Trendy Yet Familiar

Potatoes capitalize on the meteoric rise of foodservice

Published online: Jan 13, 2018 Articles
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This column appears in the January 2018 issue of Potato Grower.

Food sales away from retail continue to soar as more people choose to eat out, order takeout or rely on meal kit delivery services. The $871 billion foodservice industry is expected to grow 3.4 percent in 2017 as more people opt to eat out instead of cooking from scratch at home. Only 10 percent of American consumers say they “love” cooking at home, which is an all-time low and a significant driver of the growth in foodservice options. While almost all foodservice segments are experiencing growth, fast-casual, at 6.4 percent, and supermarket foodservice operations, 4.2 percent, are leading the charge as they reduce the existing tension consumers face between eating well while balancing the demands on their time.

Today’s consumers demand convenience and accessibility while also craving fresh, flavorful meal options. In turn, the foodservice channel is innovating and expanding to keep up. From food kiosks and food trucks to grocerants and meal kit delivery services, new concepts are reshaping the way consumers obtain, prepare and consume meals. Segments such as fast-casual and non-commercial are ripe with on-trend concepts, fresh ingredients and time-saving service options. However, the premium on menu innovation is causing a decline in mid-scale and family dining operations and a consolidation among chains.

The kind of food today’s consumers crave is also driving the shift to out-of-home dining, with operators catering to dietary needs such as gluten-free, vegetarian/vegan and even Paleo. Consumers—particularly millennials—are more adventurous when it comes to flavor profiles, seeking out ethnic concepts, from Korean to North African to Filipino. Once relegated only to vegetarians, veg-centric menu items now have mass appeal. Comfort foods are always a hit, but now consumers are looking for them with a modern twist.

With big changes afoot, consumers’ affinity for familiar ingredients, including potatoes, serves as an anchor for innovation and profitability. Still America’s No. 1 side dish, potatoes are a menu must for consumer satisfaction. As a versatile, globally inspired ingredient that can carry any flavor profile, potatoes are a menu cornerstone that helps blend the familiar with the exotic.

Potatoes USA is flooding the foodservice channel with inspiration. From innovative techniques like potato lo mein to trending concepts such as potato charcuterie and international flavor profiles like a North African-inspired potato tamale, we are inspiring the most influential chefs and operators from across the country. Potatoes USA enlists trendsetters like Chef Rich Landau of Philadelphia’s Vedge Restaurant, a pioneer in upscale vegetarian cuisine, to create cutting-edge potato dishes that resonate with other chefs and inspire them to rethink the potential of the potato. This inspiration is disseminated through top-tier foodservice publications, hands-on culinary innovation sessions with chain operators, a strong presence at key trade shows, and customized programs to meet the needs of school foodservice operations.

Potatoes USA is working to ensure this beloved ingredient remains a menu mainstay in its traditional forms while also serving as a canvas for culinary inspiration. The foodservice industry is evolving and potatoes are moving with the times. There is no better ingredient to offer consumers both nutritional benefits and “familiar with a twist” concepts they crave, while also helping operators stay profitable.