It is no surprise that gluten-free and vegetarian offerings top the list of healthy items that operators menu to drive sales, according to Technomic’s Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report. But operators can enhance these offerings and acknowledge other special dietary needs gaining momentum with consumers, such as vegan and dairy alternatives.
Here are three trending ingredients that can address diners’ dietary restrictions.
Aquafaba hits on two trends simultaneously—no-waste and vegan. What looks like murky goop in a can of chickpeas that was once saved for the garbage can actually be used as a vegan alternative to egg whites in a wide range of recipes. Kindred in San Diego uses aquafaba as a fizzy foam atop cocktails; Erven in Santa Monica, Calif., features coffee date cookie sandwiches with cinnamon custard and aquafaba; and Root in Wilmington, N.C., uses an aquafaba-based sour cream and vegan taco meat to top nachos.
As Pinterest’s top predicted trend for 2017, jackfruit is the latest superfood garnering buzz. When cooked and sauced or spiced, jackfruit tastes like and has a similar texture to pulled pork. On the plus side, it cooks faster than the meat does. Even Stevens highlights the fruit in its Jackfruit Torta, a sandwich that started as an LTO and has permanently replaced its other vegan sandwich after outselling it 400 times more in the first month.
For those looking for a healthy alternative to rice, look no further than farro. The ancient grain delivers more protein and fiber than brown rice and has high amounts of calcium. Bar Frances in New Orleans swaps out rice for farro in its farro risotto with romesco, grilled squash and eggplant. For a gluten-free alternative, try quinoa, which can also be featured in risotto, like in the Grilled Striped Bass with quinoa risotto at Gemma in Dallas.