CHICAGO — Mintel Menu Insights has named eight trends that will influence menus in 2008 including the following:
• Superspices are the new superfruits — In 2007, superfruits such as pomegranates, blueberries and acai berries did well on menus. The trend toward high antioxidant foods will continue with "superspices" such as cumin, ginger, cinnamon and tumeric coming to menus. These foods may have more antioxidant and medicinal potential than superfruits.
• Snack attack — Small portions, big flavors and low prices are expected to draw consumers to snacking options at restaurants. It is expected that menus will expand "mini" food options to include more than just mini-burgers and wraps.
• Fine fast food — Fast-food options are becoming classier with more celebrity chefs investing in fast-casual operations with quality food, fine cooking and bold flavors. Bobby Flay, Rick Bayless and Wolfgang Puck already are involved in this trend, and more celebrity chefs are expected to join.
• Grain goodness — Nutritious grains are expected to grow on menus, using options such as kamut, quinoa, barley and millet.
• Ingredient provenance — Many Americans are more carefully considering where foods come from as food safety and ecological issues have been in the news recently. Restaurants are using more local ingredients, more natural and organic menu items and including more sourcing information on the menu.
• Bulking up the bar — Restaurants are expected to add more flavorful cocktails and more savory appetizers.
• The return of the classic cocktail — Classic cocktails such as the Sidecar, Manhattan, Bellini and Tom Collins are increasing in popularity.
• Mocktails rock — There is an increased demand for better non-alcoholic options with the same flavors as options on the cocktail menu.
"Everyone’s looking for the next breakthrough item, the next mini-burger appetizer, mojito or pomegranate flavor," said Maria Caranfa, director of Mintel Menu Insights. "This year, we expect to see new twists on already popular items, giving people more flavors and options for the foods they love. Restaurants will get more creative with foods and preparation techniques as they attempt to cater to Americans evolving tastes."