Inapub takes a look at what pubs can expect as the biggest food trends next year.
Vegan and veggie
The continuing trend for vegan and veggie options shows no sign of letting up. The meat alternative market is seeing annual growth of 15 per cent with the number of vegan dishes available out of home up by 237 per cent, according to the Meatless Farm Co.
"We will see diners eating less meat in 2019", Richard Harrison, the commercial director at the Meatless Farm Co, explains, "There is a global shift in the way people eat and the meat alternative market is expected to be worth £3.9bn by 2020."
Richard says the biggest challenge is taste and texture.
He says: "For established brands, the challenge will be how they stay 'fresh' and current, responding to consumers' evolving tastes. For start-ups, the challenge is to create a truly unique product that delivers against expectations."
The rising popularity of Veganuary is also a driver of the vegan food trend either short or long term, says Richard. In 2018, 168,542 people signed up to go vegan for a month and this figure is set to rise in January 2019. 47 per cent of those that did sign up were meat-eating omnivores, a testament to the growing trend of the flexitarian - a person who has a semi-vegetarian diet.
Related to healthy, meat free options, pub diners also increasingly recognise they can have protein through other avenues rather than animal protein alone – and this is impacting on what they choose to eat, according to Phil Thornborrow, Head of Foodservice at Quorn.
He says: "Sustainability is influencing consumer choice more than ever before as people recognise the impact of intensive meat production on the planet.
"We're addressing the challenge head-on, working with pubs to help them meet the needs of the growing number of customers who are reducing their meat consumption and switching to alternative sources of protein."
Phil is confident that publicans can embrace the trend though.
"We know pub menu planners have their finger on the pulse," he continued, "and, quite rightly, expect products that are on-trend, innovative and good for their customers.
The desire for both indulgent and healthy dining when eating out continues to grow and operators are constantly looking for ways to keep their menus fresh and interesting for the so-called 'weekend millionaries', who buy big on nights out.
Aimee Davidson, channel marketing manager for Ajinomoto Foods Europe, says: "Having fully embraced tapas-style dining, consumers expect experiences where they can experiment with new formats and flavours.
"Operators are currently challenged by two opposing food trends, one driven by the health conscious looking for ways to enjoy flavoursome food, while the second demands indulgence.
"Sharing platters also help ease the guilt of over indulgence by offering a little bit of everything."
Tea parties for 'tea-totallers'
The increasing trend in teetotal pub diners means that new menu options must be created for this growing demographic. Fortunately, the Great British Afternoon Tea is a great way to achieve an exciting option for such diners.
Patrick Berwald, Benchmark's vice president of food and beverage, said that three cups of tea are consumed worldwide for every cup of coffee, and craft tea blending, 'nitro' tea on tap, and even tea cocktails will become mainstream.
One good example of a pub making the most of afternoon teas is The Rose in Norwich, Norfolk, which is serving a Gin & Tonic afternoon tea in November, which it described as "the Mad Hatter's tea party with gin" with small scale sandwiches and slices of cake with G&Ts.
It also hosted a 'Crafternoon Tea' in October – which it first ran during Norwich Craft Beer Week - with artisan food including home-made savoury pies and pastries, chutneys and pickles, local cheeses and breads served alongside craft beer.
Publican Dawn Hopkins said it was "a great way to sample some of the brilliant craft beers we have available" alongside home-made food.
According to a report by Nestle, millennials diners aged 16 to 34 years old in particular seek out new flavours, and enjoy food that has a story and offers a culinary adventure – and fermented produce fulfils this trend.
One product that perfectly illustrates this is the fermented tea Kombucha, which is probably the big global on-trend drink at the moment, but it is being matched by fermented ambitions in the food market too.
Expect to see all manner of both artisanally produced and big brand fermented foods hit pubs in the next year with more kimchi, pickles, sauerkraut, tempeh and kefir being offered by suppliers and foodservice firms.
Also ingredients such as carrots and cream will be fermented and offered to customers with the desire to increase probiotics across all dishes, condiments and ingredients.
You can even get in on the act yourself. There are numerous starter culture kits available to ferment your own vegetables and more online advice articles, videos and books than you can shake a stick at.