After a nearly-impossible 2020 for the restaurant, bar and retail industry, we hoped for 2021 to be smooth(er) sailing, but it was not to be. Widespread supply chain issues, exorbitant inflation, and devastating labor shortages affected nearly every industry, especially the food and beverage industry.
However, we continue to be deeply impressed by the resiliency of our beloved food-centric brands. We have seen restaurants open their doors to near-immediate success and fandom, the triumphant return of annual industry events like Expo East and modified Aspen Food & Wine, and restaurants and brands continuing to be born out of innovation (such as Umamicart, which was established after the founder wasn’t able to find Asian pantry products she grew up with.)
Our third annual ROOT Trends Forecast blog examines the rise of global flavors, the changing role of virtual kitchens, innovative restaurant-to-doorstep concepts, and a few trends that may surprise you:
1. Swapping Your Passport for the Spice Drawer
With ever-changing travel rules and bans, confusing COVID testing requirements when crossing borders, quarantining and general travel apprehension, global spice flavors have taken center stage, allowing consumers to indulge in flavors from around the world – at home.
Eastern Mediterranean, North African, East/Southeast Asian, and Indian cuisines are among the top most popular tastes in the $16 billion global spices and seasonings market.
Some of our favorite global spices, all available at Savory Spice with more recipes and tips, include:
- Ras el Hanout, a Moroccan-style curry blend meaning “top of the shop” or “best of the best.” This blend consists of sweet, warming spices like nutmeg and cinnamon, as well as golden turmeric and floral saffron, and makes an elevating addition to rice dishes, tagines and curries.
- Fenugreek Seeds are a member of the pea family with a bittersweet maple syrup aroma and flavor. Like turmeric, fenugreek is becoming very well known for its anti-inflammatory and other wellness properties. Add it to ghee-roasted potatoes, carrot soup and chutneys.
- Urfa chiles are a sun-dried Turkish chile with a purplish-black color, rich smoky flavor, and medium heat. We love these sprinkled on flatbreads like khachapuri, as well as in salsas and drinks.
- Baharat, also known as Lebanese Allspice, is a peppery blend of Spanish paprika and sweet, citrus-forward spices. This versatile blend is traditionally used in lentil stews, and with ground meats.
2. Boxes on Doorsteps is the New Butts in Seats
If we had to pick one word to describe the food and beverage industry over the past year, we would pick “innovative.” Direct-to-consumer boxes from restaurants and local purveyors allow their patrons to have an elevated dining experience in the comfort of their own home. One of our current favorites is New York City-based Table22, backed by Sweetgreen Co-Founder Nic Jammet and chef Dan Barber. People across the country can learn mixology tips with Chicago’s famed Lost Lake cocktail program, cook gourmet pasta alongside Detroit’s Shewolf Pastificio & Bar, and explore Asian’s culinary landscape with Charleston’s Xiao Bao Biscuit. Another one of out favorites is Eva’s Wild, which delivers wild, regenerative salmon from Bristol Bay directly to doorsteps. Customers can watch recipe videos online from top chefs like Tom Douglas, developed exclusively for Eva’s Wild.
3. Ghost of Kitchens Past: Adaptation of Virtual Kitchens
As expected, 2021 saw a complete explosion in the virtual kitchen industry with thousands of new concepts offering often delivery-only food. As the market becomes increasingly saturated, we expect virtual kitchens to adapt to both customers’ and restaurateurs’ needs, including:
Expanding beyond “delivery only” – As more people become accustomed to contactless pickup during COVID-19, many virtual kitchens will likely upgrade the original “delivery only” model to include direct-from-restaurant ordering and customer pickup.
Not just a space to rent – Virtual kitchen tenants are looking for more 360-degree support and personalized service from their landlords, such as marketing, complimentary consultations from other professionals like architects and chefs, assistance with the build-out, lobbying for fair third-party tactics or even employ food runners to help with delivery.
Survival tactics – The virtual kitchen market is becoming increasingly competitive and not all of them will survive (an op-ed in Entrepreneur estimated 80% will fail.) Virtual kitchens will need to provide compelling reasons for tenants to move in, such as payment flexibility.
4. Get Cozy with the Rise of Cottage Licensing
From chili crisps to kimchi to sourdough loaves, since the pandemic began, many people began cooking and selling food out of their home kitchens via cottage licensing. States have been reporting that cottage licensing permits have been increasing month-over-month, allowing home cooks to start making a living wage for themselves doing what they love. Though there’s technically a $25,000 sale limit before moving to a commercial licensing, many vendors have taken a “ask for forgiveness” approach. Look for continued new concepts sprouting up in holiday markets, in farmers markets and on through the year.
5. Party like it’s 1995
With all of the disruption to daily routines currently, many people are restoring to nostalgic flavors and eating like we’re back in the ’90s. Espresso martinis are back on every cocktail menu, chocolate Dunkaroos made a market reappearance back in July after a 10-year hiatus, and sun-dried tomato recipes are going viral on TikTok. Sweet childhood nostalgic flavors are also back with carrot cake, red velvet and birthday cake returning to dessert menus.
To hear about the trends that are setting up food and beverage concepts up for success in 2022, check out our blogs:
ROOT has our finger on the pulse and can bring the marketing expertise and perspective needed to build an exceptional brand in the food and beverage industry. Give us a call to chat about how we can help you achieve success.