In 2018, it seems like everyone’s focus is on food, and not just any food – the premium stuff. Love for good food has become the number one topic of conversation and number one requirement when looking for a partner, according to Millennial dating apps, especially. As a result of the artisanal craft food movement and the chef-driven gourmetization of casual eating and a demographic shift toward Millennials and Gen Zs restaurant customers, the number of high-quality, inventive food options has exploded. However, when it comes to culinary food shopping, there is still plenty of room for improvement.
Adventure on a Plate: Food with Depth
Knowledge and expectations around food have elevated what is perceived as premium. Premium indulgence means pushing the boundaries for higher quality and a more exquisite, personalized experience. There is a huge demand for creative and inspiring food options that can indulge refined and adventurous taste buds. Culinary highlights promise a multi-sensual change from everyday life and unrestricted enjoyment, which can be seen in the explosion of lower-calorie but still delicious ice cream options, started by Halo Top. Boasting premium taste for fewer calories has bolstered the health movement and opened it up to people who still want to indulge, but don’t want to sacrifice flavor.
The same goes for “junk” food – snacks are getting the same treatment with more vegetable-based options, like fried green beans and peapods dusted in wasabi powder or cheese, that make consumers feel better about indulging in something that feels like a step above the normal, lower-quality stuff of their childhoods.
Bartenders are having a field day becoming mixologists behind the counter thanks to the influx of more interesting spirits like dry vermouth and triple sec. Consumers are looking for intriguing fruit and simple syrup combinations that take influence from the culinary world, focusing on mouthfeel and texture as well as spice and vegetables, and less on high alcohol mixtures without depth. As the low abv cocktail trend continues to build alongside consumer demand for sparkling drinks, it makes sense that bubbly cocktails are on trend, too.
There is a pizza and prosecco festival in Birmingham, AL and a Bar Dough in Denver serving a series of sparkling drinks including spritzes and Italian cream sodas in flavors like tart black cherry, blood orange, lemon juice and pineapple.
Millennial consumers don’t just look for flavor like black cherry, blood orange, lemon juice and pineapple or interesting spirits like triple sec and dry vermouth, but need an experience when they purchase classic cocktails. Egg whites to make pisco sours, foams and aquafaba (the vegan option) add mouthfeel to the cocktail experience. New York bar, Mother of Pearl recently flipped their entire menu to vegan and started topping classic cocktails like gin fizzes and pisco sours with aquafaba.
Taking a cue from the kitchen and piggybacking on the popularity of hot foods and hot sauces – peppers, ginger, and herbs are making an impact in cocktails. According to Technomic, pepper has grown on cocktail menus by 38.1% and Serrano has grown by 100% and habanero by 20%. Bartenders are experimenting with healthy and beneficial ingredients on their drink menus which includes turning to veggies and, in particular, root veggies. They’re also taking influence from the natural trend with flavors like peanut, beet, sweet potato, and carrot turned into innovative carrot margaritas and beet old-fashioneds. Mixologist Lu Brow makes a Casserole Cocktail that includes simple syrup made of sweet potato, bourbon, orange curacao, and nutmeg.
The trend of the “premium experience” is rising, which means we need to expect more interesting combinations in the future, as well as seeing foods once thought of as mundane or low-quality to come through to the premium side in a big way. It also means taking what is considered “premium” now and making it accessible to new groups of American consumers who once weren’t interested, creating an ever-growing need for innovation and experimentation with craft food.