Category Archives: Trends

Mini-Foods Going Big

Miniature sandwiches gaining popularity. A trend for recessionary times?

Countless restaurants and bars in Colorado and beyond have put sliders on their menu. Three or more teeny burgers on lilliputian buns seem to have growing appeal — maybe because they are so darned cute. At The Corner Office last week, a friend had barbecue pork sliders. And now, blogger James, the Future Gringo, reports on Mini Phillies at Denver’s Table 6, a starter that he described as “a dish of three small slider size philly cheesesteaks.”

Sliders — or Slyders (right), which is what a budget East Coast burger chain called White Castle calls them — are small in diameter (2 1/2 inches), thin and served on a soft, downsized bun. White Castle, the country’s first fast-food burger chain, was founded some 80 years ago. It not only introduced these mini-burgers that originally sold for 5 cents, but also square ones, a burger shape later adopted by Wendy’s. In addition to being served 24 hours a day at White Castle’s 380 or so locations, frozen Slyders are sold in supermarkets, ready to be microwaved. Last year, White Castle says, it sold more than 500 million burgers.

Cheese-Burger.net has a post about sliders’ origin and the way they are prepared. A couple of years ago, a thread on chowhound.com discussed gourmet sliders in Manhattan, including information that a now-defunct Lower East Side restaurant called Punch & Judy served pulled-pork, pastrami and even lobster sliders on mini-brioche rolls. RecipeSource.com even has posted a recipe for what it calls White Castle sliders that is bound to surprise. It sure surprised me. And no, I’m not planning to make them — though lobster sliders on petite brioche rolls sound pretty good.

A Trio of Trend Lists for 2009

General lifestyle trends and specific food trends prognosticated for the new year

I love to read lists. Don’t you? Here are goodies from a couple Colorado public relations firms that specialize in restaurants and food-related topics and have issued lists of what’s happening now and what will be happening in 2009. The Fresh Ideas Group of Boulder looked at macrotrends and issued an in/out list and a top ten trend list, and The Imbergamo Group examined the microtrends in the Colorado restaurant industry today and came up with its own top ten list.

Out and In in ’09

Out: New
In: Renew

Out: Buying
In: Bartering

Out: Disposable goods
In: Repair and retool mindset

Out: Foreign vacations
In: Homeward bound

Out: Premium cable
In: Netflix

Out: Fancy food
In: Comfort food

Out: Gym memberships
In : Home fitness

Out: Dining out
In: Dining in

Out: Over the top
In: Down to earth

Out: Recycling
In: Composting
(Culinary Colorado Note: IMO, both recycling and composting are In. It’s discarding that’s out.)

Out: Snooty wines
In: Boxed wine

Out: Hard to find organic
In: Organic everywhere

Out: Health insurance
In: Health assurance

Out: Spas
In: Home beauty

Out: Impulse shopping
In: Conscious consumerism

Out: Bling bling
In: Simple pleasures

Out: Greed
In: Grist

Out: More
In: Enough

Fresh Ideas Group’s Top Ten Consumer Trends Forecast for 2009

1) Buying Old is New – Materialism goes gauche. Bragging rights on trading possessions will trump shelling out for new purchases with thrift shops and online exchange sites enjoying a huge boost. In fact, a recent New York Times story revealed figures from the Salvation Army and showed that sales have spiked 5 to 15 percent at their stores in recent months. Thriving in this climate: eBay, Craigslist, consignment shops and antique stores.

2) Maintenance and Prudence are Hip – Why replace products when you can upgrade or repair them? The Shoe Service Institute of America says the nations 7,000 repair shops are thriving.
Repair services of all kinds will gain popularity as consumers re-heel their shoes, do minor remodeling to their homes – often with an eye to green building, and show greater prudence with auto repair and upkeep. Vintage and used cars will enjoy a new hip factor. Cobblers, mechanics, handymen/women and green building suppliers will experience growth.

3) Home is the New Destination – Regional travel and home-based activities and entertainment will rise, even s fuel prices stabilize. While most will skip foreign vacations, old-fashioned camping and road trips will thrive along with visits to local amusements, museums and historical sites. We see gardening (often organic), canning and craft projects replacing more exotic extracurriculars. We predict premium cable channels will lose but Netflix will stay strong, and while external gym memberships will suffer, home gym or low-cost fitness items may gain. Look for increases in popcorn poppers, camping equipment, and family games like Scrabble.

4) Comfort in the Kitchen – In uncertain times, Americans will look to the past for comfort and savings. Consumers in ’08 had already begun to reduce their meals eaten outside the home, and in ’09 they’ll fully rediscover their home kitchen. Lower cost staples will experience a new respect including potatoes, carrots, bulk bin items, private label brands, baking staples, and budget meat cuts. According to Nielsen data, consumers watching their food budgets in 2008 helped food retailers increase their sales of store-branded products by 10 percent to more than $81 billion. Shoppers will skip a new Thai recipe that requires uncommon ingredients while staying grounded in mac n’ cheese, casseroles, stews, meat loaves and cakes.

5) The Prioritized Organic Era – While current indicators show a minor drop in organic retail sales, there will remain a strong core consumer for organic products, especially in produce, dairy and kids’ food. Organic will show up on school cafeteria menus, in college campus dining halls and even at 7-11 convenience stores. Consumers will prioritize healthier food choices for their kids or choose the organic items often perceived as most beneficial (greens, berries, juices, dairy, etc.). Dr. Alan Greene, offers a prescription listing the best organic items for parents to pick. There will be a trading down in organic, but often to the private label or bulk bin equivalents, with parents and the ultra health-conscious remaining committed to organic as part of their diet .

6) Imbibing to Survive Sobering Times – Social economic anxiety, free time as a result of unemployment, and home dining trends will cause alcohol sales to rise. The localvore trend will
intersect and push consumption of local beer, wines and even spirits (as micro-distilleries are popping up around the country). Restaurant alcohol sales will suffer while high value wines from Chile and Argentina will do swimmingly. Even boxed wine (yes – boxed wine which is not all sweet pink stuff any more) will benefit in ’09 with wine cartons experiencing a 40 percent jump in sales in November 2008, according to A.E. Nielson.

7) Preventative Healthcare: The New Rx – With national healthcare still a pipe dream, a priority will be placed on staying healthy without insurance. Preventative remedies including vitamins
and flu shots will stay strong as consumers try to avoid costly doctors’ visits. Getting enough rest, eating for health and exercising with friends and family will all take priority. Consumers will seek ‘health assurance’ solutions as their health insurance diminishes or evaporates entirely.

8) Nano Luxury Allowed – No new cars or fancy vacations mean consumers will find smaller ways to still enjoy a bit of luxe. Favorite cosmetics brands will do surprisingly well, as consumers justify a new lipstick as a low-cost pick me up, and natural and organic will also be draws as non-toxic cosmetics rise in popularity. According to author Claudia D’Arpizio, cosmetics will be less
impacted by the weak 2008 holiday season, growing at 3 percent. Other mini-splurges will include iTunes purchases, inexpensive accessories, home espresso machines and home spa supplies.

9) Conscious Consumerism Takes Hold Living within our means will cause some reevaluation of our spending and our core values. We predict this introspective analysis will yield a clearer
sense of what really matters and portend a new era in conscious consumerism. FIG predicts that this trend will play out through very focused and deliberate spending of our dollars. The idea of ‘value’ will not merely be relevant for price. Value will also address what’s weighing on consumer’s minds. Fairly traded? Made in China? Food miles? Carbon imprint? High fructose corn syrup? Safe from E Coli? Consumers are no longer just shopping, they’re voting for change. Retailers who offer up knowledge and assurance with their products will differentiate from the rest of the pack.

10) Lighter Imprint Living – A natural byproduct of this New Pragmatism will be the benefits to the environment. As people trade in cars for scooters or bicycle commuting, emissions also get the boot. Consuming less means less packaging, less product transport and less trash. With increased gardening and cooking, these new home stewards will learn to compost, the next revolution to recycling. Compost: a verb and a noun increasingly in our immediate future.

Renew is replacing New in 2009.

Imbergamo’s Ten Colorado Restaurant Trends for 2009

1. Food Rules and Regs Will the long arm of the food police reach out to Colorado? Well-intentioned regulators have already hit the restaurants hard in New York and San Francisco. We could see menus and menu boards laden with nutrition data for consumers to ignore and bans on everything from transfats to bottled water (see #3).

2. Oatmeal Everywhere – We’ll be up to our butts in oatmeal in 2009 with Starbuck’s and Jamba Juice both rolling out the porridge nationally. These on-the-go “Cup of Oats” imitators look to be the weekday alternatives to fancified artisanal oatmeal creations at weekend sit-down restaurant brunches.

3. Bottled Water – Look for the continued demise of bottled water sales in restaurants and increased use of in-house filtration systems with spiffy refillable bottles. Will restaurateurs be able to charge for these home-cooked waters or will consumers demand their Pellegrino?

4. Local Foods and ‘Gotcha’ Journalism – The localization mantra will continue to be sung to the heavens even though the growing season for produce in Colorado lasts but a few months. Look for enterprising journalists rummaging through dumpsters to disprove counterfeit claims by overreaching chefs and PR firms.

5. Opposite Trends – Both Hot – The fusion craze will still be hot, hot, hot with an unending influence of Asian cooking on all other cuisines. Interestingly, authentic Italian regional cooking from smaller and smaller sub-areas might prove popular if anyone is brave enough to open a new restaurant in this troubling economy.

6. Paying at the Table – Don’t be surprised if your server soon brings you a small, handheld terminal with your guest check as consumers react to reports of credit card fraud and restaurateurs look for efficiencies in payment. (Culinary Colorado’s Note: Servers in Great Britain, and probably elsewhere, have been equipped with handheld terminals for several years. The US has been behind the times on this one.)

7. Utilization – You might not be able to get blood out of a turnip but your local cook can make turnip soup from the peelings. Chefs are pros at using every little bit of the products that come in the back door. Look for further advances in utilization driven by increased costs and slowing food sales.

8. Service, Service, Service – Those that complain about service will have something to cheer about in 2009 as slumping sales cause restaurateurs to focus on improving service levels. If not already crowned as royalty, the customer will definitely be king in the new year.

9. More Wines You Never Heard of on Wine Lists – Increasing emphasis on micro producers and inexpensive “finds” will accelerate in 2009. Good luck finding the ubiquitous Sonoma Cutrer Chardonnay on trendy restaurant wine lists.

10. Flat is the New Up – Restaurant operators will have to be creative in fighting the economic suicide squeeze of increased costs and recession-induced sales reversals. Will heavy discounting be the only way to get consumers off the couch and into the bistro?