Six Food Trends Emerging for 2014's Second Half

CHICAGO - Big flavors and snacking will be popular food trends for the second half of this year, according to the latest findings from Technomic Inc.

The Chicago-based foodservice research and consulting firm identified six trends that may significantly impact the foodservice industry throughout the remainder of 2014:

1.The Next Sriracha. The popular chile and vinegar condiment is considered the new chipotle, and now consumers are looking for even bolder taste sensations delivered by peppers and sauces from Asia, Latin America and North Africa. Some of these flavors include ghost pepper, habanero, harissa, serrano, shishito, togarashi, sweet chili, and spicy mayos and aiolis.

2. Barbecue Love. Barbecue sauces and flavors continue to have broad appeal and are now being applied to handheld offerings, such as pizza and sandwiches, often with barbecue pulled pork as the core protein.

3. Name That Snack. Novelty foods are incorporating more classic snacks that "capture attention with over-the-top idulgence," Technomic stated. Some examples include Crumbs Bake Shop's Girl Scout Cookie cupcakes, Dunkin' Donuts iced coffee flavors inspired by Baskin-Robbins ice creams and, on the savory side, Subway's Fritos Chicken Enchilada Melt.

4. Asian-Style Small Plates. The popularity of sriracha is seen in this trend as well, with snacks such as chicken sriracha bites or dim sum dumplings. Fine-dining restaurants are also incorporating dim-sum-style serving.

5. Beverages Bubbling Up. More flavor and variety continues to be a trend in beverages, from specialty teas, lemonade and iced-tea blends, house-made sodas, and smoothies made with kale or peanut butter. Meanwhile, in the adult beverage market, India Pale Ales and other hoppy craft beers continue their proliferation.

6. Shrinking Menus. Just as flavor variety is increasing, menu sizes are decreasing across all casual-dining mealparts. When menus get too large, operations can slow down. It remains to be seen whether narrowly focused menus in fast-casual will lead to more menu and operational simplification in full-service.

To identify these trends, Technomic brought together its consultants and editors who based their opinions on restaurant visits in cities across the country, as well as interviews and surveys of chefs, operators and consumers. These insights are bolstered by Technomic's extensive Digital Resource Library and quantitative data from its MenuMonitor database.