12 trends we observed at 2011’s Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association show

12 trends we observed at 2011’s Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association show

Health-conscious indulgences at the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association show (Image: Renée Suen)  

Yesterday we reported the results of the second annual Canadian Chef Survey of menu trends. The relatively predictable list might reflect the chefs’ outlook on food trends, but attending the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association show showed us exactly what food-service providers are pushing onto the dining room table. After the jump, 12 trends we observed from the CRFA show.

  1. Guilt-free, healthy foods that sacrifice neither flavour nor texture (thick zero per cent fat Greek yogurt; low-fat, trans-fat-free, low-sodium, nut-free banana bread that’s advertised as being good for you). Bonus if it’s gluten and allergen free.
  2. Micro-sized and single-serving portions of indulgent foods: triple cream cheeses, desserts and ice creams. Instead of committing to one flavour, diners can try all six.
  3. Environmentally conscious packaging for take-away containers (bamboo, recycled material sources, reusable tumblers) and product wrapping (biodegradable and oven-safe plastics used for reheating bread).
  4. Innovative time-, energy- and resource-saving equipment (vending machines that cook food to order, from potato chips to risotto to stir-fried shrimp and vegetables).
  5. Growth of ready-to-assemble products (prepared shells and fillings) and ready-to-eat meals.
  6. Homey, back-to-basic desserts (sticky toffee pudding, pies, tarts, loaf cakes, blackout cakes) instead of fancy mousse and layered creations.
  7. Tea is showing up in both prepared foods (chocolate) and as a profession (tea sommelier). Watch for new technologies designed to aid the steeping process.
  8. Glamorization of coffee and coffee culture continues apace (sexy espresso machines with enough chrome to rival the auto shows, barista demos, designer coffee pod flavours and coffee condiments specially formulated for latte art).
  9. Meats shaped into long or tube form (souvlaki; deep-fried, bacon-wrapped hot dog stuffed with cheese) replace burgers and free-range products.
  10. Spice is hot (ground chili, Tabasco and habanero sauces); so are flavour-infused foods (cucumber dill, black sesame, and Thai ginger tortilla wraps).
  11. Artisan crafts (bread, cheese, craft beer) remain the best thing since, well, sliced bread.
  12. Organic- and kosher-certified products (e.g. Japanese rice vinegar).

It’s obvious consumers are still thinking in recession mode, despite what economists say. Gone are the days of extravagance; instead, the focus is on affordable luxuries. Indulgences only appear in small portions; the emphasis is on flavour and comfort. Both time and the environment are valued resources, and striking a balance between both is the current food-service Holy Grail.

Hot sauces, kosher and organic Japanese vinegar and flavour-infused wraps (Image: Renée Suen)