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Innovation on the Menu: Flavor Trends - US - August 2012

While a restaurant may operate for months, years, and decades on end, the menu rarely stays the same. Flavor preferences and trends come and go, and consumer expectations change with them. Indulgence is important on one hand, but with growing nutritional awareness and pending menu-labeling regulations, offering better-for-you (BFY) items packed with flavor is equally important.

Smart operators from independents to large chains evaluate ingredients, flavors, demographics and food trends in order to come up with compelling offerings to promote, and draw guests. Separating fad from trend could be difficult unless analyzed over time.

This report provides trended menu analysis, as well as a look at recent menu additions across all segments. It evaluates marketing strategies, highlighting successful examples, and it looks into the minds of consumers for their restaurant-usage habits, interest in ethnic cuisines, attitudes toward restaurants and flavorings, and how they define comfort food. All of this is important to grasp in order to make sound menu development decisions.

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Table of contents

  1. Scope and Themes

    • What you need to know
      • Data sources
        • Mintel Menu Insights
          • Consumer survey data
            • Advertising creative
              • Abbreviations and terms
                • Abbreviations
                  • Terms
                  • Executive Summary

                      • Market factors
                        • Figure 1: Unemployment and underemployment, January 2007-June 2012
                      • Top menu flavors
                        • Figure 2: Top 10 flavors on restaurant menus, by incidences, Q1 2012
                      • Top cuisine types
                        • Figure 3: Top 10 cuisine types on restaurant menus, by incidence, Q1 2012
                      • Top non-alcoholic beverage flavors
                        • Figure 4: Top 10 non-alcoholic beverage flavors on restaurant menus, by incidence, Q1 2012
                      • Comfort food identified
                        • Figure 5: Top 10 ingredients survey respondents associate with comfort food, by percentage of respondents, 2012
                      • Opinions on dried herbs
                        • Figure 6: Familiarity with and interest in dried herbs, by percentage, 2012
                      • Fresh herb standings
                        • Figure 7: Familiarity with and interest in fresh herbs, by percentage of respondents, 2012
                      • How consumers get educated
                        • Figure 8: Top 10 sources of information about new flavors and ingredients, by gender, 2012
                      • What we think
                      • Issues in the Market

                          • What effect will the expected labeling laws have on menu innovation?
                            • Which ethnicities would be the most appropriate and effective to draw from for new menu innovation?
                              • What type of menu items could almost be guaranteed to be successful?
                                • What are some effective ways to market flavor?
                                • Insights and Opportunities

                                  • Charge a price for spice
                                      • Figure 9: Attitudes toward restaurants and flavorings by gender, April 2012
                                    • Aim for young adults
                                        • Figure 10: Any usage of the main social media network sites, by age, January 2012
                                      • Call out the herbs
                                          • Figure 11: Ingredients/flavor familiarity and interest, April 2012
                                      • Trend Applications

                                          • Trend: Survival Skills
                                            • Trend: Never Say Die
                                              • 2015 Trend: East Meets West
                                                  • Figure 12: Interest in ethnic cuisines by age, April 2012
                                              • Market Drivers

                                                • Key points
                                                  • Government-mandated calorie disclosure
                                                    • Economic factors
                                                      • Unemployment remains high
                                                        • Figure 13: Unemployment and underemployment, January 2007-June 2012
                                                      • Disposable personal income remains up
                                                        • Figure 14: Real disposable personal income, January 2007-May 2012
                                                      • Consumer sentiment slips in June
                                                        • Figure 15: Consumer Sentiment, March 2007-June 2012
                                                      • Restaurant performance index still above 100
                                                          • Figure 16: Restaurant Performance Index, January 2009-May 2012
                                                        • Demographic factors
                                                          • Shifting age dynamics important to study
                                                              • Figure 17: U.S. population by age, 2007-17
                                                            • Interest of ethnicities important to note
                                                              • Figure 18: Population by race and Hispanic origin, 2006-16
                                                          • Marketing Strategies

                                                            • Overview
                                                              • Social media
                                                                • Mobile apps
                                                                  • TV ads
                                                                    • BJ’s Restaurant
                                                                      • Figure 19: BJ’s “There’s Always Something” television ad, 2012
                                                                    • Golden Corral
                                                                        • Figure 20: Golden Corral “Candy Addition” television ad, 2012
                                                                      • Marie Callender's
                                                                        • Figure 21: Marie Callender's “Share the Sweetness” television ad, 2012
                                                                      • Olive Garden
                                                                        • Figure 22: Olive Garden “Say Cheese” television ad, 2012
                                                                      • Red Robin
                                                                        • Figure 23: Red Robin “Spotted a Red Robin” television ad, 2012
                                                                      • Taco Cabana
                                                                        • Figure 24: Taco Cabana “Smell the Flour” television ad, 2012
                                                                    • Menu Insights Analysis: Food Flavors, Cuisines, and Preparation

                                                                      • Overview
                                                                        • Garlic has universal appeal
                                                                          • Figure 25: Top 10 flavors on restaurant menus, by incidence, Q1 2009-Q1 2012
                                                                        • North American is top cuisine type
                                                                          • Figure 26: Top 10 cuisine types on restaurant menus, by incidence, Q1 2009-Q1 2012
                                                                        • Grilled narrowly beats out fried as top cooking preparation method
                                                                          • Figure 27: Top 10 cooking preparation methods on restaurant menus, by incidence, Q1 2009-Q1 2012
                                                                      • Menu Insights Analysis: Beverage Flavors

                                                                        • Overview
                                                                          • Plain and cola dominate non-alcoholic beverage choices
                                                                            • Figure 28: Top 10 non-alcoholic beverage flavors on restaurant menus, by incidence, Q1 2009-Q1 2012
                                                                          • Plain and lime are top alcoholic beverage flavors
                                                                            • Figure 29: Top 10 alcoholic beverage flavors on restaurant menus, by incidence, Q1 2009-Q1 2012
                                                                        • Restaurant Usage

                                                                          • Key points
                                                                              • Figure 30: Restaurant usage by gender, April 2012
                                                                              • Figure 31: Restaurant usage by age, April 2012
                                                                              • Figure 32: Restaurant usage by household income, April 2012
                                                                          • Interest in Ethnic Cuisines

                                                                            • Key points
                                                                                • Figure 33: Interest in ethnic cuisines by age, April 2012
                                                                                • Figure 34: Interest in ethnic cuisines, by household income, April 2012
                                                                                • Figure 35: Interest in ethnic cuisines, by race/Hispanic origin, April 2012
                                                                            • Ingredients/Flavor Familiarity and Interest

                                                                              • Key points
                                                                                  • Figure 36: Ingredients/flavor familiarity, by gender, April 2012
                                                                                  • Figure 37: Ingredients/flavor familiarity, by age, April 2012
                                                                                  • Figure 38: Ingredients/flavor familiarity, by annual household income, April 2012
                                                                                • Interest in ingredients and flavors
                                                                                    • Figure 39: Ingredients/flavor interest, by gender, April 2012
                                                                                    • Figure 40: Ingredients/flavor interest, by age, April 2012
                                                                                • Sources of Information

                                                                                  • Key points
                                                                                      • Figure 41: Learning about flavors and ingredients by gender, April 2012
                                                                                      • Figure 42: Learning about flavors and ingredients by age, April 2012
                                                                                  • Attitudes Toward Restaurants and Flavorings

                                                                                    • Key points
                                                                                        • Figure 43: Attitudes toward restaurants and flavorings by gender, April 2012
                                                                                        • Figure 44: Attitudes toward restaurants and flavorings by age, April 2012
                                                                                        • Figure 45: Attitudes toward restaurants and flavorings by household income, April 2012
                                                                                    • Comfort Food Defined

                                                                                      • Key points
                                                                                          • Figure 46: Comfort food defined, by gender, April 2012
                                                                                          • Figure 47: Comfort food defined, by age, April 2012
                                                                                          • Figure 48: Comfort food defined by race/Hispanic origin, April 2012
                                                                                      • Custom Consumer Groups: Light, Moderate, Medium, Heavy

                                                                                          • Interest in ethnic cuisines
                                                                                              • Figure 49: Interest in ethnic cuisines, by frequency groups, April 2012
                                                                                            • Ingredients/flavors interest
                                                                                                • Figure 50: Ingredients/flavor interest, by frequency groups, April 2012
                                                                                              • Comfort food defined
                                                                                                  • Figure 51: Comfort food defined, by total number of visits, April 2012
                                                                                              • Appendix: Other Useful Consumer Tables

                                                                                                • Interest in ethnic cuisines
                                                                                                  • Figure 52: Interest in ethnic cuisines, by gender, April 2012
                                                                                                • Ingredients/flavors interest
                                                                                                  • Figure 53: Ingredients/flavor familiarity and interest, April 2012
                                                                                                  • Figure 54: Ingredients/flavor interest, by annual household income, April 2012
                                                                                                • Sources of information
                                                                                                  • Figure 55: Learning about flavors and ingredients by household income, April 2012
                                                                                                • Attitudes toward restaurants and flavorings
                                                                                                  • Figure 56: Attitudes toward restaurants and flavorings, April 2012
                                                                                                • Comfort food defined
                                                                                                  • Figure 57: Comfort food defined by household income, April 2012
                                                                                              • Appendix: Trade Associations

                                                                                                Companies Covered

                                                                                                • AFC Enterprises Inc.
                                                                                                • Applebee's International Inc.
                                                                                                • BJ's Restaurant, Inc.
                                                                                                • Blimpie International Inc.
                                                                                                • Brinker International Inc.
                                                                                                • Burger King Corporation
                                                                                                • Caribou Coffee Company Inc.
                                                                                                • Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc.
                                                                                                • Citysearch
                                                                                                • CKE Restaurants Inc.
                                                                                                • Darden Restaurants Inc.
                                                                                                • Del Taco, Inc.
                                                                                                • Denny's Corporation
                                                                                                • Domino's Pizza LLB
                                                                                                • Dunkin' Brands
                                                                                                • Einstein Noah Restaurant Group Inc.
                                                                                                • Facebook, Inc.
                                                                                                • Fazoli's Restaurants, Inc.
                                                                                                • Food Distributors International
                                                                                                • Golden Corral Corporation
                                                                                                • Google, Inc.
                                                                                                • Hard Rock Cafe
                                                                                                • Hardee's Food Systems, Inc.
                                                                                                • Hooters of America, Inc.
                                                                                                • International Food Service Executives Association (IFSEA)
                                                                                                • International Foodservice Distributors Association (IFDA)
                                                                                                • International Foodservice Manufacturers Association (IFMA)
                                                                                                • International Franchise Association (IFA)
                                                                                                • International Hotel and Restaurants Association (IH&RA)
                                                                                                • Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Inc.
                                                                                                • Luby's Inc.
                                                                                                • Maxxium Worldwide B.V.
                                                                                                • McDonald's U.S.A.
                                                                                                • National Broadcasting Company, Inc. (NBC)
                                                                                                • National Council of Chain Restaurants (NCCR)
                                                                                                • National Restaurant Association (NRA)
                                                                                                • National Retail Federation (NRF)
                                                                                                • Noodles & Company
                                                                                                • OSI Restaurant Partners, Inc.
                                                                                                • P.F. Chang's China Bistro Inc.
                                                                                                • Palo Alto Software Inc.
                                                                                                • Panera Bread Company
                                                                                                • Pizza Hut Inc
                                                                                                • Red Robin Gourmet Burgers Inc.
                                                                                                • Ruby Tuesday Inc.
                                                                                                • Ruth's Chris Steak House, Inc.
                                                                                                • Sonic Corp.
                                                                                                • Starbucks Corporation
                                                                                                • Stolichnaya
                                                                                                • Subway
                                                                                                • Taco Bell Corp.
                                                                                                • TGI Friday's
                                                                                                • The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated
                                                                                                • The Taco Cabana
                                                                                                • The Wendy's Company
                                                                                                • TripAdvisor LLC
                                                                                                • Twitter, Inc.
                                                                                                • U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
                                                                                                • U.S. Bureau of the Census
                                                                                                • University of Michigan, The
                                                                                                • Weight Watchers International Inc.
                                                                                                • Whataburger Restaurants LP
                                                                                                • Yelp Inc.
                                                                                                • YouTube, Inc.
                                                                                                • Yum! Brands Inc.

                                                                                                Innovation on the Menu: Flavor Trends - US - August 2012

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