EBLEX releases latest insight into foodservice trends

04 November 2014

Consumer spend in the foodservice sector continues to increase, but there is still no room for complacency, according to the latest ‘Focus on Foodservice’ report from EBLEX.

The annual insight into the latest trends and opportunities in the sector shows that consumer spending in the foodservice market grew by 2% in the 52 weeks to the end of June 2014, according to NPD Group/CREST.

EBLEX releases latest insight into foodservice trendsWhile the signs are positive, the research shows that not all sectors are in growth and that more needs to be done to attract customers in certain areas. For example, while visits to Quick Service Restaurants (QSR) are up overall, male customers are driving this growth, whereas female custom continues to decline. And while the pub sector is showing good growth among the under-50s, the over-50s, a group which traditionally spends more per head than any other, continue to drift away.   

The report cites focus group research which shows the top five things to consider in order to win custom. Some are perhaps obvious, such as the need to know and appeal to the local community, to attract customers acting on a spur-of-the-moment decision to dine out near home, whereas others are less so, for example, using the menu to describe more unusual cuts of meat, to encourage diners to give them a try.

One of the key issues to come out of the research is that consumers are noticing the lack of lamb based dishes on menus. With good quality lamb currently in plentiful supply, EBLEX believes that now is an ideal time for caterers to reintroduce lamb on the menu. Foodservice project manager for EBLEX, Hugh Judd, said: "2014 has been a vintage year for lamb; high-quality lamb is currently available on the market and, with the seasonally good supply, prices are competitive, making it a great protein option for caterers to use right now.”

The report also looked at latest trends showing up on menus around the country. World foods continue to be adopted by the UK foodservice scene, reflecting the multicultural market we have today. Meat dishes, for example, are increasingly served slow-cooked, pulled or from the smokehouse, with a strong Southern USA or South American influence.

Hugh commented: "Slow-cooking is going through a revival at the moment; it really brings out the flavour of the meat and enables caterers to use a variety of cost-effective beef and lamb cuts to create wonderful dishes. With just a little imagination, traditional cuts such as the lamb shoulder and chuck tender can be used to create contemporary recipes that will really stand out on menus. Talk to your butcher about which cuts are on offer throughout the year and get their advice on how best to cook them.”

Street Food, inspired by flavours from around the globe, is showing no signs of abating. In fact, we are even seeing pop-ups appearing in pubs, spicing up the traditional pub menu for the limited period of time that they are on site. Cuisines which are particularly popular on the UK Street Food scene at the moment are American, Chinese, Indian, Italian, Japanese, Lebanese and Vietnamese.

Just as Street Food continues to thrive, so too does the premium burger; the report features a range of menus proudly stating the back-story behind their burger, for example: ‘Our burgers are made from farms in Yorkshire, Essex and Kent; varying from Dexter, Longhorn and Red Lincoln’ and ‘Herefordshire 28 day mature beef patty, 20-hour braised shin of beef’.

Another menu trend highlighted by the research is the emergence of the ‘celebrity cooking platform’. Not only do customers want to know where their food comes from, but it seems they are also now interested in how it is cooked, with a number of establishments adding interest to their menus simply by describing the way in which dishes are prepared. Examples include ‘smoked low and slow for 18 hours over hickory and fruit woods’ and ‘cooked in a charcoal oven which sears meat instantly at temperatures as high as 300°C, ensuring we lock in those rich flavours’.

Hugh said: "The UK foodservice market is an exciting place to be at the moment, with so much innovation delivering new concepts and formats, influenced by such a diverse range of cuisines from around the world. It’s an exciting time for the meat industry too, with chefs increasingly wanting to experiment with alternative cuts, while still ensuring they use the best quality ingredients available. The ‘Dirty Food’ phenomenon best sums it up; it’s about getting back to basics and enjoying the food, forget the cutlery, eat it with your fingers if you want! And why not?

"As well as highlighting the latest trends and consumer research findings, our Focus on Foodservice reports are intended to help operators take full advantage of the opportunities they present. EBLEX can help its Quality Standard Mark Scheme members make the most of their beef and lamb offering in light of this research, so if you are a member and you would like our help, or if you would like to become a Scheme member, then please get in touch.”

To discover more about the findings and trends highlighted in the new ‘Focus on Foodservice’ report, read it in full online at www.eblextrade.co.uk.

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