Consumers want to visit restaurants that offer innovative flavors, according to a study from Chicago-based market research firm Technomic. Forty-two percent of consumers, especially males ages 25-34, are more likely to visit restaurants with new or unique flavors in their food and beverages, and 36 percent say they’re more interested in trying new flavors than they were a year ago.
But just what do they want? Among less prevalent ethnic cuisines, people are interested in Spanish (72 percent), Hawaiian (71 percent), Tex-Mex (69 percent), Greek (66 percent), Caribbean (66 percent) and Mediterranean (62 percent). The study also found that garlic, pepper and smoky barbecue flavors are taking up their fair share of entrée menus, while Mexican, Asian and Italian influences are popular.
Innovation in menu creation is valued on both the food and beverage sides. “We are observing consumers showing their willingness to spend for innovation that they value,” says Bill Lombardo, CEO of Monin Gourmet Flavorings. “As a result, operators who add a flavor innovation spin to well-made, traditional cocktails will earn the trust and the budget-constrained dollars from today’s consumers.”
In drinks, herbs like mint, basil, rosemary and sage are “must-have ingredients” at upscale bars, says Lisa Ash, Monin beverage innovation director. Monin’s Jeff Ruth agrees with the herbal trend, but says fruit flavors remain dominant — especially those like blueberry, pomegranate and acai, which have perceived health benefits. “Along the same lines, we are seeing a rise in the creation of more complex cocktails accented with fruit purees, homemade or specialty bitters and premium syrups,” Ash explains.