Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

By Flavor & The Menu
April 27, 2023

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When it comes to craveability, few menu categories start as high on the scale as the handheld. At its most fundamental—a protein, toppings and condiments tucked within bread—the handheld provides the palate with a generally satisfying mix of flavors and textures. And with thoughtful curation of high-impact ingredients applied to the build, the crave factor is amplified exponentially.

With this awareness top of mind, operators of a wide range of cuisines and concepts make it a point to feature at least one or two handhelds on their menus. But it would be unwise to merely lean on those stalwarts and disregard opportunities for innovation here. Savvy consumers keep upping the ante, seeking handhelds that exceed their crave expectations again and again. Thanks to a range of consumer drivers, including television and social media, handhelds have been the focus of an ongoing one-upmanship competition in craveable culinary creativity. Chefs and menu developers in this game are dialing up the crave factor with every component in the build, including the bread.

A Better Brioche

Whether your handhelds are fully loaded, Dagwood-style, or a study in flavor-forward minimalism, they will benefit from a premium bun, one that signals gourmet flavor and quality, while serving as a secure carrier.

“As a format, handhelds are growing in popularity and price point due to more creative recipes and preparations,” says Brie Buenning, Marketing Director, La Brea Bakery. “We are seeing a renaissance in highly flavorful sauces, as well as texture-forward creations. These trends demand bread that is sturdy while maintaining subtle, nuanced flavors, complementing bolder ones.” Plus, she adds, “As delivery and takeout continue to grow with explosive speed, artisan breads that can travel well without compromising the eating experience are essential.”

Operators will also benefit from a premium bun that serves up trending health halos. And make no mistake: More than half of all consumers consider plant-based items slightly or much healthier alternatives, finds Technomic. In fact, plant-based foods continue to gain traction with diners. The research firm reports that 27% of Gen Z (and 21% of all consumers) are integrating plant-based foods into meals more routinely than they did two years ago.

When restaurants market that premium bun, they can expect to increase check rings. According to Technomic, 58% of patrons say they will pay more for premium bread sandwiches. Brioche, a particular go-to for specialty burgers and chicken sandwiches, can deliver 30% higher price points. Finally, factor in consumer brand recognition for La Brea Bakery and its retail lineup of artisan offerings made with high-quality ingredients and minimal processing.

Leaning into ongoing and emerging trends, La Brea Bakery has introduced a new Plant-Based Brioche. Buttery, rich, mildly sweet and full of flavor, it features a tender crumb that’s hearty enough to hold up the juiciest sandwich builds. While Certified Vegan by the American Vegetarian Association, this new Brioche is an ideal carrier for flexitarian menus, pairing well with meats and veggies alike, and providing operators with coveted versatility.

Crowning Achievement

The La Brea Bakery Plant-Based Brioche is well-suited for top-tier menu innovations, like these flavor-forward inspirations:


Gorgonzola Stuffed Steakhouse Burger

This dish is all about the crave, says Jonathan Davis, VP of Culinary Innovation, La Brea Bakery, citing Instagram-worthy visual cues, as well as distinctive taste. Toasted, the brioche holds up, even when stuffed with melty cheese. “The subtle, sweet buttery flavor of the bun complements the rich, salty Gorgonzola,” he says. “Steakhouse means big and bold, and that’s exactly what our bun can handle.”


Honey Habanero Crispy Chicken Sandwich with Margarita Pickles.

Davis draws comparisons between crispy fried chicken sandwiches and avocado toast, noting that both enjoy an enduring staying power with diners and unlimited flavor potential. “In this handheld, we wanted to create a flavor profile that’s different than Nashville-style, but still plays into the hot category, resulting in the Honey Habanero. Brining the pickles in lime, salt and agave reinforces the theme.”


Classic Fried Egg Sandwich

“The best breakfast sandwiches feature a soft yolk,” says Davis of this simple, but iconic, dish. “It takes quality bread to keep the yolk in the sandwich and not spilling over to the plate or on hands. Our brioche can absorb a runny yolk, while providing a soft bite.”


Double Smash Ranch Burger

“Smash burgers are all about texture and umami,” says Davis. “Another important element is a properly toasted bun, one that adds a caramelized crunch on the buttery edges.”


Smoked Gouda and Bacon Brioche Bread Pudding

A premium brioche can offer extended menu versatility beyond the handheld. Here, it delivers a silky, custard-like texture that stands out in a savory bread pudding, says Davis. “The bacon and the smoke of the Gouda easily infuse into the bread for a delicious, fully integrated bite.” Brioche also can produce delicious breadcrumbs for pastas, veggies and side dishes, along with croutons that pair well with Caesar or ranch dressing on salads. Davis also recommends brioche for French toast sticks.

If the flavor swagger of next-level handhelds is a brand imperative for your operation, pay careful attention to the impact of every ingredient, from condiment to carrier. A premium bread can help you prevail in the crave game.

For more information on the La Brea Bakery Plant-Based Brioche Bun, and recipe inspirations, please visit www.labreabakery.com/plantbasedbrioche.



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