Top 5 food trends for 2016 and the equipment you will need to make them

It seems that every year, we see the food service industry undergo major changes that force all participants to adapt. The sector is always evolving due to numerous social, technological and economic trends that alter the way consumers want to be served and how businesses can maximize profits. All businesses, from supermarkets and independent bakeries and delis to restaurant chains, , must find ways to meet their customers ever-changing demands if they want to stay afloat in this competitive industry.

Already, it seems that 2016 will be as tumultuous a year as any for the food service sector. Industry experts are already talking about what food trends will come to dominate next year, and it’s clear that businesses of all types will have to invest in food preparation equipment that can help them attract new consumers and retain existing ones. In this post, we’ll look at five major food trends in 2016 as well as the equipment you’ll need to have on hand if you want to keep up with the rapid pace of the industry.

1. Pretzel rolls and artisan breads
The artisanal bread craze is already a few years in the making and is showing no signs of slowing down. Instore looked at data from statista.com and found that sales of artisanal bread grew from $2 billion in 2012 to $2.6 billion in 2014, and there’s every indication this will continue. Menus in nearly every type of food service establishment, from fine dining to fast food include pretzel rolls, brioche buns and other kinds of high-quality breads.

What you’ll need: Baking artisan-quality bread requires mixing equipment, proofers and ovens that can give you features that facilitate the iconic feel and taste of Old World-style breads. Ovens that give the bakers control over all the parameters of the baking process, such as temperature and moisture, are essential for these increasingly popular items. See the list here.

2. The rise of ethnic comfort foods
Research from Technomic, a leading U.S. food research and consulting firm, shows that what used to be considered “peasant fare,” is on the rise on menus everywhere. Meatballs, sausages, pierogies and Asian-style dumplings will continue to grow in popularity. These are comfort foods with an ethnic flair, something that is attractive to young adventurous eaters.

What you’ll need: High-quality mixers, mincers, grinders, steamers and convection ovens will be essential for creating these dishes, which all prominently feature ground meats. Good mixers and grinders will be easy to use and quick to clean, and energy efficient boilers and convection ovens will produce quick results so that you can produce high volumes of delicious ethnic foods even with a low-skilled staff. See the list here.

3. Roasted and smoked meats
In the past, only those with the space for a cumbersome smoker could serve their customers smoked fare. Today, new equipment is available that makes it easy to create smoked and charred dishes in small work spaces. This kind of offering can be a big differentiator in 2016 – as Instore reported, consumers today are looking for hot, slow-cooked meals that are still quick and convenient for their busy schedules. Roasted and smoked poultry, meats and vegetables will be popular options for this crowd in 2016 and beyond.

What you’ll need: If you have the space, a modern smoker can be a powerful addition to your food preparation arsenal. Again, you should look for a smoker that is easy to use and clean while offering different smoke settings to help you achieve the exact flavors you’re looking for. Many options are available for roasting including batch cookers. See the list here.

4. Quick protein and snacks for the health conscious
Americans are quickly becoming more and more health-minded, and their diets are changing because of it. This growing base of consumers expects fresh, healthy options that fill them up when they go out to eat, whether it’s at a small deli, a grocery store or a bakery. Whether it’s pre-prepared protein-rich snacks like small sandwiches, or full meals based around meats, those looking for a nutritional boost will be attracted to high-protein offerings now and in the future.

What you’ll need: The most important pieces of equipment you’ll need are ones that make short work of preparing a high volume of sliced meats. To that end, meat and bread slicers, hybrid ovens and hot merchandisers will be key in any business that plans on serving quick, nutrition-packed snacks, lunches and dinners to fit consumers. See the list here.

5. Rising labor costs will increase the need for automation
This isn’t exactly a food trend, but it is having a major impact on the industry already and will continue to do so in 2016. In many locales, the political winds are blowing toward a higher minimum wage, as well as the elimination of tipping for some food service workers. This means that businesses across the industry will look to slash labor costs and automate as much of their processes as possible to preserve their already thin profit margins.

What you’ll need:¬†Any equipment that can be operated by unskilled labor and requires minimal handling to do its job will be a critical addition to a business trying to keep its labor costs down. This could mean investing in items such as bread systems, automatic production lines, commercial ovens or automated bread slicers that do the legwork for you. See the list here.

The food service industry is changing before our eyes, but if you invest in the right equipment, you’ll be in a great position to not only keep up with your competitors, but gain an edge over them.