Superfoods: what’s trending and how to deliver the wow-factor

Superfoods: what’s trending and how to deliver the wow-factor

Ian Nottage
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As superfoods rank among the two biggest food trends most likely to make an impact in 2016, we find out from Reynolds’ chef director, Ian Nottage, which green veggies are in vogue, and how to inject colour into menus, replace calories with antioxidants and generally make food ever more ‘super’

According to a 2015 report by the European Fresh Produce Association, Freshfel, the consumption of fresh produce per capita in the UK is amongst the lowest in the European Union (EU).

What’s more, despite endless lobbying by government and other bodies, only one in five British consumers are estimated to achieve their recommended ‘five a day’. Even so, the government has just recently revised its advice, with Public Health England suggesting that we now eat ‘at least five’ portions of fruit and vegetables every day.

Superfood eating-out on the rise

But, is the foodservice arena bucking the national trend? Well, at Reynolds, we think it is and there is no doubt that demand for functional foods is gathering pace in the UK eating-out market too. We believe this because, even though there are no official figures to support the view, we see the trends within our own sales data. Sweet potatoes, purple sprouting broccoli, pomegranates and blueberries – all holders of superfood status – continue to grow in importance year after year.

And, of course, because the food development team here works very closely with our customers, we are often part of the decision-making process. It’s our job to flag up the next big thing; to suggest what items pair well together; to come up with innovative and exciting menu items that will deliver that all important ‘wow-factor’ and be ‘on-trend’.

Without a doubt, top of the list of requirements are nutritionally-rich fruit and vegetables, or functional foods. Even though the term superfood is subjective, it is what everyone is talking about now and will continue to derive interest in the future.

What’s around the corner?

The focus on brassicas over recent years has been nothing short of astounding, with chefs and foodies exploring new and innovative ways to get as many greens on the menu as possible. Cauliflower couscous, green smoothies and kale crisps are just some of the trends now going mainstream.

In particular, the increased demand for kale has been well documented and some operators are now looking to take the trend a step further by looking for distinctive varieties, such as Red Russian or Redbor kale. Baby kale is another great product, especially as it enables the chef to take this great brassica into the salad arena, without all of the preparation.

The humble Brussels sprout, which is packed full of nutrients, is now a staple menu item in restaurants across the US, included in salads, slaws and smoothies alike. Here in the UK, the sprout has pretty much remained a traditional Christmas dinner accompaniment and not much more. However, we think that with consumers demanding produce with provenance wherever possible, the popularity is likely to increase here too, especially given its suitability to farming in the UK.

If you haven’t heard of Kalettes yet, where have you been hiding? Originally titled flower sprouts in the UK, this brand new vegetable is a brassica hybrid which reportedly took 15 years to develop in the US. Described as being a cross between Brussels sprouts and kale, with a sweet and nutty flavour, Kalettes are definitely one of the next big things!

Lesser-known citrus fruits are also the talk of the kitchen currently, with bergamot, yuzu, pomelo, limequat and blood orange featuring on menus across the UK – and not just in desserts, but within salads, dressings and side dishes. These fruits deliver bold flavours alongside high levels of vitamin C and antioxidants, but watch out because many of these fruits aren’t available all year round and supplies are often very limited. In fact, seasonality and scarcity are definitely part of the appeal.

Appealing colours

Something else which appeals is colour, as it’s well documented that most people ‘eat with their eyes’. Nutritional experts report that each coloured fruit and vegetable is particularly rich in different phytonutrients, which all play different roles in the body such as being anti-inflammatory, protecting cells from damage, or supporting the immune system. It follows therefore, that by consuming a wide range of colours in your diet, you help to optimise your health – eat the rainbow if you like.

Taking this thought one step further, we see food colour playing an increasing role in menus and dishes. Purple or orange salads are likely to be coming to a high street near you soon, alongside the humble green salad!

Hidden produce

And the use of ‘hidden’ vegetables in cakes and desserts is only going to increase in popularity. We’ve been adding beetroot to brownies and parsnips to cupcakes at Reynolds for years, but expect this to move on, with bolder flavours and more unusual flavour combinations. Adding fibre and some nutrition to a pudding may not make it healthy, but at least it’s healthier and it offers genuine menu appeal. 

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