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How to Spot Food Trends

Food Trends, Foodservice

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You probably knew of the avocado toast trend in 2019, before it became completely ubiquitous, but were you watching it 10 years ago? While we typically spot trends by looking at what’s happening today, using the menu adoption cycle (MAC) we can actually predict food trends that will define the landscape in the next several years.

Read on to learn more about food trends and how they’re defined so you can anticipate future trends to get the most out of them.


Food trends follow a common lifecycle

Food trends follow a predictable journey, separated into four stages: inception, adoption, proliferation, and ubiquity. We call this journey the menu adoption cycle and it is incredibly effective at predicting the newest food trends.

After being introduced (inception), a trend will begin getting traction (adoption). Once it finds its way onto most menus (proliferation), it’s not long before the trend reaches ubiquity, meaning you can find it just about anywhere. 


What’s the difference between fads & trends?

Understanding the difference between fads and trends is enormously helpful in predicting the future course of a potential trend. As a rule of thumb, fads are more media-driven, they experience hyper-growth, and the true need is limited. On the flip, trends experience organic growth and represent a greater underlying need.


Trends are catalyzed by away-from-home experiences

We call the journey trends follow the MAC because trends start on menus at restaurants. Even though most meals are consumed at home, the majority of US consumers’ food preferences are driven by what they encounter on restaurant menus.


Predicting the future

In order to understand a trend and where it’s going, you must first understand where it is. Looking at how a trend has fared in the last year—or three or five—provides a decent indicator of performance for the next five years. Historical trend data provides a foundation for predictive data to anticipate future growth.

Instead of waiting for a specific trend to make the jump into proliferation or ubiquity, spotting this early on will give you time to get ready to act at a critical point in the trans’s evolution, aligning it with your innovation.

An organization-wide commitment is required to get the most out of these trends. Organizations that adopt trends earlier in the MAC will have a better opportunity to capitalize, while organizations that wait too long risk letting trends pass by. Capitalizing on a trend too late can impact brand perception, causing them to appear tired and old.


Don’t let trends pass you by. Familiarize yourself with the menu adoption cycle so you can begin anticipating and capitalizing on trends in the food industry.