E. Liz Sloan

A. Elizabeth Sloan

Dunkin’ Breakfast Tacos

Fire-roasted corn is a key ingredient in new Dunkin’ Breakfast Tacos. Photo courtesy of Dunkin’

Dunkin’ Breakfast Tacos

Fire-roasted corn is a key ingredient in new Dunkin’ Breakfast Tacos. Photo courtesy of Dunkin’

Seven in 10 U.S. adults say they are trying to include more fruits and vegetables in their diets, according to Datassential, driving a significant opportunity for product developers, retailers, and foodservice operators. When it comes to fruits and veggies, consumers want the real thing; the majority (six in 10), say they prefer foods that showcase fruits and vegetables over plant-based offerings that mimic other food products.

As it is in many food and beverage categories, convenience is a powerful purchase driver. FMI, The Food Industry Association, says that one-third of shoppers buy fresh-cut vegetables and 31% buy fresh-cut fruits always or whenever possible. Three-quarters of consumers say they buy such products at least some of the time.

Fresh Express Salsa! Ensalada and Pear Gorgonzola salad kits are among the new upscale produce offerings. Mann Packing Co. has rolled out a line of Air Fryer Veggie Kits to target the growing trend toward air fryer meal preparation; the veggie kits are also microwave-friendly.

FMI reports that more than half of meal preparers want more specialty fresh-cut vegetables and two-thirds seek more produce-based meal kits. Local Bounti Asian Style Chicken Lettuce Wrap Kits can be prepared in minutes. Fully prepared ingredients like Fruits De Mer Marinated Oven Roasted Tomatoes and Menu Misto Di Funghi canned mushroom antipasto mix simplify meal preparation.

According to the American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI), older millennials, high-income households, and those with kids aged seven to 12 are the core frozen produce consumers. Half of all frozen food buyers purchase fruit; four in 10 buy prepared vegetables and entrées with vegetables; one-third purchase spiral/riced vegetables; and one-quarter buy smoothie mixes, per AFFI. New frozen Green Giant Veggie Spiral Skillets work well as either a side dish or a meal starter.

"At home or away, snacks and desserts remain the most important opportunities for fruit."

Vegging Out

After sandwiches, pizza, and center-of-the-plate proteins, restaurant operators are focusing their menu innovation on salads, vegetables, and fruit dishes, according to Datassential. Six in 10 consumers occasionally (37%) or frequently (24%) add fresh produce to restaurant takeout or delivery, according to FMI.

Chefs surveyed by the National Restaurant Association cited look-alike vegetable/carb alternatives such as cauliflower wings as a hot dinner trend for 2023. Cauliflower and elote are among the top three trendy appetizers.

At home or away, snacks and desserts remain the most important opportunities for fruit; for vegetables, breakfast and snacks are key dayparts. Dunkin’ added Breakfast Tacos made with eggs, cheese, and fire-roasted corn to the menu this spring. Popeyes introduced Strawberry Biscuits for a limited-time sweet, snackable twist on its iconic biscuits.

Datassential points to pickled vegetables, pineapples, pears, chutneys, vegetable slaws, and jams as newly trending burger toppers in restaurants. Mushrooms (oyster, chanterelle, and wood ear varieties), yuzu, ube, verjus (the pressed juice of unripened grapes), pickled strawberries, and mangonada are among the produce menu items expected to move into the spotlight this year, according to Datassential.

Of course, the many health benefits of fruits and vegetables can’t be ignored. In descending order, digestive health, weight loss, bone health, healthy skin/hair, energy, immunity, and mental energy head the list of health benefits consumers look for in fruits and vegetables and other plant-forward foods, Datassential says. The interest in digestive health may help account for the rising profile of prebiotic and probiotic fizzy fruit sodas, which claim to bolster gut health.

Four in 10 adults say that providing one full serving of fruit/vegetables is an extremely or very important label claim, HealthFocus reports. Prominent in produce, vitamin C, B vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants are among the top nutritional elements shoppers are willing to pay more for, per HealthFocus. Datassential reports that consumers say smoothies are second only to oatmeal as the healthiest food.

Blueberries, avocados, leafy greens, and sea vegetables are among the top 10 trendy superfoods in 2023, according to this year’s survey of registered dietitians conducted by Pollock Communications and Today’s Dietitian.

Products touting the Upcycled Certified mark, which highlights upcycled ingredients, enjoyed double-digit growth in the shelf-stable fruits/vegetables and jams/jelly/spreads categories for the year ended Oct. 30, 2022, per SPINS. Perfect for dipping, Barnana Organic Plantain Scoops are Upcycled Certified. 

About the Author

A. Elizabeth Sloan, PhD, a member of IFT and contributing editor of Food Technology, is president, Sloan Trends Inc., Escondido, Calif. ([email protected]).

E. Liz Sloan