A precarious balance has been struck in the restaurant industry, with prices being held as low as possible to attract frugal consumers, while rising commodity costs chip away at profit margins. A new study by Technomic shows that current market forces are making craveability and culinary expertise increasingly relevant to consumers, many of whom say they are more interested in experiencing new flavors as they dine out. 

“There is only so much you can do with pricing until your profit margins disappear. So you have to look at other ways to differentiate your brand,” says Technomic EVP Darren Tristano. “Incorporating unique flavors into existing menus can be a low-cost and easy way to grow sales and attract new customers. In our newest study, 42 percent of consumers said they are more interested in trying new and unique flavors, compared to a year ago. So keeping the focus on food taste and flavor is a powerful long-term strategy.”

To help those aligned with the foodservice industry in keeping a pulse on flavor trends infused during food preparation as well as those added through sauces, dips, and condiments, Technomic developed the 2011 Flavor Consumer Trend Report. Interesting findings include:

·      Of consumers surveyed, 53 percent said they would be more likely to visit a restaurant that offers new or innovative flavors, up from 42 percent of those surveyed in a 2009 study.

·      It’s no surprise that classic Italian flavors dominate the pizza landscape. But a look at the menus of emerging limited- and full-service pizza chains reveals that sweet, hot, smoky, spicy, and fruity flavor profiles are also top flavor varieties for pizza, helping to differentiate signature offerings. 

·      Leading all other options, more than four out of five consumers (81 percent) say that preparation style is an appealing way for restaurants to add flavor to their food. Year-over-year data suggests that flavors imparted by preparation style have increased in popularity by 11 percent between 2009 and 2011. 

·      Flavors imparted by spreads, sauces or condiments that come with food are appealing to 61 percent of consumers, an 8 percent increase from those surveyed in 2009. This indicates an opportunity for continued development of signature house-prepared sauces and spreads.

Technomic’s 2011 Flavor Consumer Trend Report examines flavor preferences, attitudes, and purchasing behavior based on survey results from more than 1,500 consumers. Data from 1,000 Canadian Consumers is also available. The Menu Insights section utilizes Technomic's exclusive MenuMonitor trend-tracking tool to provide an in-depth look at how leading, independent and emerging chain operators are incorporating top flavor profiles into menu items. Along with major entrée categories, the report contains in-depth explorations of beverage, dessert, snack, and appetizer dip flavor preferences. 

Menu and consumer data from Technomic's 2009 Flavor Consumer Trend Report is also discussed throughout the report to provide deeper insights into emerging flavor trends. An appendix to the report shows how the top 10 most frequently menued entrée flavors are being used on menus. Demographic profiles of consumers who enjoy these flavors for entrée sauces are included in those appendixes.

Menu Innovations, News