New ways to add bold, healthy flavors to menus

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From Tyson Foods, Inc.

Bold, flavorful meals and more healthful dishes are two macro trends that have been influencing all areas of the foodservice industry for several years. And while it may seem like these two trends are often mutually exclusive, they don’t have to be. Flavor intensity and craveability don’t need to be sacrificed to make dishes reflect the better-for-you preferences many consumers look for on menus.

Consumers are coming to expect a greater variety of options from foodservice providers, because it’s easy to get bored if nothing new is added to the menu. And according to Technomic’s 2017 Flavor report, 65% of consumers reported that they like to try something new from time to time—they listed looking for something different and looking to discover new flavors as the top two reasons for trying unfamiliar options at foodservice locations.

However, a growing number of consumers are also concerned with health options, whether it’s consuming more vegetables, eliminating added sugars or exploring other healthy and better-for-you options. As a result, many people are looking for bold options that still meet dietary specifications.

How to bring new flavors to the menu

Adding bolder new options isn’t just good for customer satisfaction and meeting demand for healthful items; it’s also good for business. According to the Technomic Flavor report, 65% of consumers said if they tried something new and liked it, they would be likely to return to the same place and order the same thing again.

However, diners demand variety, and many foodservice operators are adjusting their strategies to meet this demand. One-half of noncommercial foodservice operators introduce new menu items or flavors at least once per month, according to the Flavor report, and consumers who regularly eat at work cafeterias may be particularly interested in adding variety to their days.

But increasing the number of flavor options does not need to be an expensive or labor-intensive endeavor. Simple, flavorful ingredients can be used in different dishes—for example, marinated meats can be used on their own, in sandwiches or in salads or burrito bowls. Consumers may find new favorite flavors by trying these new dishes, and giving them the ability to combine ingredients in different ways appeals to their desire for variety. Menuing bold chicken flavors, for example, as well as offering unique dipping sauces, toppings and dressings can be a great way to attract consumers who are looking for bold yet healthful options.

Spicy flavors are especially popular, with Technomic’s Flavor report noting that 77% of consumers saying they enjoy food that is either moderately spicy or very spicy. Fortunately, these flavors are versatile and can be incorporated into different dishes in a number of ways. For example, using marinated, grilled chicken breasts in dishes instead of using chicken with breading can lighten up the meal without sacrificing the bold, spicy flavor consumers are looking for.

Making items more customizable is another easy way to meet both the need for bold flavors while also catering to health-conscious consumers. Spicy or intense flavors don’t need to be restricted solely to comfort food—many menu items can be altered slightly to make them healthier. Keeping up with these trends helps foodservice operators better adjust their strategies.

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