While you may think the latest food trends (like turmeric, fried pickles, and shishito peppers) surfaced only in recent years, the reality is that they’ve been around for a decade, moving through the menu adoption cycle. When we only focus on what’s gaining popularity today, it’s difficult to stay on top of trends and capitalize to receive the highest benefit.
Food trends follow a predictable journey spanning four separate stages. Understanding the lifecycle the latest food trends follow allows us to anticipate the future path that the trend will take. Knowing where a trend is in the menu adoption cycle (MAC) is the first step toward knowing where it’s going.
This article will explore the different stages of the MAC and what trends look like in each stage.
Trends start at inception. Here, trends typically are unique in flavor preparation and presentation. In food service, trends in the inception stage are commonly found at fine dining establishments or independent ethnic restaurants. In retail, inception-stage trends are found at ethnic markets or in the ethnic aisle of large supermarkets.
Once inception-stage trends take root, they can move into the adoption stage. Trends here grow through lower price points and simplified preparation methods. Typically, these dishes feature premium or authentic ingredients.
In food service, adoption-stage trends can be found in gastropubs, chef-casual, food trucks, upper casual, and casual independent restaurants. Within retail, these trends can be found at farmers’ markets, specialty grocers, or gourmet food stores.
Once trends reach the proliferation stage, they’ll typically be adjusted for mainstream appeal. This often includes combining them with popular applications, like on burgers or in pasta. At this point, these trends have become familiar to many consumers.
Proliferation-stage trends can be found in lodging restaurants, casual chains, college cafes, quick service restaurants, and grocery delis. In retail, these trends are hitting traditional grocery and club stores.
At peak maturity, trends reach the ubiquity stage. Here, they can be found across all sectors of the industry. Often, these trends are diluted once they get to ubiquity, in order to cater to the masses.
There isn’t anywhere a ubiquitous trend can’t be found. At this stage convenience stores, corporate cafeterías, family restaurants, healthcare, K-12 schools, drug stores, and dollar stores all finally take note.
Understanding the MAC and being able to identify where a trend is in the lifecycle gives you better capabilities for being able to anticipate a trend’s next move. Consider common trends you’re following: What stage are they in? When will they reach the next stage? Will they make it to ubiquity?