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The NRA show: Peter Backman on ‘the new normal’

Sometimes British food trends mirror the USA, other times they don’t. So what’s going on over there right now? Peter Backman writes a fascinating report from the National Restaurant Association show every year. Here’s some interesting news from his 2015 Horizons bulletin.

Millennials and Fast Casual – Hot stuff for a bright foodservice future

Right now the infamous Baby Boomers still hold sway, a generation of rebels who decided the old ways were just not good enough. Now the millennial generation, AKA those born between 1982 and 2002, is set to change the way we treat food. And they adore Fast Casual dining.

What is fast casual?According to Wikipedia it’s:

“a type of restaurant in the United States that does not offer full table service, but promises a higher quality of food with fewer frozen or processed ingredients than a fast-food restaurant. It is a concept used in the United States, positioned between fast-food and casual dining.”

Many of the world’s Millennials have already entered the working world and their perceptions, aspirations and lifestyles are, apparently, totally different from the preceding Gen X, Baby Boomers and the rest.

What’s the big deal for the foodservice industry? Millennials love Fast Casual outlets, and they’re enormously influential on a fresh new sector that originally showed dramatic growth but is slowing this year. Why? Apparently it’s too expensive, which is suppressing demand in the USA.

Assuming the US foodservice industry gets their price point right and demand increases, the trend for fast casual isn’t going to go away. Will it prove equally popular over here? Watch this space…

3d printing highs, burger lows and gluten-free nonsense

It looks like 3d printing is starting to influence the foodservice industry, and a machine printing 3d sugar cake decorations caused excitement at the NRA show. But oddly, in a sector that’s currently obsessed with the future of the burger, the show revealed a surprising dearth of burger-related exhibits and innovations.

The gluten-free bandwagon is still rolling along, gathering influence despite the fact that scientist have proved there’s absolutely no health benefit from cutting gluten out of your diet unless you’re actually allergic to the stuff.

GMO foods are hot on the popularity list in the USA, where consumers are a lot more forgiving of a technology humans have been engaged in ever since we started to farm in favour of hunter-gathering. There’s absolutely no evidence Genetically Modified foods pose any kind of risk to health or the environment, but British consumers are still much more suspicious about GMO than the rest of the world. Over there, GMO foods is on the ascendant if not the majority. Over here, it still isn’t.

Clean Label foods and US flavour trends

Back to those fascinating Millennials who, apparently, love Clean Label foods, whose packaging says they’re ‘free from’ whatever it might be: gluten, GMO, transfats, whatever. Long popular over here, clean labelling is only just gaining ground in the US.

Then there’s the flavour thing. Flavours seem to fascinate Americans more than they do us, and this year’s biggies over there seem to be hot, spicy, sweet and hot, and fruity and spicy.

4 big US foodservice issues for 2015

What are the biggest issues for the US foodservice sector in 2015? Looking at the list they seem to be catching up with UK consumers, to whom healthier, natural, local foods have been desirable for some time:

1. Locally sourced, sustainable and healthy foods
2. Paleo food – grains like spelt and lupin – probably a short-term craze since scientific research reveals Palaeolithic food is a fad without any real health benefits, and probably isn’t what Stone Age people ate anyway
3. Vegetarian foods
4. Authentic and artisan foods

It’s an egg thing…

Over here the politician Edwina Curry single handedly trashed the UK egg industry, and it didn’t recover for many years. Now eggs are set to cause trouble in the USA as avian flu strikes mid-western poultry farms and more than 30 million birds so far have been put to death.

Many scientists say if they farmed the birds less intensively, the disease wouldn’t be on such a rampage… but that’s another story. Avian flu exclusion zones have been created to help stop the disease in its tracks but things are not looking good.

What will it mean for the US’ millions of mayonnaise and baked goods-obsessed consumers? Only time will tell. But in the meantime you have to feel sorry for those poor, factory farmed chooks.

The UK food market is ‘on fire’

The NSA has noticed how healthy Britain’s foodservice sector is, and they’re envious. They also respect our famously innovative approach to food, the reason behind the constant stream of new ideas that comes from our shores.

The US food market is, compared to ours, confined to a few key cuisines. The USA’s burger market alone is so vast it’s almost a sector on its own. But it looks like we still hold sway over variety and imagination. I say, jolly well done, chaps and chapesses.