Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

The Art of Craveability A must-have, come-back-for-more dish calls for a strategy that goes way beyond the recipe formula

Experiencing shareable food together and posting it on social media fuels the perception of craveability.
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The Poetry of Words

Umami may be one of the best examples of the shift in craveability, and this idea of the impact of umami can be looked at in two ways.

The fact that umami has even moved into, and arguably taken over, many food discussions is compelling. Beyond more technical discussions in culinary schools and academic venues related to food, the common consumer had probably never heard the term “umami” until recently. Taking Instagram as a measure of awareness, there are now nearly 200,000 posts marked with #umami.

Umami is the basis of craveability. It is, essentially, the deliciousness that governs our palate and makes an item hard to resist. That’s not to say all umami-heavy ingredients such as Parmesan, mushrooms, soy and fish sauce will create the same craveability in all patrons, but the presence of umami certainly doesn’t hurt. Umami holds the promise of a memorable, singular experience.

So, is the rise in presence of the term “umami” an indication of the importance of craveability, or is the growing impact of craveability an indication of the importance of umami? Likely, it’s both. Industry focus on creating craveability has heightened the significance of the role of umami in ideation, but the newfound respect for and discussion of umami speaks to how important craveability is in an increasingly competitive foodservice landscape.

From a menu communications point of view, the parallel rise of craveability and umami has impacted how operators try to drive trial absent of a visually based menu. Five or more years ago, that may have been through general terms that hint at both umami and craveability, like “delicious,” “tasty” and “yummy.”

Given our new culture that’s hyper-focused on food, those terms are far too vague to carry the same weight. Operators must provide a consumer more information to drive craveability. This is now done through more precise inclusion of ingredients in menu descriptors, flavor enhancement through preparation, and the impact of formats on taste. Craveability, in its most basic form, is driven by the desire to experience and enjoy flavor.

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About The Author

Maeve Webster

Maeve Webster, President of Menu Matters, is a lead consultant for foodservice manufacturers and operators. She has spearheaded hundreds of major industry studies during her 16 years as a foodservice specialist, and today runs her private consultancy focused on helping manufacturers and operators analyze, understand, and leverage foodservice trends. Maeve’s expertise is in the areas of trend analysis, market assessment, consumer behavior, product testing, and brand optimization. During the past decade, Maeve was Senior Director at Datassential. During that time, she helped develop several of Datassential’s new products and programs including the company’s publications group and TrendSpotting package, headed the company’s health & wellness group, and participated in several industry initiatives including the Culinary Institute of America’s Healthy Menu R&D Collaborative. She is a regular speaker at top industry events and has contributed to major media outlets including The Wall Street Journal, NPR, CNBC, MSNBC and CBS. She regularly contributes to several industry publications including Flavor & the Menu. Maeve earned her MBA at the University of Illinois, and holds a culinary degree from Le Cordon Bleu in Chicago.