The place to learn about food and foodservice trends this summer was the Texas Restaurant Association’s Southwest Foodservice Expo.  The Iceologists were thrilled to participate in the TRA’s Expo in July!  Over 700 exhibitors and 12,000+ attendees filled the Dallas Convention Center for 2 full days of food and fun.

Vendors ranged from equipment and services to technology and uniforms.  But the big draw was the food vendors. You couldn’t walk down an aisle without being tempted by pizza, margaritas, chocolates, gourmet coffees, smoked salmon or hot dogs.  Baked goods, fried foods, creative cocktails and small farm gourmet produce satisfied attendees’ stomachs.

Food and foodservice trends evolve. Frozen yogurt was huge in the ’80’s and has had a revival in recent years.  Foodservice using martini glasses as vessels for salads and appetizers was once a fad. Now it’s passe.

What are the most current trends in food, foodservice and menu development?

Gluten-Free

Many booths were filled with new food ideas featuring gluten-free products.  Gluten-free pizza dough, muffins, pancake mix and bread selections filled multiple booths.  Some of these products are available retail at places like Whole Foods and others are specifically made for restaurant applications.

As more and more people have become aware of Celiac Disease and related issues, getting rid of gluten is a hot trend on menus and in retail establishments.  Fresh Brothers Pizza was recently named “Independent Pizzeria of the Year”, according to Pizza Today, and they offer a gluten-free crust option.

Natural Sweeteners

Corn syrup has become a profane phrase for many.  Increasingly, diners and shoppers are steering away from anything with corn syrup.  Sure it’s sweet, but has no redeeming nutritional qualities and according to some doctors, is actually detrimental to one’s health.

Stevia is a hot item in the natural sweeteners category.  In the booth next to ours at TRA’s Southwest Foodservice Expo was Jera Farms, a company that grows stevia and adds it directly to the tea bags as they are being produced.  Just brew the tea and it’s infused with a light sweetness.

Cocktail mixes with natural sweeteners were abundant at the Expo.  Everyone wants to be healthier, even as they sip on a cocktail!

Naturally Fed and Chemical-Free Meats

Grass-fed, free-range or free-roaming and hormone-free are what many diner’s are gravitating towards.  As people become more informed about their food sources, they want a cleaner product and farmers and ranchers are accommodating.  Small ranchers are raising beef with various feed and free of antibiotics.  They are raising specialized breeds and consumers are eating it up.

Mini-Desserts

Bakers were showcasing mini-cakes, mini-cupcakes, mini-trifles and mini-cheesecakes.  They’re all visually appealing (because they’re cute!).  Pre-portioned, single-serving desserts are popular with diners & restaurant owners.

Smoked meats/fish and BBQ were also popular at the Expo.  The aroma in the convention center was intoxicating!  Baked goods meets BBQ!

What trends in foodservice, food and menus have you seen this summer?  We’d love to hear from you.  Stay cool!