“Local” and “seasonal” have become menu buzzwords, but a new study shows that consumers value freshness first. The quantitative study undertaken by research firm Datassential on behalf of the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association pulled data from 4,800 U.S. restaurants, split between national and regional chains, and independents. An impressive three quarters of restaurants now menu at least one fruit item, with nearly 8% of all menued dishes featuring at least one fruit ingredient.
Fruit has grown in menu penetration across nearly all segments from 2009 to 2013. Whole fresh fruit has become the most commonly purchased format, and “fresh” is the key descriptor, appearing on more menus than Seasonal, Organic or Local.
“The research shows that fruit is an essential element on U.S. restaurant menus, with an emphasis on freshness,” according to Maeve Webster, Datassential’s senior director. “Fruit is being used as a base for innovation against new flavors of traditional items as well as unexpected applications.”
That’s good news for organizations like the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association, an entity in charge of promoting Fruits from Chile in North America. In order for chefs and operators to promote fruit in signature dishes and menu staples, they need assurances of quality and availability year-round. With its southern hemisphere seasons, versatile crops and rich history of fruit production, Chile finds itself in the perfect position to grow with the trend.
“Chefs know how much appeal fresh fruit brings to the table, and so do their patrons,” says Karen Brux, managing director for Chilean Fresh Fruit Association North America. “Chile fills in the gaps to ensure supplies of fresh fruit when domestic fruits are out of season. We work closely with our growers and exporters to ensure that fresh fruit from Chile is high in quality and as convenient, consistent and reliable as possible.”
In other findings from the MenuTrends survey:
- Fresh taste, food safety and consistent product quality are the most important attributes for fruit;
- Operators view fruit as important for demonstrating a priority on health and customer satisfaction;
- Most operators value having fresh fruit year round more than offering locally in-season fruit;
- Avocados, lemons, orange, and apples are each found on more than a quarter of U.S. menus;
- Citrus fruits are considered an essential ingredient for fine dining and in-house cocktails.