20 Flavor & Ingredient Trends to Watch in 2020

Going into 2020, a new batch of trending ingredients will be making waves on all types of menus across the country, from fast-casual restaurants to fine dining hotspots. For foodservice operators and food manufacturers, the opportunity to offer the ingredients and the dishes they are used in is huge—particularly because many of the ingredients can be used across multiple dayand menu-parts. Stay ahead of the curve and learn about 20 ingredients that’ll be trending on 2020 menus.

1. Butterfly Pea Flower

With 100% growth on menus year over year, according to Ignite menu data from Technomic, this unique flower with vibrant blue petals is making waves thanks to its jewel-toned hue and ability to change colors. When mixed with an acid such as lemon juice or lime wedges, drinks made with butterfly pea flower change from deep blue to bright magenta.

Menu example:

TGI Fridays’ Ciroc Khaled-o-Scope Lemonade is composed of Ciroc vodka, fresh strawberry, house-made sour mix and blue butterfly pea flower extract.

2. Celtuce (Pronounced Sel-Tis)

This celery-like vegetable is grown primarily for its thick stem and leaves. It has grown 50% on menus year-over-year, according to Ignite menu data, and is especially popular in Chinese and Taiwanese cuisines.

Menu example:

At Blue Hill in New York City, the Blue Hill Farm Chicken dish includes celtuce, blueberries and horseradish

3. Frico (Pronounced Free-koh)

Frico—cheese crisps—have been identified as a trending ingredient for 2020. Though traditionally made with Parmesan, these crispy, crunchy, indulgent morsels can be made with other cheeses as well. Frico adds interest and texture to an array of dishes and are easy to prepare. Just pile a tablespoon or two of an appropriate cheese onto a silicone baking mat or parchment paper, then bake for a few minutes until melted, crispy and flat.

Menu example:

Bucking tradition, The Steakhouse in New Orleans adds Manchego frico to its Vidalia French Onion Soup instead of the usual broiled Gruyere.

4. Beet Greens

Beet greens, cited by Technomic as an ingredient on the rise for 2020, are the perfect complement to dishes that include beets, with a flavor similar to kale: bright and a little bitter. They are great for salads that feature-rich cheeses.

Menu example:

The Plaza Hotel’s Food Hall, also in New York City, offers a Burrata Salad, featuring burrata, roasted beets, a beet-apple reduction, beet greens and pistachio vinaigrette.

5. Olivade (Pronounced Olive-odd)

While tapenade is a blend of olives, capers and anchovies, olivade is a blend of ripe olives, olive oil and black pepper and often includes other ingredients such as cheese and garlic, as well as parsley, capers and red onions. This customizable spread is perfect as an appetizer (bruschetta, anyone?) and can also be used as a pizza topping, among other things.

Menu inspiration:

Use olivade as a bruschetta topping. Mix black olives, goat cheese, garlic and black pepper, and spread on crostini.

6. Culantro (Pronounced Koo-lon-tro)

Not to be confused with cilantro, an herb often appearing in Mexican and Latin American dishes, culantro is an herb with a similar—but stronger—flavor, and it’s also on Technomic’s radar as an ingredient to watch. This herb is used in small amounts and can be added during cooking rather than just after (how cilantro is recommended to be used), because cooking tempers its strong flavor.

Menu example:

Cuba Libre, a casual-dining restaurant in Philadelphia, offers Malanga Fritters, a traditional Cuban street snack. The appetizer features purple taro, garlic, culantro and tamarindo ketchup.

7. Savory Ice Cream Desserts—and more

Sweet ice cream isn’t going anywhere—phew! But Technomic expects to see savory ice cream pop up more frequently, both on dessert menus and in other meal parts. Imagine flavors such as basil ice cream, olive oil ice cream sprinkled with sea salt and milk sorbet.

Menu example:

Farallon, a fine-dining restaurant in San Francisco, features basil ice cream with its Summer Berry Bread Pudding dessert.

8. Nocino (Pronounced No-chee-no)

The craft cocktail boom is still going strong and the unique liqueurs that flavor these concoctions are leaving their mark on consumers. Nocino, a sweet walnut liqueur, has been identified by Technomic as a trending ingredient for 2020.

Menu inspiration, from Ann-Marie Verdi of The Bellwether in Los Angeles:

Update a Manhattan cocktail with this luxurious liqueur. In a mixing glass with ice, stir together 2 ounces of bourbon, one half-ounce of Punt e Mes vermouth, one half-ounce of Nocino and two drops of Angostura bitters. Strain into a rocks glass over ice and garnish with two maraschino cherries.

9. Raita (Pronounced Rye-ee-ta)

An Indian condiment made with yogurt, buttermilk, cucumber and mint, raita is another ingredient on Technomic’s Emerging Eats—50 Menu Trends to Watch report from Q4 2019. This refreshing, cooling sauce can be used as a dip or side for many Indian foods.

Menu example:

At Masala restaurant in Warrenville, Ill., guests can enjoy the Lamb Biryani, featuring lamb marinated in herbs and spices layered with long-grain basmati rice and served with cucumber-and-onion raita.

10. Peaches and cream-reimagined

Technomic’s Q3 2019 New Item Trends report mentions riffs on a dessert classic, Peaches and Cream, as a trending dish.

Reimaginations of this traditional sweet treat include:

  • Grilled Peaches ‘n Cream at Logan’s Roadhouse
  • A Peaches ‘n Cream Shake at Ruby’s Diner
  • Peaches & Cream Beignets at Lucille’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Que

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11. TONKA BEANS

In Technomic’s July 2019 Dish, tonka beans are called out as a new-to-market trend. Tonka beans are black seeds of a South American tree and have a fragrance similar to vanilla. The dried beans are common in perfumery but are increasingly being used in culinary applications.

Menu example:

At Salare in Seattle, the Chocolate Bomb dessert features peanut caramel, chocolate tonka bean ganache, banana mousse and feuilletine crunch.

12. DESSERT SOUPS

Dessert soup is also on Technomic’s radar as a trend to keep an eye on in 2020. This tasty mashup offers diners a tasty treat in a new format. Soup bases can be made from ingredients such as pureed fruit, creme anglaise and more.

Menu example:

In summer 2019, Snackbar in Oxford, Miss., offered Chilled Mango Soup with toasted coconut and pistachios.

13. ARTICHOKES

Technomic’s Spring 2020 Season’s Eatings report notes that artichokes are on the rise, with a 2% increase of the ingredient on vegetable pizzas in the past two years and a 43% increase of artichoke in appetizer soups in the same time period.

Menu example:

At Abby’s Legendary Pizza in Roseburg, Ore., the Shrimp and Artichoke Pizza has been a crowd-pleaser since its addition to the menu in Q3 2018. It features shrimp, artichokes, roasted garlic, pepperoncini, spinach, red peppers and three kinds of cheese.

14. RHUBARB-IN DRINKS AND SAVORY DISHES

Paired with strawberries, rhubarb is a classic ingredient in pies, but operators should consider adding it to other menu parts, including cocktails or entrees. This herbaceous, sweet-tart ingredient is ideal as a foil to rich meats such as pork (pork dishes with rhubarb are up 200% over the past two years, according to Technomic), and is a great complement to gin- or vodka-based drinks.

Menu example:

  • Entree: Frasca Food & Wine in Boulder, Colo., serves a dish of Rohan duck breast, rhubarb, tardivo and wild spring onion on its Prix Fixe menu
  • Cocktail: At Maggiano’s Little Italy, diners can try the Italian Peach Rita cocktail, made with Sauza commemorative anejo tequila, aperol, fresh sour mix, peach, rhubarb bitters and lime.

15. SCALLIONS

Also known as green onions, this popular garnish is expected to pop up more and more on menus next year, according to Technomic’s Spring 2020 Season’s Eatings report.

Menu inspiration:

Expect to see scallions featured in Asian-inspired savory pancakes, sprinkled over vegetable appetizers such as cauliflower bites and in slowcooked preparations, which draw out their natural sweetness.

16. MILK TEA AND BUBBLE TEA

Specialty milk tea has grown on menus by 6% year-over-year and bubble tea is up 6.7% on menus as well, according to Ignite menu data. These drinks have been hot in Asian countries for many years and have a cultlike following in the United States—but it looks like 2020 may be the year they go fully mainstream.

Menu example:

Tapioca Express, a chain with 28 locations in four states, offers 18 flavors of milk tea, including matcha, strawberry, chocolate, mango and more.

17. CHICKEN KATSU

Asian chicken dishes, including chicken katsu, are up 3.7% on menus year-over-year, according to Ignite menu data. Chicken katsu, also known as panko chicken, is a Japanese dish that’s gaining popularity in Australia, Hawaii, London, California and beyond.

Menu example:

Zippy’s Restaurants serves Chicken Katsu with a choice of white or brown rice, real mashed potatoes or french fries, plus a choice of macaroni salad, potato salad, tossed greens or corn.

18. COLD-BREW COFFEE

With two-year predicted growth of 3.4%, according to Ignite menu data, cold-brew coffee is a coffee beverage made by steeping grounds in cold water for an extended period of time (as many as 12 to 24 hours), with the result being a smooth, rich sip. It’s perfect with a splash of cream or milk.

Menu example:

Starbucks’ Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold features cold brew coffee and rich, flavored cream topping it off.

19. AVOCADO TOAST

This dish has been trending for some time, and it’s not expected to slow down anytime soon. It’s expected to have above-average penetration growth, increasing by 3.7 percentage points by 2021. Topping possibilities are endless, but more than 10% of all avocado toast dishes feature cheese, according to Ignite menu data.

Menu example:

Dave & Buster’s locations serve Avocado Toast with Mexican Street Corn, which features ciabatta crostini topped with fresh smashed avocados, jalapeno and Sriracha, fire-roasted street corn, pickled red onions, cotija cheese and avocado-jalapeno ranch.

20. ESPRESSO ICE CREAM

According to Ignite menu data, espresso is among the fastest-growing ice cream flavors in the Midwest, West and Northeast regions.

Menu example:

At Rock Center Cafe in New York City, diners can order the Chocolate Toffee cake, which comes with salted chocolate caramel and espresso ice cream.

Key Takeaway

Featuring trending ingredients is a great way for foodservice operators and food manufacturers to stay competitive. By incorporating these growing flavors on menus, restaurant operators can attract customers who may be looking for something new—and even those who may not be looking for the next big thing may find their new favorite food.

About DairiConcepts DairiConcepts, the DFA Ingredient Solutions taste and flavor product line, includes dairy powders, concentrates, seasonings and flavors. Starting with fresh milk from its more than 14,500 family farmers, the DFA Ingredients Solutions team combines technical expertise with culinary prowess to create simple, yet indulgent products for foodservice professionals, retailers and food manufacturers.

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