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Fruit-infused flavor goes global

Photograph: Shutterstock

In today’s foodservice climate, the introduction of new menu items may not seem like a priority. However, the creation of signature bowl meals, healthy sandwiches, versatile sauces or simple desserts can help operators adapt to the shift from cafeteria dining to packaged options, carryout and delivery. Globally inspired recipes that include a touch of familiar flavor, such as fruit, will encourage students, staff, residents or guests to try something new without having to step too far out of their comfort zones.

Patrons of all ages are looking to expand their palates as they become more acquainted with international fare. Technomic’s 2019 College & University Consumer Trend Report revealed that 43% of college students want their schools to offer more ethnic food and beverage options. And, according to Technomic’s 2019 Generational Consumer Trend Report, 66% of baby boomers like to explore new flavors but prefer to try them in familiar formats.  

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to incorporating international flavors on the menu, but “classic with a twist” is a great place to start. The versatility of fruit in both sweet and savory applications makes it ideal for innovative menuing in noncommercial foodservice channels.

Perennial favorites such as chicken wings, sandwiches and pizza can be enlivened with fruit-forward glazes, spreads and toppings that add global flair and interesting flavor. Think pineapple pizza with sun-dried tomatoes and Italian herbs, or a portabella mushroombanh mi topped with sweet-and-sour diced mango and blackberry sriracha sauce. Dishes such as these are ideal for carryout and delivery, too.  

Portable items such as Cuban empanadas stuffed with pineapple-marinated pork, ham, Swiss cheese, diced pickles, mustard and pineapple-mango mojo sauce are likely to resonate with consumers looking for dishes that put a memorable twist on comfort food. An Indonesian fried rice bowl filled with soy-caramelized rice, chili, garlic, shallots and diced mango also fits the bill.

Don’t forget about the beverage and dessert categories as jumping-off points for creative global menu items. A mango-turmeric smoothie bowl blended with coconut lassi can serve triple duty as a breakfast offering, drink or dessert. Layered fruit, Greek yogurt and granola parfaits are always popular and recipes can be easily modified to include a global twist. Colorful toppings such as strawberries, goji berries and mint can add perceived value and social media appeal. Delicate Japanese fruit sandos—dessert sandwiches filled with whipped cream and perfectly diced and sliced fruit—make for an impressive presentation that’s sure to please patrons looking for a unique treat.

With hundreds, if not thousands, of global cuisine styles to choose from, there’s no shortage of international inspiration to guide menu development. Whether an operator chooses to create a fusion dish or to enliven a popular favorite with ethnic ingredients, fruit can help to bridge the gap between familiar and unexpected flavor combinations.  

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This post is sponsored by Dole Packaged Foods

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