Written by: Cassie Vanderwall
Each year foodies and culinary experts gather to predict the trendy foods and consumer desires for the upcoming year. Many of the predicted trends from the National Restaurant Association for 2013 revolve around sustainable food and healthy options for kids.
The top 10 menu trends for 2013 will be:
1. Locally sourced meats and seafood
2. Locally grown produce
3. Healthful kids’ meals
4. Environmental sustainability as a culinary theme
5. Children’s nutrition as a culinary theme
6. New cuts of meat (e.g. Denver steak, pork flat iron, teres major)
7. Hyper-local sourcing (e.g. restaurant gardens)
8. Gluten-free cuisine
9. Sustainable seafood
10. Whole grain items in kids’ meals
Several of these trends use industry lingo that yields decoding. Five out of the 10 trends revolve around sustainability as a culinary theme. Sustainable practices consider the well-being of the environment and species of food.
In the last year and in the coming year, locavores will abound. Locavores are people who strive to eat foods from their local environment. Unfortunately, the term “local” is yet to be defined in a consistent manner. In general, “locally sourced” foods mean that they are acquired within closer proximity than conventional foods. Various retailers maintain individual definitions to include: within the same state it is sold or within 200 miles of the store. “Hyper-local” food sources will increase with individual restaurant gardens maintained by their resident chef.
Sustainable seafood also made the list. Seafood that is farmed or caught via techniques that consider the vitality of the species and water source is considered sustainable. Some varieties of seafood are better caught/wild (Salmon, Tuna) and others are better farmed (oysters, scallops, tilapia). The Marine Stewardship Council is a fantastic resource for choosing the best sources. You can also find their seal on several certified fish.
In addition to local and sustainable foods, organic foods will still be a hot commodity. Unfortunately, many consumers often confuse the terms “local,” “organic,” and “natural.” Organic refers to how foods are grown and processed. Organic techniques encourage soil and water conservation, reduce pollution and are considered sustainable practices. For example, conventional farming would use synthetic (man-made) fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, as well as, antibiotics to protect the food. Organic farmers would use natural fertilizers (manure), encourage beneficial insects and birds and rotate crops to protect them and encourage growth.
Additionally, organic meat and poultry are fed organic feed and allowed more room to roam with access to the outdoors to minimize illness. Organic foods that are at least 95% organic bear the certification seal from the USDA. Current researchers demonstrate that organic foods and conventional foods contain a about the same amount of nutrients (vitamins, minerals).
However, we now know that non-organic foods may be associated with several health ailments due to the pesticide content. “Natural” foods should not be confused with organic foods, as the term “natural” is currently un-defined.
The remaining of the trends, focus on accommodating the nation’s fight against obesity and providing viable options for persons with a growing food intolerance. About one-third focus on improving the health of American’s children via healthy kids’ meals. Restaurateurs will now be incorporating more whole grain items such as whole wheat buns for burgers, PB&J on wheat bread, mac and cheese with whole grain pasta. The addition of whole grains will help kiddo’s to achieve greater fiber intake when dining out. They also will be providing more fruit and vegetable side dishes in place of fries. A kid-size serving of French fries contains about 100-200 calories and 5-6 grams of fat. They also typically pack almost 300mg sodium without adding your own. This healthy swap will save children up to 150 calories, several grams of fat and a significant amount of sodium. While adding another great source of fiber, vitamins and minerals.
Additionally, restaurants will be procuring new cuts of meat. Results of a recent study on “muscle profiling” by the Beef Innovations group revealed optimal uses for each muscle found in the chuck (upper back and chest) and round (bottom).
A few of the new featured cuts are Petite Tender, Medallions, Ranch Steak, Sirloin Tip Side or center Steaks, Western Griller Steak, etc. These new cuts will help increase the use of previously under-utilized cuts in order to decrease cost and provide consumers with smaller, more lean and more tender cuts of meat.
The final predicted trend will be gluten-free cuisine. Celiac disease and gluten intolerance is a growing issue for many Americans. This autoimmune disease now affects 5-10% of Americans. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and some oat products. When gluten is ingested by a person with a sensitivity a vast number of consequences can occur from GI distress to an allergic reaction. It is important to note that gluten-free cuisine does not mean carbohydrate free. In fact, many gluten-free items have more total carbohydrate than their gluten-containing counter-parts. Nevertheless this trend will greatly accommodate those looking to avoid gluten.
So, what does this mean for the consumer? Overall, these trends will help consumers to support their local farmers, encourage sustainable environmental practices, and accommodate their families with healthy kids’ meals, lean protein and gluten-free options.