The 13 Essential Foodservice Trends of 2019

Beautiful plates of plant-based dishes with vibrant vegetables

These taste and nutrition trends are taking the North American foodservice industry by storm

KerryDigest Fast Facts:
  • Of all areas of the food industry, foodservice trends might change the most rapidly.
  • Our market research team has identified 13 important North American foodservice trends of 2019.
  • On the list:
    • Flavors from global cuisines
    • Health-promoting ingredients including probiotics and collagen
    • Proteins of all types
    • Cannabis in just about everything
  • We offer up insights on turning these trends into popular menu items.
KerryDigest Full Scoop:

Trends come and go throughout the food industry, and it’s especially important to stay aligned with changing tastes in the competitive foodservice space. Foams, avocado toast, rainbow bagels and charcoal were hits in the past. What are the big foodservice trends of 2019? Whether you’re looking to create “Instagrammable” food and beverages, or want to formulate with the latest buzz-worthy ingredients, our market research team recently identified 13 areas of opportunity within the North American foodservice industry.


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Ethnic Flavors and Ingredients 

As seen in the 2019 Kerry Taste Charts, there’s a continued interest, primarily among younger generations, in exploring regional foods from around the world. African foods and flavors such as fonio, berbere and biltong are popping up on the radar as are South Asian and South American regional cuisines. In 2019, we expect to see more ethnic street foods, flavor fusions and ethnic-inspired foods and beverages in restaurants.

Fat is Back

Consumers are rethinking their avoidance of fats, thanks to the popularity of high-fat, low-carb diets such as keto, paleo and other “food tribe” eating styles. One way we’re seeing in foodservice trends this is in the resurgence of butter, which is now appearing on 64% of U.S. restaurant menus, according to Datassential. Due to the popularity of fat-approving diets and the perceived naturalness of butter, consumers are more open than ever toward incorporating “healthy fats” into their diets.

fat is back pull quotecreamy butter spread on grain bread

Plant-Based Revolution

Plant-based products are growing in appeal among consumers outside of the vegan and vegetarian set. As more individuals seek to incorporate healthy meat alternatives into their diets, restaurants are responding with plant protein menu items that offer nutrition without compromising on taste. Across cuisines, veggies are moving to the center of the plate, while a growing number of meatless options are emerging on menus in a variety of formats, topping everything from flatbreads to salads.

Alternative Proteins

Consumers and chefs are experimenting with a variety of straight-from-nature protein alternatives. Within the North American foodservice industry, we’re seeing mushrooms pop up in blended burgers and other products and seaweed is being added to everything from milkshakes to dips. Even bugs such as crickets, which have seemed on the precipice for years, are finally becoming a more common high protein option in applications including sushi, soup and more. The market for insects in North America is expected to rise to $153.9M by 2023, up from $44.1M in 2018, according to Bloomberg data.

A Return to Ancient Grains

Move over quinoa. Consumers are experimenting with a number of ancient grains such as the aforementioned fonio, which may be West Africa’s oldest cereal grain, as well as new strains of grain such as Kernza®, a perennial that can yield crops for several years. These grains have broad appeal, due in part to their deep nutritional benefits which include vitamins, fiber, fat and essential amino acids.

Bitter is Better

A whole new crop of bitter veggies—from broccoli rabe to dandelion greens, collards and endive—are appearing in a variety of dishes, according to our menu analyses. But it doesn’t stop there. We’re also seeing bitter flavors make a splash in cocktails, as seen in the growing popularity of spritzes such as those made with aperitifs including Aperol and Campari.

Cannabis Food and Drinks

In 2019, look for more cannabis-infused coffees, teas, cooking oils, snacks and chocolates as well as the spread of cannabis to products such as beer and pasta. Even though these products aren’t legal at a national level, word-of-mouth and curiosity are helping grow the category in states where cannabis sales are allowed. While packaged snacks and treats—called “edibles”—are gaining popularity, some chefs are also developing more upscale cannabis creations.

Beauty Through Food

“You are what you eat.” Though the focus of this statement has long been on improving a person’s internal health, consumers are turning to foods that contain collagen, seaweed, algae and vitamin C because of their perceived ability to deliver shinier hair, softer skin and stronger nails. According to Datassential, 2018 welcomed the launches of over 3,000 food products featuring collagen including in bone broth, protein bars and coffee creamers, among other products, and we anticipate seeing this range grow to include other categories.

cream being poured into iced coffee drinkpull quote about collagen in new products

Brain Food

Consumers are increasingly interested in ingredients linked to improved cognitive functions, such as increased focus and energy and reduced stress. Over 900 new products with medium chain triglycerides (MCT), a fat some suggest can enhance brain function which is often derived from coconut or palm oil, were launched in 2018, according to Innova Market Insights. Emulsified MCT oil and adaptogenic herbs—which are also believed to help with stress management—are being added to products such as kombucha, bars and cold brew coffee.

Sleep Aids

More than a third of U.S. adults do not get enough sleep on a regular basis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. This widespread inability to sleep has prompted the creation of products with natural, non-habit forming rest and relaxation remedies, a trend that is expected to grow in 2019. Two ingredients we anticipate seeing more of in the future are melatonin, which helps regulate the body’s natural cycle of sleeping and waking, and GABA, which help with relaxation and anxiety reduction.

Eating for Digestion

As digestive health issues are more understood, the mainstream population wants greater control in solving them. Expect to see more products containing probiotics and prebiotics hit the market this year. What’s the difference? Probiotics are the “good” bacteria—or live cultures—found naturally in your gut as well as in some yogurts and fermented foods, while prebiotics are natural non-digestible food components that may promote the growth of helpful bacteria in your gut.

pull quote about probiotics and probiotics trendthick yogurt with berries and melon

Fermented Food and Drinks

Consumers are starting to embrace fermented food and drinks because of their aforementioned gut health help as well as for their savory taste. New spins on fermented foods and beverages are delivering enhanced umami and kokumi notes, which appeal to expanding palates. Products such as sparkling probiotic beverages, miso-based foods and even fermented broccoli salad are popping up on the market and sales of ready-to-drink functional beverages such as kombucha are expected to grow in 2019.

Healthy Ice Cream

The ice cream market is reinventing itself with natural sweetening agents, dairy-free alternatives, and functional benefits. In our sweetening agents research, we found that over half of consumers believe ice cream contains too much sugar. Ice cream brands are taking note and formulating with less sugar or alternative sweetening agents. Expect to see more ice cream innovations incorporating everything from veggies to probiotics into traditional and unique flavor blends.

At Kerry, we evaluate industry and consumers trends to understand what opportunities make sense for your menu. If you’re interested in partnering with Kerry to create innovative products that on-trend offer taste and nutrition for your consumers, contact us.


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