Local, regional claims appearing on more menus

by Keith Nunes
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CHICAGO — The incidence of the term “local” on restaurant menus has increased 13% during the past year, according to Mintel International Ltd., and the research firm sees a push toward indigenous ingredients increasing, which may take the local trend a step further.

“This extends the idea beyond geography to include other important attributes such as ‘seasonal,’ ‘traditional,’ and ‘authentic,’ especially as it relates to global cuisines,” said Kathy Hayden, food service analyst at Mintel. “Serving the best of the season communicates freshness and a ‘get-it-now’ urgency. Perhaps most importantly, indigenous ingredients help the migration away from overly processed food toward more recognizable and simpler ingredients sourced closer to home.”

The Mintel research also showed that regional dishes such as Maine lobster or New Orleans po’boy sandwiches are gaining in popularity. Specifically, the research firm noted Southern-style collard greens and black-eyed peas are showing up more frequently on menus.

Food service operators are responding to the regional trend, with companies like Burgerville, a Vancouver, Wash.-based quick-service restaurant chain, promoting that its products are made with meats, cheeses and vegetables sourced from Oregon and Washington. Mintel also cited the fried chicken chain Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen as an example of a company offering menu items with a regional flair. The Popeye’s menu emphasizes its products are made with Louisiana-sourced spices and features Cajun- and Creole-inspired meals.

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