Les Dames d’Escoffier International (LDEI) Conference
International Foodservice Editorial Council (IFEC) Conference
Two conferences that attract the food industry’s opinion leaders convened during two consecutive weeks this month. LDEI was held in Austin, a city well known for Latin flavors. IFEC was held in Portland, Oregon, the hometown of James Beard and a city that celebrates local food and beverage and responsible production. These diverse groups of culinary professionals in the food, fine wine and hospitality industry had a lot to taste, explore and debate about the hot topics, the latest trends and the future of food.
There was much talk of emerging trends including:
- Unpretentious Food – speaks to the desire for pure food, plain and simple and the educated consumer who revels in their own knowledge of what they like to eat and drink.
- Eastern European – cuisines and food cultures are expected to gain new attention.
- Old as New – from heirloom produce to ancient grains, contemporary consumers are interested in stepping back in time.
- American Regional Cooking – is gaining favor as the quest for local food experiences continues to grow and consumers understand that the same menu item available anywhere in the country is less exciting than something unique to the locale in which it is served.
- Sustainability – is becoming better understood as consumers seek out food that is better for them and gentle on the planet.
- Accessibility – is just as much about on-demand satisfaction as it is about eliminating barriers between producers and consumers; whether it’s a farmer or a chef, consumers crave connection.
- Seductively Healthy Food – appeals to consumers who are interested in delicious and healthful food without compromise.
Food and wine pairings hold a seemingly endless opportunity to delight diners. Yet less expected pairings presented in tasting sessions demonstrated the untapped opportunity to surprise and delight.
Beer and cheese is not a new idea, but the approach taken in a pairing session led by the Global Cheese Buyer from Whole Foods dashed traditional expectations. A robust stout was paired with a flavorful blue cheese with delicious results. Yet that same stout paired with a fresh chevre wrapped in a bourbon chestnut leaf surprised and delighted participants with a completely different experience.
Connecting to the Land
Farmers and cheesemakers have joined winemakers and chefs as the trend-setting icons of the food business. Consumers want to be able to trust the foods they eat and there is little more trustworthy than a producer who is passionate, knowledgeable and connected to the land. More and more culinary professionals are taking on more than one of these titles.
Chef driven/farm driven menus are driving the conversation and the consumer’s appetite as farm restaurants become the latest trend. These are restaurants located on farms across the country offering ultra-local flavors that celebrate the region’s terroir.
The discussion of what is in and what is out changes from year to year among culinary opinion leaders. The latest darling of the food and beverage business is just as likely to be a new variation of a long time favorite, a succulent new super fruit, a new package or a new image for a pantry staple that’s lost its luster.
The biggest re-imaging campaign underway is a fictitious campaign for broccoli featured in the New York Times Magazine on November 3rd, positioning broccoli as less pretentious than kale, eschewing the idea that super foods have to be super-trendy and suggesting that consumers google “broccoli versus kale” to learn more.
Conversation about food trucks continues to captivate the industry. Chefs muse about the potential to pilot new ideas that might lead to a brick and mortar dream restaurant and editorial calendars for the coming year plan to continue coverage of this segment. Portland, Oregon is a city that inspired this trend years ago, and a look around the city today speaks more of permanency than mobility. Many food trucks have been parked in the same lots where they started years ago along with others forming an outdoor food court.
What captivates the industry with this micro segment seems to be the ability to innovate at record speed with small, flexible, go-anywhere formats. Big brands are now using food trucks to connect with their consumers on a much more personal level by taking some of their favorites on the road. The food truck may be more of media vehicle than market segment in this case and the idea is reminiscent of the Oscar Mayer wiener mobile that made its debut in 1936.
Taste Talk Tweet
Dames tweeted about raising over $12k to support culinary scholarships and community programs in Austin, the coronation of this year’s Grand Dame, Dolores Cakebread, as well as retweeting proverbs from sessions such as “Be a student AND a teacher. Can’t do one without the other,” and “Culinary knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit – culinary wisdom is knowing that it doesn’t belong in a fruit salad.”
At IFEC tweets included similarities of oysters and wines, noting they both have different flavors based on the bay or microclimate where they originated. Posts mentioned the new term “merrior,” coined to denote unique flavors from the ocean, and Portland’s foodie culture also garnered attention with stats like Portland having more breweries than any other U.S. city and farmer’s markets amassing larger crowds than pro basketball games.
If you want to follow our observations on the latest global innovations in signature brands from the Private Label Trade Show (PLMA), November 17-19, in real time go to http://twitter.com/OlsonComm.
Implications for Food Marketers
- Creative Innovation – independent chefs are feeding the consumer’s desire for a never ending stream of creative new things to eat and drink.
- Real Experiences – consumers are interested in authentic experiences when it comes to food, savoring the flavor and satisfaction more than the show.
- Breaking Barriers – chefs are finding ways to bring their food direct to consumers, eliminating barriers with food trucks, pop-up restaurants and special culinary events.
- DIY Captivates Consumers – consumers enjoy learning about food and beverage and using that knowledge to customize their experiences based on their own taste.