When it comes to Millennial and Gen Z protein consumption, the traditional staples of beef, pork, chicken, and seafood have met their match with tofu, edamame, chickpeas, and almonds. These lifestyle trends are more than just a fad – consumers site Health, Taste and Shelf Life as primary reasons for a dietary reduction in meat. 1But the wellness train doesn’t end there. The modern buyer is reaching for plant-based protein carbs as well: Brown Rice, Ancient Grains, Baked Goods … even Asian Noodles and Pasta are getting a health-halo makeover in grocery store aisles and restaurants alike.
As 54% of consumers agree that restaurants should offer more plant-based protein options, fast casual menus have reacted in several ways. Grain bowls, lined with brown rice, quinoa, farro, and sorghum are packed with any combination of nuts, beans, and meat analogs. With an +87% growth rate over the last 4 years, restaurants continue to invest in pre-portioned grain blends to satisfy consumer demand. 2A plethora of “Design Your Own Bowl” concepts aim to serve up nutrition and customization.
Noodles infused with faba bean or pea protein (the same protein base used for Beyond Meat) are growing in popularity too – adding up to 20-30g of protein per serving, while reducing carb count. Although these options are heavily shopped by the Millennial and Gen Z demographic, 50% of all consumers say that they are eating more plant-based fare than they were 1 year ago. 3As the American palate and wallet migrates toward health-conscious, natural ingredients – there is no better time to explore the latest in delicious plant-based protein carbs.
1Dataessential Keynote Report: Plant-Based Eating 2018
2Dataessential Keynote Report: Plant-Based Eating 2018
3Technomic, 5 Consumer Trends for 2018
In addition to delivery and drive-thru, many Americans are also ordering ahead to reduce their potential exposure. Restaurants that offer this option should promote it heavily.
As the COVID-19 pandemic stretches into the summer months, many restaurant operators ponder whether the stringent measures they took in Q1 will in part, become their new normal. In these uncertain times, 42% of diners demand improved food safety measures from restaurants1 and 88% are exclusively taking their meals to go2 . Although chains have already consolidated their menus to allow for greater efficiency in supporting contactless delivery, the question remains: How can operators optimize BOH convenience to thrive in a long-term To Go environment?
It turns out, pre-portioned products can be a strong solution for quicker, safer service. The expediency of custom batch sizing for pre-cooked noodles or grains, as an example, may reduce kitchen prep time by up to 10 minutes per order. For an added benefit – frozen, quick frozen, and RTE offerings aim to increase shelf life, and can introduce greater flexibility to the purchasing schedule. With many consumers still working from home, individual portioning supports extended or irregular lunch and dinner hours.
In response to the ongoing delivery trend, food manufacturers are also reacting to the new restaurant normal. Some have begun developing pre-portioned noodle and grain items – now blended with custom sauces, and even IQF vegetables. These meal solutions, while largely superfluous for traditional dine-in establishments, may demand more serious consideration in today’s BOH operation. While consumers are excited to be reunited with their favorite restaurants, 59% anticipate a slow return after shelter-in-place restrictions have been lifted. 3 The new normal seems to require creative thought, investment, and attention from restaurant operators – only time will tell.
1Mintel, April 2020
2Dataessential, June 2020
3Dataessential, May 2020
Ancient grains — including amaranth, barley, buckwheat, millet, spelt and quinoa — have exploded in popularity over the last 5 years thanks to their impressive combination of flavor, nutrition and versatility. Quinoa, for example, is gluten free, high in protein, contains all nine essential amino acids and can be used in a wide range of meals as a substitute or a showcase ingredient.
Ancient grains are on everyone's radar:
- "By incorporating ancient grains, we'll benefit by … enjoying a wider array of flavors, textures and nutritional profiles. Although they are thought of as a hot trend, I believe that ancient grains are here to stay.”
- Vandana Sheth, Nutritionist and Spokesperson,
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
- “It's been a positive perfect storm for these ancient grains. They fit with our desire to look for a super food, a magic bullet we should be eating.”
- Cynthia Harriman, Director of Food and Nutritional
Strategies, Whole Grain Council
Be sure to look for these healthy options in your next meal or recipe!
Here at JSL, we are all about the Noodle! Here are a few more testimonials surrounding the versatility and popularity of our favorite Asian meal staple:
- “Ramen from Japan, pho from Vietnam and dan dan mein from China — Noodle dishes are the soul food of Asia. They’re comforting, filling, healthful, and best of all, they’re cheap. Lucky for us, Asian noodle joints are popping up everywhere, taking the humble noodle mainstream.”
- Andrew Knowlton, Bon Appe'tit magazine
- “People everywhere love noodles — not just Japanese, but also Koreans, Chinese and now, more and more — Americans.”
- Ken Kusakabe, T.I.C. Restaurant Group Partner
- “Asians have the same feeling about their noodles that the Italians have about pasta — and now Americans have the bug, too.”
- Drey Roxas, Palencia chef
- “Asian trends fit into the overall comfort trend and people’s need for filling, less expensive foods. And, because Asian flavors have started to populate American menus, it makes perfect sense that noodle dishes have evolved from our love of American mac-and-cheese and Italian pasta.”
- Darren Tristano, Executive Vice President, Technomic Inc., Chicago
So, go grab a bowl of your favorite noodles today!
Ramen noodles have been on the rise for the last few years. Now, they're absolutely skyrocketing.
Declared as one of the top 11 trends at the 2016 NRA Show, ramen is sparking excitement with its seemingly limitless range of possibilities. Because ramen provides an incredibly customizable noodle-in-broth base, chefs from coast to coast are using it to craft adventurous, comforting, creative and healthful dishes.
Tex-Mex ramen, lobster ramen, breakfast ramen, vegetarian ramen, beer bacon ramen -- look at nearly any locale and you'll find new and unique uses of the Japanese noodle. Some restaurants have even used it on top of burgers or as a side with salmon.
And with the rise of more unexpected uses of ramen, consumers are more open to the traditional forms too, such as tonkotsu, miso, and shio. So, whether you're looking to go classic or creative, ramen is the hottest noodle right now.
- “While once the ramen trend was relegated to big cities like L.A. or New York, or smaller hipster enclaves like Portland or Austin, ramen is now all over the place."
- Eater, "The 14 Hottest Ramen Shops
Across the U.S. Right Now"
7/20/2020: Say Yes! to
Plant-Based Protein Carbs
7/20/2020: Investing in the New Normal
4/15/2020: Testimonials – Ancient Grains Have Modern Appeal
4/15/2020: Testimonials – Noodles are Key
1/5/2020: Love of Ramen is Rising Fast
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