Amanda Topper
Amanda Topper is the Director of US Research: Food, Drink, Foodservice, Flavors & Ingredients, responsible for overseeing all of Mintel’s foodservice offerings, as well as providing insight and competitive analysis across scheduled deliverables, and client and industry presentations.

Earlier this month, Mintel hosted an exclusive and immersive tasting tour and flavor application session where attendees learned how consumer behavior and market trends can shape new product development.

The day began at the Mintel office with an overview of Mintel’s 2019 US Flavor and Ingredient Trends, followed by a trolley tour to some of Chicago’s most innovative restaurants and cafes to experience these trends in action. Throughout the day, participants had the opportunity to connect and have discussions with Mintel analysts and thought leaders.

The tour’s first stop was Thattu, inside West Loop’s Politan Row food hall. Thattu specializes in cuisine from Kerala, a Southern state of India known as the “land of spices.” Here, the group sampled house-made appam (a fermented rice crepe), black chickpea curry, savory masala cookies featuring more than 20 spices and Ayurveda iced tea, all aligning with Mintel’s ‘Authentic Indian’ trend. Thattu’s owners discussed the origin of their restaurant concept and demonstrated how they make their appam.

The next stop was River North’s Ema, known for its modern interpretation of Middle Eastern fare. The group learned about Ema’s menu development and sampled a variety of spreads – both traditional and less familiar – to show the breadth of the ‘Eastern Mediterranean’ trend.

In the early afternoon, the group took a coffee break at LIMITLESS Coffee & Tea to taste several unique beverages featuring Mintel’s ‘Botanicals and Adaptogens’ trend including Charcoal and Beet Rose Lattes, as well as a Grapefruit Hibiscus Fizzy with adaptogenic schisandra berry. The group was led in discussion by LIMITLESS founder, Matt Matros, who explained the inspiration behind the local coffee chain’s menu and thoughts on trending flavors and ingredients in the coffee and tea space.

SUSHI-SAN, a Japanese-inspired casual dining concept, was our next stop where we tasted yuzu margaritas and Japanese souffle pancakes with matcha butter and Okinawa sugar, aligning with Mintel’s ‘Japanese Influence’ trend. Here, participants snapped photos of the Instagrammable menu items and learned about SUSHI-SAN’s menu, concept and the origin of ingredients directly from restaurant management.

The final stop of the day was Flora Fauna, a recently-opened restaurant with a global focus inspired by the owners’ international travels. Here, the group sampled custom-crafted kombucha cocktails as well as snacks like fried mushrooms with pineapple rum mustard and lamb tartare with fermented chili, in line with Mintel’s ‘Fermented Fare’ trend.

Interested in attending or working with us to curate your own Tastemaker Tour? Talk to your account manager today or click here to learn more about Mintel’s food and drink market intelligence.