Food Trend Spotlight: 2022 Mid-Year Culinary Trends & Surprises to Watch

September 2022 

If there is one constant in the foodservice industry in 2022, it’s change. The industry continues to adapt to the economic and global realities of inflation, a late-stage pandemic, and pent-up consumer demand as operators look ahead to plan for a new calendar year and beyond.

It can be helpful in complex times like these to turn to data, which can provide insight into consumer habits and desires while introducing the ingredients, flavors, and preparations that are growing the fastest on menus. The leading market research firm Datassential recently delivered its mid-year report, and the team is pleased to see that lentils are a natural fit in many emerging food trends.

Here are some key insights from the Datassential 2022 Mid-year Trends Report that highlight how lentils can help your operation succeed in the months and years to come:

The ever-popular Indian food category is poised for an evolution, with a focus on plant-based offerings helping to drive growth. South Indian food in particular is more legume-based than other traditional Indian cuisine and features on-trend ingredients like jackfruit, plantains, and tamarind. With an increase in both South Indian and Indo-Chinese dishes on Indian restaurant menus in the past year, it’s worth keeping an eye on this category as operators find inspiration in new ingredients and applications.

North Indian cuisine is trending outside of Indian restaurants, which can make this an ideal time for operators to experiment with relatively familiar dishes like samosas and curries, using lentils as an ingredient that boosts fiber and protein while carrying flavor. As the cuisine continues to evolve, it’s likely that we will continue to see the rise of South Indian dishes. Yellow dal and dal tadka have both grown by 17% in Indian restaurants over the past 12 months. [2] Click here to read our spotlight on Indian cuisine that spans regions and ingredients.

The report also identifies a data surprise: More consumers say that they are interested in seeing eco-friendly foods than plant-based options in the quick service restaurant category. [3] Moving forward, it may be helpful to position menu items as sustainable rather than simply plant-based to reach and appeal to more consumers. In addition to their stellar nutrition profile, lentils are an eco-friendly ingredient that have helped national chains like Sweetgreen meet their goals of reducing their carbon footprint and increasing transparency about their ingredient choices.

Lentils are as eco-friendly as a crop comes — the crop requires very little water to grow, all of which comes from natural precipitation, it helps improve soil health by fixing nitrogen back into the soil as it grows, and they sequester more carbon in the soil than is emitted during production, making lentils a net-negative carbon use crop. Lentils are a sustainable ingredient for any foodservice operation.

Another key finding in the Datassential report reflects an increased focus on health: 22% of business and industry operators say that their primary foodservice function is to promote employee wellness, up from 13% in 2019. Employees who need food to fuel their days can look to lentils as a high-quality plant protein source, with 12 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber in one ½-cup serving. This combination of protein and fiber leads to the satiating effect of lentils that satisfies the consumer and actually keeps them full for longer, providing that long burning energy needed to get your consumers through the day.

Lentils can be a labor-saving solution in the kitchen, too — they work double-duty, offering cross-menu utilization while also providing a delicious ingredient that’s versatile, consistent, and simple to prepare.

As for trending savory flavors, top seasonal ingredients for fall 2022 include coconut milk, pumpkin, and mushroom gravy. Lentils and coconut milk make a great pair in aforementioned dishes like dal, and lentils can also lend themselves to creative savory applications like this Slow-Cooker Red Lentil Soup with Coconut and Apple. Our Pumpkin Stout Lentil Gingerbread puts a playful twist on fall flavors — and porter beer is also a trending savory flavor this fall, making this offering both timely and tempting. Mushrooms and lentils offer endless possibilities, from blended burgers with improved nutrition to an inventive combination of the two ingredients that makes an eco-friendly menu option with big flavor.

Condiments and relishes dominate the list of top seasonal flavors for winter 2022, including creole sauce, tapenade, and gorgonzola sauce. Lentils act as a flavor sponge, soaking up accompanying spices and ingredients, and they hold well for long periods of time, either hot or cold, so they’re well-positioned to help trending flavors shine bright in cold-weather stews, soups, and entrees.

In the months to come, consumers will look to food for comfort and flavor, but especially for sustainable menu options with ingredients that fulfill the desire for interesting global flavor profiles while also promoting health and wellness.

To explore how you can use lentils to leverage emerging trends, contact our corporate chef for a one-on-one innovation session.

[1] Datassential 2022 TIPS Midyear Trend Report
[2] Datassential MenuTrends 2022
[3] Creative Concepts: The Future of Fast Food