Keeping Up to Date with the Latest Food Trends
The Food and Beverage (F&B) industry is a rich and vibrant one – influenced not only by cuisines from across the globe, but also by consumer tastes and ever-changingtechnologies that bring new innovations in food preparation and availability – and often change the focus of the entire market from wholesaler to consumer.
Unlike many other markets, the F&B industry is subject to a lot of fluctuation and changing trends throughout the year; this can make it extremely difficult for businesses to know what and where they should be investing their time, energy and money – between 2016 and 2017 alone, there were expert made predictions for at least 10 major global trend changes, and over 100 smaller ones.
As an F&B business, you need to have your finger on the pulse – but where do you start?
How do you determine what will become an established trend, and what is likely to be a passing fad?
Which trends will you implement that suit your business plans and goals?
Where will you look to discover what trends are up and coming?
‘49% of people say they rely on recommendations from Influencers when making purchase decisions.’
Deciding what factors you are going to take into consideration, which trends are viable for your business to implement, and what would benefit your bottom line means that these decisions cannot be taken lightly.
What’s the difference between a Trend and a Fad?
A trend is a shift – it could be in thinking, application or attitudes towards certain foods and dining experiences. It is something that will likely have a long term impact on the market and plays a large role in influencing your customers.
A fad however, is a short term fascination with an idea, product or experience – it may produce a short term financial boom, but once a new innovation or idea comes along, it will be abandoned by consumers and be mostly ignored thereafter. If you intend to adopt a particular fad, you need to be fully aware of how much momentum it has, and when it starts to decline – if you don’t leave before the market falls out, you could lose money and take reputational damage.
Why is Recognizing Trends important?
Trends can act as a benchmark – revealing a company’s sensitivity towards consumer wants and needs. By showing awareness of current trends, a business is essentially telling its customers that they understand what they want, and are an up-to-date, desirable establishment.
But determining how or if your company should adopt a current trend is a complex issue.
If your venue, for example, has a long history of providing rich and luxurious foods which use full fat produce, it may not be compatible with a shift towards healthier eating – yet a wholesale overhaul of your menu could be seen as a betrayal of the traditions and history of your establishment, which may upset loyal customers.
Providing a healthy eating addition to your menu could show that your business recognizes changes in consumer attitudes – and caters for it. This is then done without sacrificing the products that bought your loyal customers to you in the first place.
‘What’s important to note is that trends will come and go – restaurants need to find their core, their substance, their story’
– Food Sheikh
To truly understand your audience and what they want from your business, you need to know who they are engaging with – to understand what Influencers are driving their culinary desires, and how those Influencers themselves are being influenced.
Who and What are Influencers?
Influencers are those people whose opinions are sought after, and can have a large long-lasting impact not only on the type of food that is popular, but the public opinion of your establishment.
Some of the most popular types of Direct Influencers are Bloggers and Vloggers (Video Bloggers). These individuals are highly connected and are very aware of what consumer opinion changes are happening, and can directly influence coming trends.
These people don’t just review the food they are presented with (although this of course is part of it) – they also look at the establishment as a whole – how they have been treated by the service staff, what sort of timescale they were served in, how the ambience and atmosphere affected their meal, the hygiene and cleanliness of the venue, and many other considerations.
Then they share their thoughts regarding their experience as a whole with their online following.
‘F&B business need to serve the best of what they have to offer and give customers the best experience whenever they visit their restaurant, whether they are busy or not. Sometimes quality changes affect customers more than quantity changes.’
– Zubiya Sheikh
Connecting with the right Influencer is an important step – there is a huge variety of different Bloggers and Influencers that you could connect with, but not every one of them will be the right fit for your establishment. Research needs to be undertaken to determine your customer demographic – for example: it makes no business sense to appeal to Over 50’s if your audience is in the 25-30 range.
Another major Influencer is Social Media. This is where consumers from across the globe can connect with one another, discuss new topics and trends and influence each other in their opinions. Channels such as Facebook have ‘Groups’ which allow for like-minded individuals to gather, and individual influencers (such as the Bloggers) may have their own channels which allows them to promote their opinion to a greater number of readers.
Because of the practical ‘real-time’ nature of social media, it is vital that your business is aware of any channel where it has been mentioned – if the reaction has been positive, you can show your appreciation. If the reaction has been negative, it gives you the ability to try and rectify the situation and convert the unhappy customer into a brand champion.
This real-time application also means that interested consumers are made aware of trends and changes very quickly – to capitalize on this, you need to be aware of them too.
As well as these Direct Influencers, there are Indirect Influencers – such as Food Apps and Review Sites. These channels may not directly impact the direction a trend is taking, but they provide a consumer with information regarding your venue before they ever step foot in it. Knowing how to monitor and collate data from these sites allows you to make any adjustments or alterations to your venue or service without the expense of hiring an external reviewer.
How Do You Locate Current Trends?
Bloggers and Influencers are one way of connecting with what is popular – however it is not the only way.
Understanding the key media providers for your industry is extremely important. Knowing which magazines, websites, radio and TV channels are likely to focus on food and beverage, and report on current trends will give you various streams of information you can collect data from.
Networking with others in your industry, and the industries that support yours (such as wholesale distributors and technological innovators) allows you to discuss upcoming trends and their viabilities – it gives you actionable information, and potential insights into what your competitors will be doing.
Establishing what the current trends are, discovering what is coming next, and connecting with Influencers and Market Leaders is no easy task; it takes time and effort – but it allows your brand to establish its self as forward facing and innovative – enticing customers to come and be a part of a new experience.
‘Social influencers have a very big role to play and appeal to millennials and restaurants I’ve worked with can directly see the impact of investing in social media marketing.’
– Aneesha Rai
For F&B Venues to succeed, then a digital presence and connection with Influencers is going to be vital going forward. In such a crowded market, where impact is everything – staying in front and becoming a Market Leader is more difficult than ever.
It requires extensive data-driven analytics, a highly trained bespoke team who understand what content they need to be reviewing, and the connections they need to make, and a deep understanding of what drives the consumer.
Businesses that take these factors and create a bespoke marketing plan (be it in-house or outsourced to a professional company) will be putting themselves ahead of their competition and give themselves the flexibility to shift with the market, and continue to appeal to customers – even as their wants and needs are changing.