Kraft Foodservice Shares Trend Predictions for 2012

Kraft Foodservice's seven pedigreed culinarians share 12 insightful trend predictions on what will shape foodservice over the next 12 months.

By Diane Toops, News and Trends Editor

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Boasting seven pedigreed culinarians with decades of collective foodservice experience Kraft Foodservice, a division of Kraft Foods Global Inc., recently shared 12 insightful trend predictions on what will shape foodservice over the next 12 months.

Bolstered by yearlong analysis of internal food casts and menu insights, the chefs at Kraft Foodservice work in the trenches every day, distilling today's relevant trends and developing hundreds of workable recipes for its customers.

Customization Reigns -- "Customization allows you to create a unique interaction with your diner," says Freeman Moser III, senior executive chef. "I saw Pine & Gilmore deliver a lecture years ago about mass customization, where they stressed the need in recognizing that customers are 'markets of one.' That resonates deeply in today's foodservice culture. Fast casuals are succeeding here: Panera Bread's 'You Pick 2' is a great example of allowing diners to choose their experience. QSRs are getting into the game. For example, boutique burger chains are carving a niche because of that customization, where they're willing to jeopardize efficiencies for that point of difference.

Independent operators are poised to make the biggest impression here -- from letting diners customize their whole experience through small-bites menus to choosing cooking techniques for their proteins. I saw this at an independent, where diners were asked to choose their fish, then choose how they'd like it prepared: grilled, pan-fried, poached, blackened, etc. But certain fish shouldn't be poached, and blackening sea bass is heresy! So, the takeaway is that customization is a sustaining trend, but still requires culinary guidance."

Vintage Desserts -- "I see county-fair favorites and carnival fare continuing to gain traction on menus," says Patty Mitchell, C.M.B., senior executive chef. "Think funnel cakes and caramel-apple flavored ice cream, malts and milk shakes, cotton candy and marshmallows. Street-food influences, too, like churros and hand pies. I think the vintage desserts that will succeed this year are the ones that answer the craving: If your diner is looking for a red-velvet cake, keep it true to red velvet. Of course, updating is good, but I wouldn't make a red-velvet mousse because without a cake component, they aren't getting what they're looking for. You have to satisfy the craving while making yours distinct."

Mitchell also predicts more Ethnic Desserts -- "Food trucks are driving ethnic creations in bricks-and-mortars restaurants," she says. "I'm seeing ethnic flavors influencing dessert recipes -- lemongrass syrup, Vietnamese spice, Mexican chilies. And classic ethnic desserts like flan and tiramisu have given way to tres leches and affogatos. They're appearing on menus, but with fun variations and interpretations. I think this year we'll see hints of ethnic flavors that don't overpower desserts -- familiar but with an ethnic twist."

CIA Chef Survey
Source: The Culinary Institute of America's Smart Brief -- Temperature Check 1/25/2012. Click image to see the most current results

Specialization -- "I think we're going to see more concepts that specialize in one thing," says Ryan Baxter, senior executive R&D chef. "We've already seen them pop up here and there: storefronts that only serve grilled-cheese sandwiches, cereals, soups, even rice puddings. But I think we'll find even more this year. It's not a new trend -- it's a return to specialization. In our food history, there was a time when folks did only one thing: There was the miller who milled the flour, the butcher, and the cheesemonger. Then we evolved into a culture that looked for 'something for everybody.' But diners are tired of that, so foodservice, I think, is now moving away from trying to be everything to everybody and back to specialization. Customization marks a return to culinary artistry and craftsmanship."

Another trend identified by Baxter is Fusion 2.0 -- "Fusion is an American phenomenon," he says. "First, it came out of California and Hawaii with Polynesian influences, and then Florida with the invention of Floribbean cuisine. French melding with Vietnamese was also one of the first successful ventures into fusion. Now, fusion 2.0 has brought refinement and more experimentation, with chefs pulling from all global cuisines and seeing what works. Successes include Korean fused with Mexican. Rules are now broader and influences extend beyond professional chefs: food enthusiasts and bloggers mix things up, too. Molecular gastronomy has brought technique and ingredients, like agar and lecithin, into fusion cookery. We should expect more global fusion this year. More experimentation."

Casualization of menus -- "I think this is one of those trends that will inform foodservice for a long time to come," says Aliza Katz, corporate executive chef, adding, "The Culinary Institute of America even made it the theme of its last Worlds of Flavor conference. Diners seek value, but want memorable, delicious food. They're looking for casual over white tablecloth, but won't sacrifice the experience. Flavors drive the ship here: authentic, layered flavors. I think we're going to see more menus designed to reflect casualization, encouraging experimentation through small-bites menus. Street food's a big influence here, encouraging chefs to leap borders and feature global flavors."

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