Trendspotting at National Restaurant Association Show 2017: What’s New and Next on Menus #NRAShow17

I love to go to the National Restaurant Association Show, which is always in Chicago — lucky for me.  It’s a great opportunity to spot the latest food trends.  Nancy Kruse, president of The Kruse Co. in Atlanta spoke again this year.  Here’s a look at some of trends she highlighted in her session, along with a few of the trends I spotted on the exhibit floor.

Plants on Plates

A rise in “reducetarians” and “flexitarians” has inspired chefs to experiment with plant-forward dishes — from a cauliflower burger at Hard Rock Cafe and spicy buffalo cauliflower at California Pizza Kitchen to a broccoli sandwich at No. 7 Subs.  Kruse said if you want to sell a vegetable-forward dish, “treat it with the same innovation, creativity, flavor enhancements and culinary hooks that you would lavish upon an animal protein item.”

While walking through the exhibits, I definitely noticed that the plant-based protein trend was hitting the restaurant world in a big way. Two exhibitors showcased Jackfruit for foodservice (pulled pork, tacos, nachos and more), and there was a huge crowd gathered at the much-lauded Beyond Meat’s booth.


Going Global

Restaurateurs are reaping the rewards of globalization, Kruse said, and one of the latest global flavors gaining favor in U.S. restaurants is Indian fare.  I sure noticed that on exhibit floor — from Indian street snacks called Chaat to frozen Indian appetizers conveniently packaged for restaurant operators.

I also spotted this sushi robot made in Japan.  How cool is that?  Kruse said katsu, similar to a Japanese schnitzel, is going to be the next big thing.

Snacks Appeal

With over half of the population swapping meals for snacks, downsized portions are in demand, Kruse said. The fastest growing day part in restaurants is the afternoon snack period, she said. Here are some of the snacks I spotted — from 100-calorie packs of better-for-you jerky inspired by Chicago chefs to quinoa snack cups and Mediterranean-style dips.

A few other interesting items I enjoyed on the exhibit floor — tea, living greens, and the golden berry from Equador.

Here’s a look at the top innovations at the NRA Show, the 2017 Food and Beverage Awards — including the Beyond Burger from Beyond Meat.  Other winners include Manifesto Cookies and several bakeries.  I spotted Manifesto Cookies on the exhibit floor and bread was everywhere.  Maybe that’s a good sign that people are coming back to bread.

More on NRA trends from Restaurant Business and Food Business News.

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