People are no longer merely eating for taste. In an age when food is becoming more and more expensive, consumers expect multi-faceted benefits in return. New expectations have brought on the recent rise in popularity of foods like turmeric, aloe, and wheatgrass that promise to heal, nourish and sustain. Valuing the medicinal effects of different food items has increased discussions regarding gut health to the minds of many over the last decade. Previously given little thought, gut health is now something that consumers base entire diets around.
This new health focus is where fermentation comes into play, as fermented foods are considered optimal for the human digestive system. While eaten for centuries around the world, it’s only recently that everyday consumers have begun to appreciate the health benefits of fermented foods, and seek them out regularly.
As hospitality industry experts at The Fifteen Group, we understand the importance of following and tracking trends, such as this one. While some culinary trends fizzle out, others have a permanent impact on the restaurant industry and are critical to understand and capitalize on.
What Is Gut Health?
Many consumers know that gut health is essential, but don’t truly understand what it means. Gut health refers to the bacteria in our digestive system. The health of this biome can either be damaged or strengthened based on a variety of factors, including diet and sleep habits.
A ‘healthy gut’ translates to a diverse range of bacteria. An ‘unhealthy gut’ has a lower diversity of bacteria and more disease-related bacteria. For example, while some bacteria can promote inflammation in our bodies, others can prevent it. Probiotics can help to prevent inflammation and are found in many ‘gut-healthy foods,’ most notably being fermented foods.
What Is Fermentation?
Fermentation occurs when an organism converts a carbohydrate, such as starch or a sugar, into an alcohol or an acid. Essentially, fermentation involves the breakdown of a substance and the enhancement of its beneficial bacteria in the process. These bacteria improve gut health, and, in turn, promote immunity in your body.
Fermented foods are known for their distinctive smell and sour taste. While some of the best-known options are kimchi, yogurt, and kombucha, fermentation occurs in many of our day-to-day foods; it is a necessary processing agent for making wine, beer, and bread.
Why Is It So Popular?
Fermented foods have gained popularity the same way the keto diet and plant-based proteins have, functional eating is a huge trend right now. Consumers no longer see food as a basic necessity – they demand practical benefits. Fermented foods have become so popular as they satiate, while also improving gut health and, in turn, optimizing digestion.
How Can You Capitalize On The Fermentation Trend?
Restaurants and foodservice businesses can capitalize on the fermentation trend in a couple of ways. Firstly, foodservice professionals can focus on carrying items in-line with this trend and also incorporating more fermented items into their existing total menu offerings, communicating consideration of consumer values.
Secondly, foodservice businesses should also be prepared to explain the ‘why’ behind their decision to carry and promote these products. Ensure that staff are equipped to lay out the benefits of fermented foods, to communicate to consumers that your company makes thoughtful, informed decisions, rather than merely jumping on trend bandwagons.
Offering fermented products can also be a strategic way to reduce food waste in the kitchen. Fermenting is a way to preserve food, similar to pickling; kill two birds with one stone by providing trendy, healthy products that are sustainable as well.
In short, North American consumers are willing to pay more for food and other products if they can see a clear value proposition in return. Functional eating is on the rise and will translate to a more conscious, deliberate shopping and eating experience for consumers. Moving forward, restaurants and food-service companies should be prepared to meet this demand.