Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

Flavor at Work Business & Industry innovation shines a spotlight on an evolving consumer

Variety and wellness are the focus in B&I menu development. Aramark delivers with dishes like Chicken & Grape Power Salad, Pumpkin Curry Vegetable Sauté and Harvest Kale Salad.

Veg-Centric Flourishes

Leaning into their farm-fresh and healthy initiatives, companies are following the industry trend of moving vegetables into the limelight with flavor-forward technique and ingredient combinations.

Meatless entrées, like Sodexo’s Quinoa- and Kale-Stuffed Sweet Potato and Bon Appétit’s Chili Cheese Tofu, deliver menu alternatives. Vegetables have also landed starring roles in sandwiches, as in Adobe’s tempeh hash sandwich, which packs mushrooms, spinach and sun-dried tomato pistou into a pita, and BMS’ Roasted Beet and Pistachio Sandwich.
Salad bars offer an increasing variety of options, presenting both composed salads and a diverse spread for customized salads. David Boyle mandates that the salad bar at BMS include four varieties of lettuce, eight varieties of raw fruits and vegetables and three composed salads.

Businesses are also giving indulgences like pizza a farm-fresh makeover. Bon Appétit recently featured an Apple and Brie Flatbread with caramelized onions and chopped kale. Sodexo’s Rustic Vegetable Wheat Pizzetta packs spinach, zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms and red bell peppers into each bite. Of course, side dishes are an easy way to deliver flavorful vegetables, like AVI’s lime-chipotle red-skinned potatoes and CulinArt’s curried cauliflower.

To promote engagement, some businesses feature a different vegetable each week or month, educating guests on the health benefits and offering tasty ways to experience the item. AVI Foodsystems, for instance, uses its Produce 365 initiative to encourage employees to try a certain vegetable in cafeteria dishes and experiment with the vegetable at home.

Whole Grains Power

“The definition of wellness and healthful eating is certainly changing,” says AVI’s LaRocca. As people get more knowledgeable about nutrition, he says they’re less interested in low-calorie or low-fat foods and more interested in nutrient-dense whole foods, a trend that’s been gaining momentum throughout foodservice for the last few years. Business cafeterias are meeting this demand with more ancient and whole grains across the menu.

From 2015 to 2016, more than 10 percent of the dishes served at Aramark cafeterias across all sectors had whole grains as a leading ingredient. Aramark has partnered with the American Heart Association to achieve a 20 percent increase in whole-grain menu penetration by 2020. As consumers become more familiar with grains like farro and amaranth, their expectations are shifting, and many will seek them out with more frequency.

4 ideas to implement healthier menus

Chefs are making easy substitutions, like switching in whole-wheat pasta, or offering brown rice instead of white. At BMS, Boyle pairs pretzel-crusted salmon with wild rice, and Jet Propulsion Lab’s Café 303 offers a side of brown rice with peas and almonds. Quinoa remains a grain power player across menus, but it’s starting to share the spotlight with emerging grains like farro, freekeh and bulgur.

Chefs are enticing consumers to try a new grain via something familiar, like Sodexo’s Whole Wheat Penne Pasta with Greenwheat Freekeh Meatballs. Others play it straight, such as Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s plain bulgur wheat side.

Composed salads offer an appealing way to present healthy grains, like Adobe’s Spinach Salad with Toasted Farro and Feta Cheese, while salad bars provide plenty of whole grains for customers to experiment and customize with choices like quinoa, wheat berry or whole-wheat couscous.

Served at Adobe’s offices, this black-eyed peas salad with snow peas, mustard greens, corn, orange, pumpkin and sunflower seeds displays the innovation found today in forward-thinking B&I cafeterias.

Served at Adobe’s offices, this black-eyed peas salad with snow peas, mustard greens, corn, orange, pumpkin and sunflower seeds displays the innovation found today in forward-thinking B&I cafeterias.

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About The Author

Laura Brienza

Laura Brienza is the author of "Discovering Vintage Washington, D.C.", and "New York’s Historic Restaurants, Inns & Taverns." She is a recent winner of the Lifetime Writers Project fellowship and lives in Los Angeles.