Three Major Food & Beverage Trends

Whether traveling for business or pleasure, food options are a top priority for just about everyone.  The result of the farm-to-table movement that has made its way across the country over the past few years is that people are much more educated about food and where it comes from, and are now making more informed decisions about what to put in their bodies.  The hospitality and meeting industries have taken notice and are stepping up to meet the needs of their customers and attendees.  There are three outstanding trends that are sure to stick around for a while. 

Locally sourced food.  Topping the National Restaurant Association’s “What’s Hot” culinary 2013 forecast is locally sourced, sustainable, and good-for-you food items.  According to the World Watch Institute, food travels an average of 1,500 miles from farm to consumer.  Locally sourced food travels an average of just 44.6 miles.  You don’t need to be a nutritionist to know that if travel time for fruits and vegetables is minimal, then nutrition is more abundant for the consumer.  Restaurant chefs are purchasing ingredients from local farms, or even growing their own, to use in seasonal menus.  And customers are delighted. 

Within the meeting industry, planners are taking note that a “well-nourished attendee is a more productive attendee.”  They are also finding that attendees ask for and expect healthy fare at their meetings and conferences. 

Event producer Heather Mason, president of A Caspian Production, is seeing a trend moving away from sugary snack offerings such as cookies and brownies at meetings.  Those not-so-healthy options are being replaced by fresh fruit, nuts, yogurt and protein bars – with very positive results.  While there will always be attendees who prefer cookies and brownies, more and more are choosing the healthy options. 

Gourmet Food Trucks.  You have seen food trucks parked around town; you have probably even stood in line for some of the delicious fare.  Food trucks at lunch time have been popular among hard-working employees around town for a few years now, and the options are now more diverse than ever.  

As the Great Recession began in 2008, food trucks that offered creative yet affordable cuisine thrived in Los Angeles, starting a country-wide trend that is in now in full force.According to Sacramento’s SactoMoFo (Sacramento Mobile Food Events), there are more than 20 food trucks that regularly attend the city’s events.Hungry customers can find anything from fish tacos to waffles to Hawaiian-style shave Ice.

Food truck vendors are not only finding themselves temporarily setting up shop at local outdoor events catering to spectators or passersby, but are now finding themselves the main source of meals at meetings and conventions.For instance, recently Hyatt Hotels and Resorts held its annual sales meeting in Atlanta and arranged for nine different food trucks to serve the 400 attendees. The cost was comparable to a typical buffet lunch.And in Sacramento, several trucks were recently scheduled to serve players and spectators in Roseville for the Senior Softball Tournament.

Craft Cocktails.  Whether for business or pleasure, there comes a time in everyone’s travels for the need to sit back and relax – with a drink.  From cruise lines to city bars to hotel restaurants, craft cocktails are more popular than ever.  According to Chef Gui Alinat, author of The Chef’s Repertoire, “drinks are no longer made by bartenders.  Unique cocktails are made by mixologists.” 

Craft cocktails are the unique blending of spirits, juices and fresh ingredients and the making of them has become an art with Sacramento at the center of the craft cocktail scene.Earlier this year, Imbibe Magazine named Sacramento one of the top cocktail destinations in the country.The designation came from the region’s host of Midtown Cocktail Week, as well as a number of cocktail hot spots such as Red Rabbit and Pour House.

Hook & Ladder Manufacturing Company, one of Midtown Sacramento’s best restaurants and bars emphasizes farm-to-fork drinks.Beverage Director Chris Tucker is a native Sacramentan who, after spending several years working the cocktail scene in San Francisco, returned home with the intent of creating cocktails using the region’s seasonal and local ingredients.He crafts his own artisanal cocktails and works directly with Hook & Ladder’s chefs in making sure that each drink is served at its best.

Coupled with the farm-to-table movement, craft cocktails won’t be going by the wayside anytime soon.The appeal of enjoying a unique drink made with fresh, seasonal and local ingredients is expected to become the norm.