Beacon, Britain’s leading purchasing company, is urging operators to consider their healthy food offering, following consumer demand for a lower calorie option for the New Year and the rise in veganism.
According to Classic Fresh Foods, foods that are most popular in the New Year are health foods and low fat options, as many people are looking to a healthy diet or detox options to lose weight. Alongside this, both Ribble Farm and Bunzl Catering Supplies predict veganism to continue to develop in popularity in 2018. According to Bunzl Catering Supplies, over 542,000 people in the UK[i] opted for a plant-based diet in 2017 and this is set to be a continued trend.
With this in mind, Alice Bexon, Purchasing Manager at Beacon, has teamed up with suppliers Ribble Farm, Classic Fresh Foods and Brakes, to offer her advice on providing effective healthy and vegan ranges:
“It is clear that consumer demand is for healthier dining options, and there are plenty of simple tricks and tactics that can be used to make a menu stand out, satisfying a growing trend and capitalising on it. Healthy food on menus does not need to mean bland or boring, but an opportunity to offer something exciting and vibrant to brighten up a menu and stand out from the competition.”
Operators can provide a fresh lease of life into menus through innovative veggie swaps, being flexible and trying new options. Ribble Farm recommends opting for cavolo nero cabbage, as opposed to traditional, kale, with sales indicating a rise in it’s popularity following many TV chefs opting for it. Other simple swaps include replacing brussel sprouts with kalettes, another popular superfood.
Don’t just restrict swaps to vegetables. Mandy Van Hagen, Marketing Sector Manager for Brakes identifies that avocado oil is looking to overtake coconut oil, due to its lower fat content, and cashew milk looks to prove popular over oat milk. Substitutions such as this are expected to continue, as consumers demand a healthier, less processed approach to food.
In recent years, we have seen a rise in consumer generated food photography, with diners now displaying a strong desire to get that perfect picture for social media, and restaurants are reacting to this[ii]. It is more important than ever before to make food visually appealing to market to customers, and to create a competitor advantage. This can be done through bright, colourful vegetables, for example, edible flowers are increasingly being used, with many varieties available such as cucumber, borage, apple blossom and chive flowers, all adding a pleasing aesthetic to dishes.
Furthermore, Brakes identifies that raw food trends like poke and Buddha bowls have also grown in popularity, providing vibrant, colourful dishes for customers to snap, whilst offering a fresh and tasty option as well. To capitalise on these dishes, chefs need to be clever with food ingredients, enhancing the flavours of grains and noodles by infusing them with coconut milk, stocks or herbs, adding seeds and nuts to offer texture and utilising fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables to create different combinations which provide variety and choice in a cost-effective way.
“Put veg centre stage
What many operators do not take enough advantage of is offering vegetables as a replacement for higher calorie carbohydrates, such as rice, pasta and bread. Ribble Farm supplies many plant substitutes including courgette spaghetti (known as courgetti), carrot noodles and butternut squash noodles. Cauliflower rice and broccoli rice are also proving popular, alongside lettuce wraps in the place of traditional bread for burgers, all of which offer a lower calorie option, which also looks appealing and visually exciting.
“Upcoming trends to consider:
Sea vegetables – Ribble Farm expect 2018 to be the year of sea vegetables, such as samphire, sea beet or salty fingers, due to the nutritional benefits being significantly greater than those grown on land. These vegetables are particularly likely to be found in oriental dishes.
Pomegranate and aubergine – Classic Fresh Foods expect pomegranate and aubergine to play a large role in 2018, alongside a Middle Eastern cuisine revival.
Root to stem – food waste is a big consideration as we enter 2018, with both Brakes and Classic Fresh Foods identifying this. We are seeing chefs getting creative and marketing dishes as ‘from root to stem’, using the whole plant and minimising on waste.”
With the demand for not only vegan choices, but healthier options, on the rise, operators would be wise to weave in some of these clever alternatives into their menus to stand out from competitors.”