Uni caterers living in a world of opportunity, finds TUCO

Sponsored: As TUCO launch their new Global Food & Beverage Trends Report, CEO Mike Haslin discusses the trends to watch in 2018 and beyond

At TUCO – The University Caterers Organisation – we recognise the importance and the power of intelligent insight. With the launch of our brand-new Global Food & Beverage Trends Report 2018 we seek to help university caterers achieve financial advantage in the market place.

Our report delivers an in-depth understanding of current and emerging market trends which are influencing millennial and Gen Z consumers. Proactively responding to these trends can have a positive impact on bottom line. Our report identifies 12 overarching areas of opportunities for caterers to consider, along with multiple sub trends. The core trends identified are; health for all, conscientious consuming, crafted and curated, plant-based revolution, imbibing, suit yourself, having fun, experiential, kitchen crossovers, trending tastes, highbrow-lowbrow, and global larder.

The report highlights the continuation and evolution of trends since 2017 and finds two trends dominate the landscape for 2018. The explosion of plant-based eating, particularly among younger consumers, and the war on plastic as part of conscientious consuming. Caterers simply cannot ignore the importance and impact of these two market trends.

The report also finds young consumers still see food as fun and as an experience to be shared on and offline. Millennials and Gen Z continue to actively seek out new and exciting food and drink experiences which can take the form of boundary-crossing innovation. This could include sweet appearing in savoury and ‘mash-ups’ such as ‘posh-junk’ food.

The 12 overarching opportunity areas identified in TUCO’s report

1. Health for all 

The health movement shows no signs of slowing down. Gen Z are seeking out natural and better-for-you snacks and treats, embracing a trend towards well-informed, fact-based healthy eating.

Sub trends: Goodbye gluten, in praise of protein, digestive wellness.

2. Conscientious consuming

Responsible consuming joins last year’s key trends of buying local and traceable sourcing. As environmental awareness reaches unprecedented levels, two particular issues have come to the fore – food waste and single-use plastic.

Sub trends: War on plastic, food waste repurpose, hyper local.

3. Crafted and curated

Craft continues to dominate the food industry, with chefs, brands and restaurants offering up greater detail on the process behind their culinary creations. This year, ageing and aged products will gain greater traction.

Sub trends: Special coffee and tea, next-level artisan and ‘better with age’.

4. Plant-based revolution

The growing popularity of a plant-based diet is the most important food trend in 2018. Due to rising awareness of the cost of eating too many animal-based foods, consumers are converting to plant-based foods.

Sub trends: Sea vegetables, naturally colourful, vegan ‘dude’ food.

5. Imbibing

Drinking remains a key innovation battleground for mixologists, bars, restaurants and retailers. Alcohol and soft drinks collide and non-alcoholic drinks get more sophisticated.

Sub trends: Drinkable garden, infusion, teetotal tipples, whisky evolution.

6. Suit yourself 

Gen Z have grown up with experiences tailored to their needs by tech. They seek personalisation, engagement and fluidity from their interactions with food.

Sub trends: Handy food, snacking well, all-day dining.

7. Having fun 

Playfulness in the form of bright colours and mythical creatures is still going strong, but there is also a backlash in the form of black food. Chefs and brands are indulging the nostalgic flights of millennials, but Gen Z are next.

Sub trends: Food whimsy, uber indulgent, goth food, branded nostalgia.

8. Experiential

Eating isn’t just about the food for today’s consumer. They want an experience, something to remember, something to tell the world about, a food event that entertains and feeds. It’s about the whole experience.

Sub trends: Picture perfect, sharing, immersive eating

9. Kitchen crossover

The culinary world is experimenting by combining formats, flavours and techniques from across the globe. Chefs are matching their traditional culinary heritage with those of other countries.

Sub trends: Savoury in sweet, anything for breakfast, modern mash-ups.

10. Trending tastes

Big, bold flavours continue to hold influence. Adventurous millennials and Gen Zers crave chilli heat with spices, smoke and fermented flavours on the menu.

Sub trends: Spiced, fermented, new raw, hemp.

11. Highbrow-lowbrow

The lines between classic high-end and everyday food are being blurred. Consumers want quality food, precise cooking and well-sourced ingredients across all of their eating occasions. Pre-mixed drinks have also been given a makeover and avocado toast has a new look – all for the benefit of appealing to a larger audience.

Sub trends: Elevating everyday, fish for the masses, posh pre-mix, Michelin-meets-street.

12. Global larder

Millennials have the most intrepid taste buds yet. They’re often in search of something exotic, adventuresome, memorable or new to explore during their dining experience. Gen Z are the unintentional foodies that have grown up trying new cuisines at home. Both are having an effect on the shift in trending world cuisines. In general, we are seeing more ‘zoning in’ with restaurants serving up specific regions versus countries.

Sub trends: Regional American, Japanese, Middle Eastern.

For the full report or more information about joining TUCO please visit www.tuco.ac.uk, call Mike Haslin on (0161) 713 3421 or email mike.haslin@tuco.ac.uk