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Customization Craze: Consumer Demand Feeds Need for Customized Foodservice Options

2019 Dessert Trends

48% of millennials surveyed consider ordering fries on top of their burger.1

Keeping pace with demand for customization is a must for operators who want to steer consumers to their business and encourage repeat traffic.

Seventy-two percent of consumers surveyed by the foodservice market research firm Technomic expect customized options, yet only 46% of operators surveyed recognize the growing consumer appetite for customization.2 And while the survey data shows that 61% of quick-service and 52% of full-service restaurant operations are receptive to tailoring menu selections to match the preferences of the individual customer,2 those figures still fall short of consumer expectations.

Technomic’s findings underscore the potential of build-your-own options to boost the bottom line, provided operators step up to the plate when it comes to customization.

According to Packaged Facts, a market research publisher covering food, beverages and consumer packaged goods, customization is especially appealing to the millennial market, which has driven the shift to fresh, individualized made-to-order meals so popular in the fast-casual segment.3 Composed of 69 million consumers ages 18-34, the millennial demographic presents a huge opportunity across foodservice segments and even at retail to tap into a coveted market by tailoring menus to its tastes.3

“The mix-and-match, ‘built it for me’ trend in fast casual has diversified to all sectors of the restaurant industry, from fast food to fine dining, as well as noncommercial venues,” explained David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts. “Yet while most obvious on restaurant menus, this trend is bigger than just foodservice. Among prominent food retailers such as Kroger and Meijer, meal kits are a trending example of how even grocery chains are working the do-it-yourself trend in fresh foods.”4

The Whole World in Their Hands: Customization-Crazed Consumers Go Global

No longer are customizable menu items limited to do-it-yourself sandwiches, burgers, burritos and pizza. Packaged Facts notes that the millennial preference for fresh, better-for-you and ethnic fare is inspiring restaurant operations to branch out into build-your-own salads, new-wave Asian dishes (think fusion noodles, stir fry and sushi) and bold international cuisines.4

In 2019, expect customized salads to continue to grow in popularity as millennials increasingly emphasize better-for-you alternative eating styles. Chains like Tossed, Sweetgreen and Mean Greens offer locally sourced, fresh natural ingredients (greens, veggies, toppings and dressings), which consumers mix and match to suit their own tastes. Vegan and gluten-free options are available, and a socially conscious vibe, complete with eco design and community-building through social media, aligns with millennial values.

Next-gen Asian cuisine, from noodle bars to sushi and stir-fry, seem likely to continue to tantalize taste buds as millennials explore adventurous flavor profiles and custom-built meals that reflect pan-Asian culinary inspirations.

By the same token, global palates should expand as the customization-driven fast casual format offers customers more opportunities to experiment with ingredients, flavors and textures from less familiar cuisines, including Korean and Indian.

Customizable Frozen Treats: A Cool Trend Heats Up

For sweet snacks, expect innovative and interactive frozen treat concepts to get even hotter. Chains like Freezing Moo and 16 Handles scoop up market share with fun and engaging formats that give an old favorite a novel twist.

Freezing Moo’s Thai fried ice cream rolls are a build-your-own sensation. They’re hand made from liquid form over an iced grill in front of the customer, who chooses from an array of mixes, fresh fruit and other toppings, from Nilla Wafers to graham crackers to OREO cookies. 16 Handles offers self-service frozen yogurt, ice cream & smoothies in a variety of flavors & toppings, including Nutter Butter bits and OREO pieces and wafers.

With nearly a third of global consumers surveyed expecting the meals they order at restaurants to be customizable to some degree,5 it seems clear that the customization trend is poised to grow in 2019. Elevate your menu with customizable options that cater to the millennial taste for falvor-packed, build-your-own fare. Be sure to check out our OREO Pork Mole Torta recipe and browse our Culinary Center for ideas and inspiration.

1 Freier, Lizzy, On The Menu U.S.—September 2018, Technomic (2018), p.18
2 National Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers, Trend watch: Implementing customizable, build-your-own operations without sacrificing service (2018). Retrieved from https://www.thenafemshow.org/news-and-insights/trend-watch-implementing-customizable-build-your-own-operations-without-sacrificing-service/
3 Schouten, Rebekah, “Millennials sparking customization movement,” Food Business News (Apr. 30, 2018). Retrieved from https://www.foodbusinessnews.net/articles/11729-millennials-sparking-customization-movement
4 Packaged Facts, Food Our Way: The Lasting Impact of Millennials on U.S Foodservice Menus (Apr. 26, 2018). Retrieved from https://www.packagedfacts.com/about/release.asp?id=4344
5 Jourden, Aaron, Technomic’s Take: 2018 Global Megatrends (Apr. 6, 2018). Retrieved from https://www.technomic.com/newsroom/technomics-take-2018-global-megatrends



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