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Will restaurant-goers continue to demand farm fresh ingredients on the menu? Is gluten-free cuisine still on the rise? The National Restaurant Association seeks to predict these types of trends annually by asking over 1,500 culinary professionals what they predict for the coming year.

We’ve sorted through these results in their What’s Hot 2016 Culinary Forecast to bring you an analysis of trends we find to be most compelling to your business.

Top 20 Culinary Trends

#2 CHEF-DRIVEN FAST-CASUAL RESTAURANTS

A fast-casual restaurant is one that does not offer full table service, but promises a higher quality of food with fewer frozen or processed ingredients than a fast food restaurant. The category is exemplified by chains such as Chipotle Mexican Grill, Panera Bread and Shake Shack – all of which source Niman Ranch Products.

According to Technomic‘s research, fast casual companies continue to outpace the quick-service and the full-service markets. That is good news about the growth of this segment and consumers’ interest in it.

If your sales team is looking for new opportunities in the market, we suggest they search for up-and-coming fast-casual concepts as partners.

#5 NATURAL INGREDIENTS/MINIMALLY PROCESSED FOOD

The term “natural” is only loosely defined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, typically meaning a food does not contain added color, artificial flavors or synthetic substances. This embodies all of our products – from our raw cuts to our processed items.

All Niman Ranch fresh and processed products (sausages, bacon, hot dogs, hams, pulled pork, grinds, and deli meats) contain no artificial ingredients or additives, no gluten and no antibiotics or hormones. The only product that does contain gluten is our Pulled Pork with Hoisin Soy Barbecue Sauce. Our entire line of products are a perfect fit for both retail and food service in 2016.

#6 ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY

“Diners want to know as much as they can about what they’re eating, especially when they’re at restaurants,” says to Jeff Clark, director of the NRA’s Conserve sustainability program. “The industry and its customers are seeking out foods that are not only flavorful, but also minimally impact the environment.”

Niman Ranch offers several items to educate both staff and consumers on our deep family farming roots and sustainable practices. In order to acquire Point of Sale materials for your restaurant, store or customers, visit the Partner Portal on our website and put in your order today. Contact Lauren Nischan-Snook at lauren.snook@nimanranch.com if you have any questions.

#7 HEALTHFUL KIDS’ MEALS

All of our fresh and uncured products are antibiotic- and hormone-free, gluten-free and made without artificial ingredients. This makes our products a better option for families concerned with their well being.

Made in small batches, our Uncured Fearless Franks are smoked over hickory wood, producing a fresh-tasting frank with deep flavors. They are currently the #2 selling hot dog in natural and specialty grocery stores across America, according to SPINS data. We also created the Uncured Pork & Beef Kids’ Dogs with a smooth, mild taste that’s great for both kids and adults.

Our three flavors of pulled pork serve up a delicious barbecue dinner in a fraction of the time it would take to prepare it traditionally. Each is slow smoked over real hardwood, hand pulled, then combined with one of our three barbecue sauces. All the customer has to do is heat and serve, which is ideal for quick weeknight meals during the school year.

#8 NEW CUTS OF MEAT and #14 ARTISAN BUTCHERY

Customers are increasingly looking for new, interesting menu items while dining. Chefs across the country are meeting this demand by ordering unique cuts and taking on whole hog opportunities for artisanal butchery.

Niman Ranch offers every cut from nose to tail, but some cuts can be just as unique while still within the less adventurous customer’s comfort zone. Products such as the long bone rack and pork middle allow for a chef to take their menu to new places with the Tomahawk Pork Chop and Porchetta. Chefs can turn their kitchen into a butchery and order a whole or half carcass as well.

We’ve created sell sheets to help you reach the artisanal chef. You can download these alongside our complete suite of sell sheets through the Partner Portal on our website.

#13 FARM/ESTATE BRANDED ITEMS

We take pride in the fact that we support one of the largest sustainable farming networks in the United States, partnering with over 700 independent family farmer and ranchers. As mentioned before, we offer several items to educate both staff and consumers on our deep family farming and ranching roots. We have farmer profiles, banners, signs and education guides to start.

To acquire farm-specific Point of Sale materials for your restaurant, store or customers, visit the Partner Portal on our website. Contact Lauren Nischan-Snook at lauren.snook@nimanranch.com if you have any questions.

Other Resources

There are a few other reliable predictions available that seek to predict culinary trends for 2016:

  1. Sterling Rice Group’s 10 Cutting Edge Culinary Trends for 2016 
  2. Nation’s Restaurant News 14 Hot Food Trends for 2016
  3. Restaurant Hospitality’s 12 Menu Trends Gaining Momentum for 2016