Menus are evolving all the time to keep up with demand of consumers and to appeal to the latest fads in the food industry,

Last January, Veganuary saw over 60,000 people sign up to participate, a huge 260% growth from the previous year. For many of these, this has become a lifestyle change with an increase of 350% of the number of vegans living in the UK.

But not every diet change is by choice – for some consumers, their requirements and demands are more than just a food trend but a dietary requirement. With at least 1 in 100 people in the UK affected by coeliac disease, and approximately 65% of the world’s population suffering a reduced ability to digest lactose, chefs are now finding new ways to accommodate for several dietary requirements in their menus.

Veganism and other diets

Vegetarians are a huge market for restaurants nowadays with over 1.2million living in the UK alone, with the majority being teenagers.

According to The Independent and Business Insider, 16-24 year olds spend more money on food than any other age group – with 53% of Millennials eating out at least once a week. With those figures in mind, restaurants should be designing their food menus to cater for their biggest consumers.

Veganism is a growing trend that many have adapted their lifestyle to accommodate for – however, some vegans have concerns that there isn’t enough choice on the menu for them when eating at a restaurant. Though, chefs and restaurant owners are aware of the demand for vegan meal options and are adapting their menus for this reason. This is apparent in the results from a recent Pulse survey by Nisbets, retailers of pub furniture, where 20% of businesses said they considered consumer demand when changing their menus.

In fact, when it comes to vegan menus, for many restaurants the changes have already been made, and 15% of respondents believe vegan and vegetarian will be the next evolving food trend to look out for in 2018. The Nisbets survey results also revealed that many establishments have already begun to cater for vegans, and vegetarians – with 52% of respondents already offering 1-3 vegan and/or vegetarian options, 26% offering 4-8 options, and 8% offering more than 8 options.

Organic and Fairtrade produce is becoming more popular too with more consumers wanting to know exactly where their food has come from and the journey it’s taken from field to fork. This has seen a growth in the Fairtrade industry, with retailers such as Traidcraft selling not only Fairtrade food, but also branching out into Fairtrade Tea

Restricted diets

All food businesses must provide information on the 14 main food allergens (these include milk, glutted, fish and nuts)

Consumers who are suffering from an allergy don’t have a choice about their diet requirements. According to the Nisbets’ survey, 5% of respondents named allergen free menus as an apparent food trend throughout 2017, and 5% of respondents believed allergies is an evolving food or industry trend that is affecting their business.

But what about 2018? As previously mentioned, allergies are not a diet choice but a restriction – they will be here in 2018 just as much, if not more, than 2017 as more awareness is built. With such a huge percentage of the public suffering from allergies, (over 21 million adults) there is a big consumer demand to design restaurant menus that are accommodating. And it’s not just gluten and diary, 1 in 55 children suffer from peanut allergies too. However, it is not just allergy sufferers who look for free from products on a restaurant menu. Free-from products have become popular in supermarkets for consumers looking to potentially improve their diet. In the first month of 2017 alone, 54% of households also bought ‘free-from’ products.

It is clear that a large part of the population has specific dietary requirements, whether it is a diet by choice or a health-related requirement. The catering and hospitality industry are aware of the importance to appeal to consumer demand to get ahead of competition. So, if consumer demand is led by dietary requirements, it comes as no surprise that restaurant menus are changing. With trends and consumer demand named as some of the most influencing factors when changing restaurant menus in the Nisbets Pulse survey, restaurants need to consider the vegan and allergen ‘trends’ when designing their menus.