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The business of food is changing. The age of ‘chicken, fish or veggie’ is thankfully long gone, but with it are a myriad of different requests, emotional baggage and a more discerning and heavily informed guest to your event.

Event planners need to stay up to date with the latest in food trends, so they can begin to design menus and food options that play into a new kind of delegate. The good news is that those that do will benefit from better feedback from their guests and a chance to show them that they care, that they empathise and that they really do, spend their lives thinking about delegate experience.

So, before you do anything, see below our top menu trends of 2018 so far …

1. Waste Not, Want Not

There’s increasing pressure on the world's resources and growing awareness, and concern, about sustainability and the impacts of waste. Menus focused on achieving zero waste are appealing to sustainably-minded delegates and, with around 40 percent of food produced for our consumption never reaching a human stomach, your event could be #thedifference. Equally, clever menu designs that use whole products and unfamiliar cuts of meat are becoming increasingly popular and will speak to a more CRS aware delegation. Working with your catering team to Identify menu items that have the most leftovers will ensure you reduce the quantity of waste whilst reducing food costs for everyone

2. Functional Colourful

Consumers are continuing their love affair with ‘instagramable’ foods, and for the ultimate compliment for your event food a colourful plate that forces a picture, a tweet or a like, colour is a must. ‘Millennial pink’ emerged around 2012, and this year purple is set to take over as the colour of choice; ingredients such as purple yam, popular in Filipino dishes, will be popping up all over social media feeds. Black foods such as Black garlic, packed with antioxidants, will also making its way onto contemporary menus.

There’s also huge potential this year for food and drink to involve more of the senses through colour, shape, and fragrance. All the senses will become involved as the sound, feel, and texture become more important to brands and businesses that create experiences – so, watch out for a colourful plate, coming to an event near you …

3. Hyper Personalisation

There is a growing trend of consumers knowing, and expecting to be told, about where their food is coming from; the impact of food on health and wellbeing combines with food intolerances, means your guests are increasingly looking for more choice, and hence a more hyper-personal experience.

Veganism is bigger than ever; there are around 550,000 vegans in the UK, up 360% over the past 10 years and ‘Eat’ named veganism as a top consumer trend in 2018.

However, personalisation is not just about the food but also the experience that consumers want to have. In August 2017, Monarch Airlines introduced a mood-enhancing food menu to create a calmer in-flight experience for passengers. The Mood Food box featured Echinacea and liquorice ice cream to boost immunity, green tea and lavender cakes to improve relaxation, and herbal tea to reduce bloating. So, how do we really want our guests to feel and what can we feed them to back this up?

4. Not too Sweet flavours

Everyone is turning their backs on sugar-filled products. 15% of consumers are interested in bakery items featuring savoury flavours and, as a result, desserts are leaning towards more savoury and smoky flavours. Olive oil as a flavour in desserts grew in popularity this year and chefs are increasingly creating homemade vinegars from fruit and vegetable scraps, turning food waste into tart dressings all courses even desserts. Tart, tangy flavours like lemon and passion fruit are some of the top growing flavours. Among UK ice cream eaters, almost one third (32%) say ‘low sugar’ would encourage them to have more ice cream.

5. Middle Eastern influences such as Persian, Israeli, Moroccan, Syrian and Lebanese are on the rise

Earlier this year Whole Foods predicted, “… consumers are ready to explore the deep traditions, regional nuances, and classic ingredients of Middle Eastern cultures, with Persian, Israeli, Moroccan, Syrian, and Lebanese influences rising to the top.”

Ingredients such as Dates, and Pistachios, Pomegranate, Eggplant Cucumber, Tahini are growing in popularity. Mint increased as both an alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverage ingredient. Waitrose reported that preserved lemons, used in many Middle Eastern dishes, have seen a 72% rise in sales on last year, and spicy sauce harissa has also seen a 62% rise. Sumac, a less traditional ingredient, with a tart flavour, has been on Waitrose shelves for 11 years, but over the last year, sales have grown 23%.

The trend here isn’t just about middle eastern flavours, it’s also about a more adventurous consumer, and one who is keen to try new things; there is a big opportunity for brave event organisers who embrace this trend.

6. Seaweed & Algae

Yup, you heard. 79% of consumers are open to trying new types of cuisines they’ve not had before and underappreciated ingredients such as seaweed and algae are starting to appear as a result of consumers’ desire for innovative and unusual flavours and experiences. 36% of millennials are embracing meat alternatives and nutrient-dense vegetables from the sea, like kelp and spirulina, are now finding their way into a wider variety of new food and beverage products due to their nutritional benefits and eye-catching natural source of colour.

7. Tech

This year we’ve also seen a rise in tech led catering, from tablet ordering, interactive dining areas to Chef Cams, where diners can watch their dishes being made. Reportedly, consumers are more likely to use technology-related options during a dining experience now than they did just two years ago.

Guests are also demanding effortless transparency when it comes to the food on their plates, a place where can tech can really help. Two thirds (67%) of consumers want to know the nutritional information of every dish on the menu. Language and descriptions identifying ingredients are also extremely important and clear unpretentious descriptions are becoming increasingly important for retaining consumer trust and loyalty with 44% of consumers saying they’d be motivated to try an unfamiliar flavour if it has detailed descriptions on the menu, a menu app is an interactive and interesting way to give them this information and create piece of mind as well as engagement

8. Hyper-local

Consumers are losing trust in the industrial food system and mass production this year has seen as increasing demand for fresh local produce. Just like location and flavours, guests are looking to experience something out of the usual. Beer and wine from nearby microbreweries and distilleries will provide your guests with a truly local experience.

Also, with as the world's population predicted to reach 10 billion people by 2050, urban farming presents a sustainable alternative to traditional farming techniques and the transportation of food. 42% of all event feedback Is about the food. It’s what everyone loves to talk about. We’re excited by the great culinary experiences that we create for our customers every day because it’s the food and drink that bring our portfolio of unusual venues together.

At Lime Venue Portfolio venues we deliver fresh, creative and seasonal dishes as the perfect accompaniment to the inspirational setting of the venue, because we know that food and drink not only helps make lasting memories but can make the difference between your event being good and your event being great.

Find out more about our award-winning catering partners here.

Stats from Mintel http://www.mintel.com/

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