Datassential breaks down for NRN how Latin flavors are trending on American menus
Ingredients that are introduced to American consumers can take a while to become truly mainstream. Exactly how long that takes can depend on many factors, but menu research firm Datassential, after surveying the more than 4800 menus in its database, has figured out how far along different items in Latin American cuisines are in becoming household words.
According to Datassential, different restaurant segments join a menu trend during its various stages, which, in general, can be broken down into four phases:
1. Inception. Unusual ingredients are often introduced either by fine dining chefs or by ethnic independent restaurants. The latter often don’t realize they’re being unusual; they’re just cooking their dishes authentically. These ingredients and cuisines are appearing on menus, but not on many of them.
2. Adoption. These ingredients are being picked up by risk-taking casual-dining restaurants, including specialists in Latin cuisine, such as Chipotle Mexican Grill, which has long had barbacoa on its menu, and smoothie chains such as Jamba Juice, which have incorporated tropical fruits such as açaí into their offerings.
3. Proliferation. Items that are well received during their adoption stage make it here. Having been validated for a larger audience, they’re picked up by casual-dining and quick-service chains. Cilantro, jalapeño peppers and Cubano sandwiches all have made it to this stage.
4. Ubiquity. These items are firmly established across all segments and even can be found at less adventurous family-dining restaurants. In the process of making it to this point, the flavors, style or presentation are sometimes watered down for a broader appeal in the mass market.
Following where trends fall on this adoption cycle can help restaurants predict when consumer demand for certain flavors will peak — and help plan menus accordingly.
Below is a breakdown of where several Latin flavors currently fall on Datassential's adoption cycle: