Connecting the dots: Flavor Radar

Through its Menu Insights program, the company tracks menus from 350 chain restaurants, 150 independent restaurants, 50 top-chef-owned eateries such as Jean-Georges, 15 beverage-centric restaurants—think Starbucks and Jamba Juice, and 10 bars.

Monitoring these menus each quarter, Mintel assembles a composite snapshot of what we’re eating and where our palettes might lead us in the future. As these foods move from the menu to store shelves, the implications for the creative flavorist are clear.“ We use the data to connect the dots between what people say might be a trend and actually quantifying that trend,” says Mintel Menu Insights director Maria Caranfa. So what do the connected dots tell us?

Pomegranate Power

“I think there was one extremely large flavor trend going on in 2006,” says Caranfa, “and that was pomegranate.” Caranfa describes the evolution of pomegranate on restaurant menus as a trickle-down effect, traveling from fine dining to all manner of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, cheesecake, and even barbecue sauce. “The applications for pomegranate,” she says, “are just limitless. It’s almost a buzz word now for ‘sweet and tangy.’ ” And now this antioxidant-rich fruit, or at least its flavor, has leapt off the plate and is turning up in lip glosses and other beauty products. “The color is very appealing,” says Caranfa, “and it has related health effects.”

Other topics discussed: Perception of Health Benefits; Edible Beverages: the Leap from Glass to Plate; Focus on Fresh; On the Horizon: spice, not spicy, grains, portion control, banishing sodium and trans fats

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