In the past two years it feels like everything has changed. From lockdowns and restrictions, to the “new normal”, life is just different — that includes restaurant menus. With that constant change in mind, Tyson Foods Fresh Meats has done the research and compiled the data to keep operators and restaurateurs at the cutting edge of foodservice trends.
Tyson Foods Fresh Meats division has been an industry expert in beef and pork and center of the plate strategies for over 60 years. The company has launched a new tradition to keep beef and pork at the forefront of culinary innovation, with the annual release of their findings for the latest in food trends, which can be accessed at their website.
“We do anything and everything we can to help our chefs,” said Ozlem Worpel, director of Fresh Meats marketing at Tyson Foods. “And what better way than looking at what the flavors are, what the trends are?”
The COVID-19 pandemic shaped the past year’s food trends in a variety of ways, first ushering in a take-out boom, while simultaneously increasing the competency of at-home chefs across the country. From Tyson’s findings, a compilation and packaging of market research from firms such as Datassential, Technomic, and Mintel, American palates reflect these culinary adaptations.
Hungry for a taste of adventure, and travel-deprived, consumers have turned their taste buds globally. From Birria, the traditional Mexican meat stew sending shockwaves across social media, to gochujang, Korea’s sweet-spicy fermented chili paste, bold flavors and novel applications will continue to rise in popularity this coming year.
“I think we’re lucky because [these flavors] are more mainstream now. So it’s not something that the chefs really need to introduce as new: People know it and people like it,” Worpel said. “Because [consumers] know the basics, their expectation is now a little bit higher. That’s why all these flavors, all these trends, and originality are becoming more and more important.”
Whether it be Birria fries, Gochujang salsa, traditional flavors are being given new roles as cuisine blends. Nowhere is this experiment with the once-exotic more trendy and ambitious than the burgeoning world of sandwiches. The days of bologna and cheese on white bread have faded as chefs and diners flock to creative combinations and global flavors. In many cases, Tyson’s latest research points to adding creativity to existing offerings. “This year, we are going to see the use of Burnt Ends on both brisket and pork cuts becoming a popular menu addition,” Worpel noted.
“Sandwiches come in all shapes, flavors and most of all — cultures,” the Tyson Foods Fresh Meats team states in the report. “Sandwiches can feel like familiar territory but act as a gateway to the diverse world of global cuisine.”
The sandwich stats are clear. “Bao has a 4-year growth of 36%. Katsu has a 4-year growth of 44%,” and gyros now appear on more U.S. menus than ever before, per the report.
One such cuisine which has gained recognition steadily over the years for its flavor and health benefit is that of the Mediterranean, from Greek-Italian staples to the spice of Middle Eastern influence. “So, when we think about the Mediterranean we think about light, fresh herbs, olive oils, fresh vegetables, and tomatoes. And then when you look at the Middle Eastern flavors, you’re talking about the Baharat and the turmeric and a little bit of the spice, the kick,” said Worpel. “It is an endless source of cuisine for us, as Americans, to explore.”
Another COVID offshoot featured in Tyson’s predictions is a continued adaptability when it comes to beef. As the industry continues to rock from the tumult of labor issues, ingredient costs, and supply-chain shortages, chefs have taken a creative turn from the ribeye and strip steak staples. A different class of cuts, “underutilized steaks”, have seen a surge in popularity.
“Beef is more than just ribeye and the strip steak. We have the whole animal,” said Worpel. “I love this because they’re giving a chance to the whole carcass besides just what we call the middleweights.”
The report cites that 31% of polled consumers now eat cuts of beef that they previously did not. For consumers and operators concerned with food-waste, the benefits of this trend multifold, allowing chefs to creatively explore new flavors and textures while also embracing the sustainable shift in our shared food systems.
For restaurant owners and customers alike, eager to put COVID woes of the past two years behind them, keeping up with culinary trends and embracing the future will be key to success in the kitchen.