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.

Decadence and Prudence… In Words

While craveability has often been associated with more indulgent offerings, modern consumers are increasingly craving more restrained or—dare we suggest it—healthier options. Where chips, fries, candy, and ice cream may have ruled the world of cravings previously, poke bowls and produce-forward dishes are just as likely to be craveable to today’s consumer.

We’ve moved into a new world of eating behavior. If that wasn’t true, then produce would not be playing the role it now is. Have we become a country that eschews meat for vegetables and now is more likely to crave salads over duck-fat fries? No, that’s certainly not the case. But consumers have shown that high-protein or nutrient-dense options can be as craveable as caramelized onions and Death by Chocolate. Thanks to the veg-centric trend that promotes strategic flavor-building, carrots become an irresistible bar bite, maybe ember-roasted and glazed with harissa, then finished with dollops of burrata.

Consumers also now crave a lack of guilt when eating. For years, guilt has been woven into food experiences as the government and the healthcare industries worked to shift consumer behavior in an effort to positively impact the obesity epidemic. Consumers are tired of feeling guilt when eating. It has not necessarily shifted behavior back to an “I don’t care, I’ll eat what I want” mentality, but it has driven consumers to crave options that make them feel better about their choices.

This has helped usher in organic and the peripheral sustainability-oriented options that allow consumers to feel good about what they are eating. Wild-caught, grass-fed and foraged suggest health and sustainability, imply premium value and elevate positive feelings about the food we eat. Feeling good about what you order—that’s craveable.

One form of craving includes the need to feel good about your food. High-flavor, low-guilt foods have added appeal, like this Cedar Plank Roasted Miso Peanut Butter Fish.National Peanut Board

One form of craving includes the need to feel good about your food. High-flavor, low-guilt foods have added appeal, like this Cedar Plank Roasted Miso Peanut Butter Fish.

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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.