Fruits and veggies will continue to provide a colorful and nutritional pop to foodservice menus, according to the newly released Winter 2021 issue of Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh’s Fresh Insights for Foodservice. Sponsored by Produce Alliance, this quarterly report highlights on-trend foodservice applications for fresh produce in restaurants, at retail, in meal kits and more. With a focus on health and immunity, the new issue highlights the myriad benefits of fresh produce for consumers looking to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 as well as seasonal colds and flus.
“This quarter’s report spotlights a variety of antioxidant-rich fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as creative ways that consumers can enjoy vitamin-packed produce,” said Andrew Marshall, director of foodservice and foundation partnerships, United Fresh. “As more consumers look to fortify their immune systems, it’s good to see increased interest in incorporating more fruit and vegetables for optimum health.”
When it comes to winter menu trends, United Fresh said lemons and onions, both of which offer immune-boosting vitamin C, are playing important roles. The report found that lemons are currently menued on QSR, fast casual, midscale, casual and fine-dining menus. While all channels are turning to lemons, 83% of casual menus and 96% of fine-dining establishments are making the most of this citrus.
“Onions are a menu mainstay and can appear in a wide range of applications across dayparts and segments—the possibilities are nearly endless,” the report said. Across the board, foodservice operations are turning to onions, with 87% of QSR, 92% of fast casual, 96% of midscale, 96% of casual and 95% of fine-dining operations boasting yellow, red, caramelized, white onions and more on menus.
The report also highlights top produce trends on the horizon for summer, pointing to blackberries, bell peppers and center-of-the-plate plant-based fare such as carrot hog dogs, jackfruit tacos and cauliflower steak.
“When it comes to immune-boosting ingredients, you can’t do much better than fresh produce,” said Katie O’Connor, marketing manager for Produce Alliance. “Produce is so versatile and can be incorporated in a multitude of menu items, providing plenty of opportunities for chefs and foodservice operators to promote the nutritious qualities of their dishes.”
And with international travel largely prohibited since the start of the pandemic, global cuisine is doing double duty, taking palates to far flung flavor destinations with produce on board. As such, the new report identifies dumplings from around the globe as taking center stage, including soup dumplings, gyozas, samosas and pierogi.
“Essentially, dumplings can serve as a platform for nearly any type of vegetable (think carrots, cabbage, potatoes, onions and more), and some can even be vehicles for fresh fruit (vareniki, for example, are traditionally filled with fresh cherries),” notes the report.
While vegetarian entrees have long been mainstays on menus, “enterprising chefs today are taking veggie-forward dishes to the next level by giving produce a more prominent role as the center-of-plate item in entrées, often taking the place of meaty proteins,” said the report, which further notes that the plant-based trend extends beyond the vegan and vegetarian population to flexitarians and all.
United Fresh and the Produce Alliance see cauliflower, sweet potato and squash stealing center-of-plate, while pumpkin, poblano, tamarind, red chili paste and pineapple are tasty, up and coming trends to watch.