Incredible Breakfast Trends

Asian Flavors Shake Up Breakfast

Using the wisdom of hindsight, a celebrity panel of culinary experts assembles near the end of each year to analyze and pronounce their picks for the top 10 trends of that year. Last November’s event established Forbes’ 2016 “Seat 1A Food Trend List” with four trends on the final list focused squarely on Asian cuisines.

At the top of the list stood “Asian Twists on Comfort Food” Number seven was “Filipino Cuisine and Flavors,” number eight, “Miso,” and number 10, “Turmeric.” The judges pointed out that kimchi and Sriracha are now commonly used with conventional comfort foods and that Korean gochujang and Japanese dashi stock were following suit. It was noted that fermented foods and chili sauces not only add complexity, but work extraordinarily well with classic comfort foods.

And that’s why Asian spices and flavors work so well with traditional American breakfast foods. Eggs, potatoes and entrée starches offer relatively neutral platforms, perfect for pairing with more assertive flavors. Delicious in their own right, eggs not only contribute protein but create widely diverse dishes by partnering with high-flavored items like pulled pork, miso or kimchi.

For the past century Asian food meant chop suey or chow mein to many Americans, but those days are quickly fading. Egg foo yung is another item from those earlier days and it does have one thing in common with the more updated items we’re seeing today: it uses eggs in a significant way. Many of the newly popular dishes found across the spectrum of menus use eggs as either the only protein or as an important add-on. Bibimbap, congee and ramen dishes frequently include a soft-cooked or fried egg, to name just the more familiar ones.

Today’s consumer chooses from dozens of ethnic traditions, often ordering them at non-Asian operations. As consumer familiarity expands, operators have a unique opportunity to invigorate menus with the diversity of Asian flavors. Pickled vegetables, items adding umami notes, and hot Asian chili sauces and pastes already have a strong presence on U.S. menus. Using this growing popularity offers operators a new opportunity to stay on trend and get creative.

Technomic’s most recent Breakfast Consumer Trend Report1 shows that 51 percent of Millennials and 43 percent of Gen Z consumers are looking for more ethnic flavors at breakfast. The increasing interest in and menuing of Asian breakfasts fits many current trends, including several traced to Millennials’ impact. Healthy eating has become a cause for bragging. An adventurous palate is almost an American birthright, but has gone into high gear across demographic groups in the past decade. Younger consumers avoid processed foods and demand fewer additives, and with other age groups joining that chorus, manufacturers are giving them what they want. All these trends are hallmarks of Asian cuisines.

Whether adding heat or using citrus notes for zest, integrating Asian flavors into a menu highlights distinctive tastes within any cuisine. Here are a few ways to make that happen:

  • Let produce, grains and spices take center stage; add protein using a soft-boiled egg.
  • Use meat not as the central ingredient, but as part of a symphony of flavors and textures; egg is often added to meat-containing dishes to increase the flavor and protein quotient.
  • Allow the power of umami flavors found in Asian dishes and sauces to shine. (See the Cosmos Goss quote in “Sun Shines On Asian Breakfasts.”)

We know that consumers and generational shifts are driving trends, but not all operators are taking full advantage. Datassential found that breakfast bowls appeal to 57 percent of consumers.2 Breakfast bowls are up 112 percent on menus, yet only 27 percent of operators menu them. With menu mentions of both Korean and kimchi having risen over 400 percent2 between 2012 and 2016, it seems this is a Korean flavored item waiting to be added to menus. A soft-cooked egg, pickled veggies and thinly sliced meat on a bed of rice, noodles or ancient grain will allow the consumer to customize with a choice of sauces.

Giving consumers what they want with on-trend, adventurous flavors is never a bad business move.

1. Technomic Inc.; Breakfast Consumer Trend Report (2015)
2. Datassential; MenuTrends Keynote Series: Breakfast (November 2016)

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