Spring is bringing bushels of fresh salad ideas to menus. Strawberry has been a popular salad ingredient over the past few years, and the trend continues this year with reappearing annual favorites and new versions cropping up as LTOs.

  • Bakers Square – Strawberry Grilled Chicken Salad: Grilled chicken over mixed greens and tossed with Bleu cheese crumbles, walnuts, fresh strawberries, red onion in our house-made strawberry vinaigrette.
  • Cracker Barrel – Grilled Chicken n’ Strawberry Salad: Grilled chicken tenderloins and fresh baby spinach tossed with fresh strawberries, Gala apples, chopped almonds, hickory-smoked bacon, red onions, blue cheese crumbles, and our own Country Pepper Vinaigrette.
  • Culver’s – Strawberry Fields Salad: Crisp salad greens with our grilled chicken, grape tomatoes, fresh strawberries, bleu cheese crumbles, topped with lightly salted pecans.
  • Daphne’s California Greek – Chicken Strawberry Salad: Fresh, sliced strawberries atop a bed of mixed greens tossed with roasted chicken, candied walnuts, dried cranberries, feta cheese and balsamic hummus dressing.
  • T.G.I. Friday’s-Strawberry Fields Salad: A summer salad so loved we had to bring it back! Fresh balsamic-marinated strawberries, shaved Parmesan, goat cheese and glazed pecans served over mixed greens tossed with balsamic vinaigrette dressing.

Beyond the strawberry fields, other upscale salad ingredients (kale, charred tomato, beets) are bringing new interest to produce. New sides dishes, salads and sandwiches are creating better-for-you (BFY) options highly craveable.

  • Boston Market – Garlicky Lemon Spinach: Tender spinach leaves steamed to perfection with lemon and garlic.
  • California Pizza Kitchen – Spring Market Vegetable Salad: Fields greens and purple kale with green apples, red radishes, cider plumped raisins, spring peas and toasted pecans. Tossed with housemade honey Greek yogurt vinaigrette.
  • Chick-fil-A – Side Salad: A fresh bed of chopped romaine lettuce, topped with shredded red cabbage and carrots, a blend of shredded Monterey Jack and cheddar cheeses and grape tomatoes. Served with Charred Tomato Crispy Red Bell Peppers and choice of dressing. The side salad has 80 calories, 4.5 grams of fat and is offered as an alternative to Waffle Potato Fries in any Chick-fil-A Meal combination.
  • Corner Bakery – Roasted Veggie Sandwich: Comprises the new bread potato-thyme and goat cheese spread with roasted zucchini, artichokes, tomatoes, balsamic onions and arugula.
  • McAlister’s Deli-Roasted Veggie Griller: Made with Brie cheese, pesto sauce, roasted eggplant, zucchini and peppers on grilled focaccia bread.
  • Noodles & Company-Asparagus Stack: Tops the vegetable with feta cheese and crumbled bacon.
  • Starbucks- Hearty Veggie & Brown Rice Salad Bowl: Tossed roasted butternut squash, beets, kale, red cabbage, steamed broccoli florets and garden peas with lemon tahini dressing.

Another notable trend is the way chains are tweaking best-sellers to make them slightly BFY, a pattern Mintel sees continuing as calories counts and consumer demand put lower calorie and nutritious ingredients in the spotlight.

  • Dunkin’ Donuts-Turkey Sausage Breakfast Sandwich: The option is under 400 calories and includes a fried egg topped with turkey sausage and a slice of reduced fat Cheddar cheese. It is served on an oven-toasted English Muffin.
  • McDonald’s-Egg White Delight McMuffin: Make your morning with 100%, freshly grilled egg whites, extra lean Canadian bacon and smooth white Cheddar, stacked on a toasted English muffin made with eight grams of whole grain.
  • McDonald’s-Premium McWrap: Choose from three different flavors in grilled or crispy. Chicken and Bacon, Chicken and Ranch, or Sweet Chili Chicken. All wraps are made with chicken breast filet, gorgeous fresh vegetables and served in a soft, warm tortilla.

Mintel Insights:

Pick the Next Crop: Fruit has become a standard salad ingredient; look beyond the current hits to predict the next great variety – pineapple and mango are gathering steam.

Add to the Extras: Roasting or charring vegetables, using Greek yogurt and switching to whole grains are a few ways to add BFY appeal.

Keep it Trim: Whittling calories and adding BFY ingredients gives a new sheen to old favorites, like breakfast sandwiches and chicken wraps.

To learn more about other menu trends, click here.

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