May 29th, 2017

NRA 2017 – Top Trends

Posted in Consumer Trends, Culinary Conferences, Food Shows, Food Trends, Packaging, Product Innovation

Top Trends in Food from the
2017 NRA Show

Wednesday wrapped up a great week of learning and exploration at the 2017 National Restaurant Association show in Chicago, Il.

There was so much to see, touch, taste, and learn, but I’ll try to pick a few really popular trends to highlight for those of you who couldn’t make it.

Let’s dive in…

#1 – Cold Brew Nitro Coffee

Well if there was one trend that popped up more than any other, it was cold brew nitro coffee. On tap, artisan, slushy, and soft serve varieties available for whatever application you could imagine.

#2 – Go Nuts for Donuts!

Honestly, donuts haven’t really gone anywhere. Everyone loves fried dough. But NRA would show us that donuts, especially exciting, decadent donuts, are thriving. People are loving the idea of customization and seeing donuts in unique places like sandwiches and sundaes.

#3 – Compostables

All image above courtesy of PacknWood. Available at

If you want to take a stake in this millennial market you better be using compostable products. From plates, cups, straws, wrapper, utensils, to-go boxes, and even chopsticks, compostable products have become a must for any operation that wants to be a serious competitor.


Other noteworthy trends included sparkling beverages, including coffee and kombucha, guacamole variations, atomization in the food process, and a continuing array of vegetarian and vegan food products.

If you’ve noticed any cool trends or were at the NRA 2017 show and saw something I missed, let me know! We’d love to hear from you.



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January 15th, 2015

Environmental Sustainability

Posted in Packaging, Restaurants, Trends

One of the top trends for 2015, according to NRA’s Culinary Forecast, is environmental sustainability. With increasing concerns for our food supply in an ever shrinking world, restaurants are employing some rather creative methods for reducing food waste, improving recycling practices, and increasing resource efficiency.


For Larkburger, a fresh burger concept based in Vail, Colorado, the foundation of their business is sustainability. With 100% biodegradable containers and utensils made from potato and corn starch that they compost on-site, unbleached paper packaging, and the reuse of used cooking oil in their vehicles, they have managed a certified green status for all 4 of their Denver locations.

Snappy Salads, a Texas-based chain with 7 Dallas-area locations recently switched from plastic to premium paper straws as part of their goal to become more sustainable. The chain features tables and counters made from recycled or reclaimed materials. All of their containers are sustainable and compostable. A biannual electronics recycling roundup is also hosted by the chain. So why paper straws? For one, while they are slightly more expensive, they are 100% degradable. The average straw is estimated to be used for 30 seconds. A plastic straw that we use for 30 seconds takes anywhere from 75-450 years by various estimates to decompose, so paper straws just seem to make sense.

Boloco, the home of globally inspired burritos, uses corn fiber cups and bamboo bowls in their 22 locations. (They also use low-flow water heads and Paperstone table tops.) While they do this quietly, they are setting a great example with their efforts.

Other Packaging Trends, in addition to restaurants looking for food container and takeout alternatives that promote sustainability efforts, they are also looking back-of-the- house. One big trend that has been growing is the use of #10 pouches vs. #10 cans for sauces. Pouches offer environmentally friendly benefits in many ways – to get an idea, check out this link:


Building Certifications

Dunkin’ Donuts recently launched a green building certification program with the purpose of assisting their franchisees in building energy-conscious and sustainable restaurants. The goal is to open 100 “DD Green” restaurants before the end of 2016. With two levels of certification including “DD Green” (the restaurants meet the minimum requirements) and “DD Elite” (restaurants exceed the minimum requirements).
Read more:

Many chains are taking similar steps.


Other Efforts

For interesting non-profit business models look to Food Recovery Network. Founded in 2011, the company launched a program in April 2014 it deemed “Food Recovery Certified”. The company’s primary desire is to reduce food waste by donation of surplus food to local charities and non-profits. Restaurants that donate at least once a month get a sticker in their window designating them with the certification. Since the program is relatively new, it is just starting to gain traction.


And if you are looking for a green destination, Asheville, NC may just be the place. With 15 restaurants across the city, including one at the Biltmore Estate, the Green Restaurant Association has dubbed Asheville as “America’s First Green Dining Destination”.