches are also starting to see more of the sauced-up sauce.

Menu Examples

Arby’s: Its Bourbon BBQ Brisket sandwich spotlights barrel-aged Kentucky bourbon barbecue sauce.
Boston Pizza: The pizza, burger and pasta chain now menus a Bourbon BBQ Chicken Pizza, made with house-made bourbon barbecue sauce.
Kelseys Original Roadhouse: A limited-time, plant-based Bourbon BBQ Lightlife Burger namechecks Jim Beam.

Out of the Woods

With a quarter of consumers saying that they would consider ordering elk at restaurants, according to Technomic’s 2019 Canadian Centre of the Plate Consumer Trend Report, operators are highlighting this game meat both as a stand-alone dish and in common cuisines, such as poutine and burgers. It’s considered a premium, better-for-you alternative to beef that’s versatile enough to be menued for different mealparts and cuisines.

Menu Examples

Globe Bistro: Northern Elk Loin is served with beets, grilled cabbage, chanterelle mushrooms and potato crisps
Brewsters Brewing Company & Restaurant: Offers an elk burger, featuring a free-range elk patty, prosciutto, provolone cheese and cranberry relish.
Homefire Grill: Poutine, Canada’s classic late-night food, is treated to ground elk .

Pizza Goes Meatless

As we head into 2020, the plant-based movement continues to thrive as it extends past beef patties into new applications, including pizza toppings. Vegan pizzas are not only appealing to those who eat a meat-free diet for ethical reasons, but is also gaining the attention of younger consumers ages 18 to 34 who seek healthier pizza selections. In fact, according to Technomic’s 2018 Canadian Pizza Consumer Trend Report, 27 per cent of younger consumers report that they would eat pizza more often if there were healthier options available, making plant-based sausage, ham, pepperoni and chorizo, as well as dairy-free cheese, one of the next big things in foodservice.

Menu Examples

Pizza 73: Its gluten free, vegan Cauliflower Super Plant Pizza, features a cauliflower crust and plant-based pepperoni and spicy sausage crumble.
New Orleans Pizza: Plant-based pepperoni is accompanied by dairy-free mozzarella cheese for a full-on plant-based pizza.
Panago Pizza: Opting to go name-brand, Panago rolled out its Beyond Spicy Calabrese, spotlighting Beyond Meat Italian sausage crumble, as well as dairy-free Daiya cheese for the vegan set.

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. Visit for more information.

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