The National Restaurant Association's (NRA) annual survey of chefs—members of the American Culinary Federation (ACF)—indicates that local sourcing of ingredients, sustainability and nutrition will be the hottest trends on restaurant menus in 2010. Locally grown produce, locally sourced meats and seafood, sustainability, mini-desserts and locally produced wine and beer top the list of more than 200 culinary items in the “What's Hot in 2010” survey. Rounding out the top ten trends were nutritious children's meals, half-portions, farm-branded ingredients, gluten-free/food-allergy conscious meals and sustainable seafood.
“The top trends this year reflect wider societal trends and consumers' growing interest in these issues,” says Dawn Sweeney, NRA's president and C.E.O. “Many restaurants are sourcing some of their ingredients locally, and you often see chefs shopping at farmers' markets to create a host of better-for-you options that today's diners want.”
NRA surveyed 1,854 ACF member chefs in October, asking them to rate 214 individual food/beverage items, preparation methods and culinary themes divided into categories as a hot trend, yesterday's news or perennial favorite on restaurant menus in 2010.
The survey revealed that the leading culinary theme is sustainability, which is ranked as the third hottest trend. Whether applied to produce, meat, seafood or alcoholic beverages, the concepts of environmentally friendly practices and local sourcing (farm-to-fork) are appealing to both restaurant operators and consumers for several reasons, including freshness, minimal transportation, and supporting local communities and businesses.
Nutrition is another culinary theme that ranks high on the list of trends at number 15. Healthful options for children, produce, superfruits, bite-size and half portions, food allergy consciousness and gluten-free meals all rank in the top 20, illustrating that consumer interest in health and nutrition continues to grow and that restaurants are responding.
Other menu trends in the top 20 include farm-/estate-branded ingredients, regional ethnic cuisine, non-traditional fish (including barramundi and Arctic char), and newly fabricated cuts of meat (including Denver steak and pork flat iron). Simplicity as a culinary theme and smaller portions for a smaller price are also menu trends for 2010, reflecting the shift in consumer preferences toward value and comfort during the economic downturn.