Sometimes to find the next big idea or trend you have to think smaller – as in snack size! Whether savory or sweet, there is definitely an increased interest in bite-sized and sharable snack foods. According to an October 2007 National Restaurant Association survey the #1 hot new culinary trend for 2008 is bite-sized desserts followed by the #4 hot new trend of small plate dishes or tapas.
Why this interest in snack foods and snacking occasions? Well just like every other trend this year in America, you trace part of the cause to the slowing economy. In an effort to conserve money while not giving up entirely on our love of going out to eat, people are choosing to go out for appetizers and small dishes rather than full meals. But it is more than just our light wallets driving our interest in smaller portions. There is also a desire for more variety. Ordering several smaller dishes allows for more diversity of foods in an eating occasion. Another contributor is the social aspect to snack foods and appetizers. These types of foods lend themselves more to sharing and socializing than plated dinner entrees. Another contributing factor that cannot be ignored in the snacking or mini-meal trend is definitely our hectic schedules. When you are constantly on the go grab-and-go snacks or quick mini-meals just fit in between activities better than a sit down meal. Finally there is that constant struggle to eat more healthy. After years of super-sizing their food and their waistlines, many Americans are looking to down-sizing (or “Right-sizing” if you prefer) their meals rather than giving up the foods they love entirely.
Whether you think of these small bites as savory snacks, mini meals, dessert bites or appetizer flights, this is definitely a trend that is here to stay. Even if you are not in the restaurant industry this is a trend to which you should pay attention. If you are consumer brand manager cookbook author or food editor for magazine, here are some simple ideas to capitalize on this trend and promote usage of your product.
1) Stretch you concept of your product to include appetizer, mini-meals or snacking occasions. For example if your product is frozen French fries move beyond the side dish application and suggest a platter of Cheesy Spicy Nacho French Fries for a game day get together (I know, not every recipe can follow the better for you trend!). If your product is pea soup, suggest pea soup shooters (think shot glass of pea soup with a dollop of sour cream on top) as a super cool and trendy appetizer suggestion for urban cocktail party. If your product is canned corn, a recipe for simple corn salsa would do the trick. If you manage a brand of pork BBQ think smaller and suggest your consumer try BBQ sliders. See nearly any product can fit the small plate trend.
2) The KISS rule still applies – Keep it Simple Simple! In general consumers have even less time to prepare snacks than meals. Your serving suggestions and recipe ideas need to be simple, quick and easy. It also helps to be visual. If you are suggesting a usage occassion outside of your consumer's idea of typical, a picture can make the idea more appealing and do-able.
3) You appeal to more people with variety than a single idea. Not every recipe will fit everybody’s taste and desires and that is ok. That is why you want to have a large variety of recipes and marketing them to your consumers in different ways. For example you market a brand of guacamole and you know you core consumer puts your product on tacos and on chips and that is about it. Showing those 2 applications over and over will never inspire anyone to try something new (expanded usage occasions). It will also not speak to potential new consumers the way showing a variety of usage occasions. So let’s take that same product and add a recipe for Oven Baked Sweet Potato Fries with Guacamole Dip or Spicy Scallop Stackers (tortilla chip with a dollop of guacamole, a seared scallop a thin slice of jalapeno and topper of sour cream) and a serving suggestion of using guacamole as a dip on a vegetable tray. Now you are really expanding the possible usage occasions and making the product more appealing to new consumers!