The consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables is rising in 2016 due to a combination of factors in the greater food industry. This development is not just a single voice or observation either, as multiple food industry pundits have confirmed the growing popularity of fruits and veggies, from large retail grocery chain forecasters to dietitian magazines, to restaurant industry experts.
So what are the key factors driving fruit and vegetable demand in restaurants in 2016?
Record growth of farmers markets
According to the USDA, the number of farmers markets in the United States has doubled since 2009. The rapid growth of farmers markets has increased consumer accessibility to produce as well as awareness of the availability of fresh produce. These factors have contributed to increased patron expectations of restaurant fruit and vegetable offerings.
Rising Beef Prices
Following a 5-year record high price in beef in September of 2014, then a 5-year record low price in January, beef prices have increased by nearly 10% in the last 3 months. Increasing prices of beef throughout the remainder of 2016 will result in the substitution of beef offerings for fresh produce options in restaurant menus across the U.S. Additionally, consumers are becoming more open to “meatier” roles for vegetables in many dishes, beyond traditional vegan style offerings.
Fruit and Vegetable Seasonality
Because fruits and vegetables are so seasonal, it is becoming increasingly appealing to include expanded produce selections on seasonal restaurant menus. According to Fruits and Veggies More Matters of over 200 commonly available fruits and vegetables available to restaurant chefs in the U.S. only about 20% are in season year round. This variability allows for unique offerings than traditional animal offerings, allowing for ample “menu excitement”.
Continued Increase in Flexitarians
Flexitarians, defined as consumers who are vegetarians but occasionally consume meat, are one of the most rapidly growing dietary groups in the United States in the last year. According to US news, flexitarians benefit from nearly identical health benefits to strict vegetarians: they weigh 15% less and live an average of 3.6 years longer, according to US News. But this diet, less restrictive than full vegetarian and vegan, is appealing to a larger demographic, while still focusing primarily on the consumption of fresh produce as a diet foundation, and is driving produce demand for restaurant owners and chefs.
The Antioxidants Arms Race
According to publications like Today’s Dietitian, antioxidants are currently not just a hot topic, but sizzling. Phenomenons such as “juicing” fruits and vegetables into drinkable smoothies are helping power the antioxidant craze. Why are antioxidants important? According to the Mayo Clinic, they protect body cells against risk for heart diseases, cancer, and other health complications. Consumers will be increasingly vigilant about the antioxidant content in their restaurant orders, and this means higher produce demand!
Post written by Pat Flynn, CMO at Hazel Technologies. At Hazel Technologies, we develop biodegradable products that promote unprecedented control of produce freshness, preventing extensive waste in the food supply chain and increasing shelf life for distributors, restaurants, and grocery chains. Find out more at Hazel Technologies