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Veggies as the new comfort food?

December 21, 2017

Consumer culture is ever evolving, however in recent years there has been a noticeable shift in food industry demands. More and more customers are asking for chemical-free and non-genetically modified (GMO) options, forcing restaurants and industry leading brands to search for plant-based alternatives.

It’s no longer enough to simply claim the product is “free” of a certain additive. While the rise in organic products is allowing consumers, including restaurant buyers and chefs, to have a say in what they are purchasing, it is also shedding light on what ingredients companies may be trying to hide. There is a growing societal demand for transparency that goes beyond nutritional labels. Customers are looking for full disclosure on just where their food is coming from.

Dave Donnan, a leader in the global food and beverage practice at A.T. Kearney consulting firm, believes we are moving toward the goal of “clean labels”, or ingredients on labels that consumers can actually understand and pronounce.  This shift in thinking for food and ingredient companies is partially being driven by the professional food industry. Restaurants and hotels are being asked questions by their patrons that they simply need to answer.

Additionally, Donnan explains that majority of companies are not just looking to simplify ingredients, they’re looking for replacements. For example, the move toward soy protein and natural flavoring to reduce sodium or, as one biotech company is doing, the use of mushrooms to cut the bitterness of cacao beans. Trends such as these have restaurants experimenting with tropical plants, fruits and spices.

Top new food industry shifts to expect now 

Vegetarian Comfort Food  

Vegetables will always make an appearance on the dinner plate, but ditching the animal protein for a dish centered on veggies seems to be the newest craze! Recently, there has been a serious trend in chefs tying their menus together with plant-based alternatives to meat and even creating a healthy-spin on some common comfort foods.

If you’ve been on Pinterest lately, you’re familiar with the low-carb alternative to pasta: “spaghetti” squash and zucchini “noodles”. An analysis concluded that the word “veggies” rose 336% in Pinterest searches for comfort food, leaving traditional macaroni and lasagna behind in double-digits. You may also have noticed the great cauliflower comeback, as consumers are searching for ways to utilize this vegetable in place of normal pizza crust!

A Bowl for the Soul!

Whether you noticed or not, the instant popularity of acai bowls kick-started a culinary craze, involving certain foods and how they are enjoyed. Immediately after, and still in high demand, came the poke bowls, creating a new twist on seafood. Many restaurants are now beginning to turn towards bowls as an alternative to traditional plates, partially because they’re easy to prepare and taste great. A bowl is a great way for all flavors to be combined and enjoyed in every bite!

Pushing tradition with unusual plant based combinations 

 Move over Kale!

There was a time when all you needed to be healthy was a neighborhood Whole Foods and kale. Although great, kale may have reached its peak, trend-wise. Chefs are always on the search for unique ingredients that will help them put a creative and healthy spin on a dish. The newest super-green that may do just this? Moringa. Grown from the moringa oleifera tree indigenous to Latin America and parts of Africa, this veggie is drawing significant interest due to its high nutritional content. Rich in calcium, potassium and protein, this tree is unique in the fact that it can be eaten fresh, cooked or dried without losing it’s nutrients!

Spice things up!

Creative energy in food has chefs experimenting with exotic spices, fermented products, super foods and flavored water.  Restaurants are meeting consumer demand for healthy yet interesting food by combining several spices in a single dish.  The top trends seem to be the use of caraway, saffron, horseradish and turmeric.  Time to move over parsley, there’s a new garnish in town – tangy, hot horseradish leaves, yes, they’re edible!

Hungry yet?  You can try many of these trends at several restaurants throughout Newport Beach, CA.  Many local chefs are pushing tradition aside in favor of plant based alternatives and unusual spice combinations.  Try Fig and Olive’s roasted squash rings with pumpkin seed oil, or Oak Grill’s (Fashion Island Hotel) house made ceviche with halibut, rocoto peppers and fried tropical plantains. Oh the fun your group will have tasting these and other creative concoctions at Newport Beach restaurants!

When you’re ready to begin organizing your next group program, contact the staff at Visit Newport Beach, the destination marketing organization for Newport Beach, CA. Visit Newport Beach opens the doors to this Pacific paradise with destination expertise, customized site visits, strong partnerships with valuable resources.

Written by Visit Newport Beach Meetings

As a not-for-profit Destination Marketing Organization (DMO), Visit Newport Beach provides destination expertise, customized site visits, strong partnerships and resources tailored specifically to the needs of meeting planners and their clients.

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