Every season features notable ingredient stars, however as dishes become more complex and layered, it’s becoming more difficult to pinpoint just one seasonal ingredient per dish. Research from Mintel Menu Insight demonstrates that as seasonal ingredient claims decreased seasonal menu item claims increased between Q4 2012 and Q4 2015.

This shift demonstrates that consumers have become so aware of connecting specific ingredients with key seasons that the name of the ingredient itself represents a seasonal claim. The second a consumer sees pumpkin they’re automatically going to think of fall.

On the other hand, there is also a growing popularity of ingredients that can’t be pinpointed to a specific season. Avocados and mushrooms, which are grown all year long, remain popular throughout every season. Mushrooms mentions have increased 3% from Q4 2012 to Q4 2015, and avocados have increased 28%. Since these popular ingredients don’t represent a specific season, the dishes themselves create the seasonal focus. This can be seen through mushroom soups in the fall and winter and mushroom salads in the spring and summer.

Similarly, sweet potatoes were once solely associated with fall, but have now found a sweet spot on menus all year long. Seasonal ingredients still remain a very important aspect of dishes; however, as the definition of seasonal ingredients continues to shift, the dish itself is where restaurants are promoting seasonal cues.

The above research and analysis is from Mintel Menu Insight report, The Seasonal Menu: A Roadmap for Fall 2016, which leverages a variety of Mintel resources including, Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD), Mintel Reports and social media trends to provide a 365 degree story to serve as a roadmap for the upcoming fall season planning. 

The Fall Report is the first of four quarterly reports to be published in 2016. Stay tuned for the Winter Report coming later this summer. Mintel clients should contact their account manager for more information or can view the full repot on Mintel Menu Insight.

Diana Kelter is a Foodservice Analyst at Mintel, specializing in Mintel Menu Insights. In her role, Diana takes a full-circle approach to foodservice trends by looking at various influences impacting restaurant menus.

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