No, Culture-Craving Millennials Didn’t Kill Mayo
Look around the franchised restaurant landscape and you’ll find some really interesting flavors. Unique cultural dishes are central in some of the fastest-growing concepts in the space and finding menu space across the industry.
NPD Group’s Annie Roberts distills those trends into data. She’s in charge of the data and consulting firm’s Supply Track program that looks at what restaurants are ordering from their suppliers.
She said restaurants are ordering a whole lot of ethnic ingredients to satiate the demand of younger diners, who are looking for interesting, authentic food experiences.
“Everything we’re seeing grow pretty quickly are what we’d call authentic flavors. If an operator is trying to resonate with a younger consumer, they’re going to provide the most authentic ingredients as well as the authentic experience,” said Roberts.
Some of the fastest growing flavors come from Korea. Orders for Korean barbecue sauce surged by 120 percent last year and continues to grow this year, Korean hot chili surged 293 percent too.
“The growth of Korean barbeque is an example of how globally-inspired foods are becoming mainstream,” said Roberts. “We’re also seeing culture flavors like Indian, a lot of curries are growing as is Sambal. Sriracha was one of those interesting spices that became so popular that it became a condiment for everyone.”
South American flavors are trending as well. Roberts said Peruvian seasoning is up 20 percent; citrus garlic marinade is up triple digits on a large base as well.
That’s something the Pincho’s Factory co-founder Otto Othman knows well. He said the 10-location Latin American fast-casual concept resonates with younger diners who are looking for those unique flavors.
“I am a Millennial I guess, so ill speak to my crowd, we’re looking for more regional, authentic food,” said Othman.
But with a lot of spiced-up burgers on the menu, he said it’s about serving those authentic flavors in an approachable way.
“When you come in, we’re not this super ethnic joint, but you can sort of understand what Nicaraguan cuisine is, but it’s still a burger,” said Othman. “We’re very carefully brining in this influence from across South America but infusing it into foods that people understand.”
That’s something Halal Guys operator Paul Tran said initially got him into the brand. Capitalizing on Millennial tastes instead of jumping into a “me-too brand.”
“There hadn’t been anybody doing Middle Eastern or Mediterranean food in a big way, there hadn’t been a clear leader and it think there is an intersection of that and foodies and street food,” said Tran. “It was just different, and if it was different it had a better chance of standing out beyond a me-too brand.”
There are plenty of other examples: Yang’s Braised Chicken brings authentic Chinese flavors to the masses and Pokeworks even brought in a Hawaiian celebrity chef to ensure the menu was authentic and tasty.
With all this culinary change, it seems like traditional flavors like mayonnaise would be forgotten. And a few viral articles even declared mayo dead, killed—of course—by Millennials. But that’s just not happening, those traditional ingredients are just getting tweaks for the younger palate.
Garlic sauce? That’s mayo. Aioli, that’s mayo too. Secret poke sauce? That’s probably mayo. In all, mayo is doing just fine. According to Roberts, orders are actually growing.
“Dollars, cases, total mayo—all of those metrics are up. So mayo in the truest form is up all across the board,” said Roberts. “It’s up 8 percent year-over-year.”
Large orders for restaurant kitchens are up 7 percent and even portion-controlled mayonnaise (those little packets and dipping tubs) is up 3.6 percent. And new flavors of mayo are up as well. That trendy Sriracha mayo, that’s mostly mayo and the flavor is growing fast.
So as everyone expands their culinary horizons, diners still find a way to eat mayo and a lot of it. Maybe that gloopy, weird Waldorf salad isn’t drawing many Millennials in the potluck line, but that Sriracha macaroni salad is going fast.