An MCA poll of leading operators has shown that more than half expect overall menu pricing to increase over the next year – mainly at a rate of 3%-5%.

The analysis of industry views – which is included in MCA’s Menu & Food Trends Report 2017 – shows that rising ingredient costs is the main factor impacting changes in menu prices, highlighted by 71% of industry executives. This is followed by rising labour costs (43%), increased prices from suppliers (24%) and a weaker sterling (19%). Rising ingredient costs are driven by the weaker sterling and also heightened demand for popular ingredients.

Value engineering, smaller portions and cheaper alternatives have been the most common reactions to rising costs and a weakening sterling. However, the report suggests product development and premiumisation will continue to grow.

Healthier Eating was highlighted as the single most important trend affecting food menus at the moment, chosen by 43% of respondents.

When it comes to drinks, 43% of those surveyed picked ‘greater appreciation of craft beer’ as the most important drink trend on menus. ‘Lower sugar drinks’ was in second place, reflecting growing awareness of healthier drinking. Food and drink pairings was highlighted by a quarter of respondents. Increased attention to and choice of non-alcoholic drinks is also a key trend, mentioned by just over a fifth of respondents, driven by trends around lower alcohol consumption among young consumers.

Vegetarian/vegan, chicken and fish is expected to increase presence on menus over next 2-3 years, with pork, beef and lamb losing out. The report predicts that gluten free items will increase in number, as more dishes are made gluten free following new legislation.

The rise of Food To Go is having a significant impact on new product development, package innovation and time management across channels. Food To Go / Grab & Go is also expected to be the most influential trend of the next 2-3 years and the fastest growing trading format.

The report also lists the top five fastest growing cuisine influences over next 3-5 years – with healthier eating and barbecue the top two choices. Premium chicken and vegetarian have risen to joint third place in popularity for the period, reflecting the change in lifestyles. Street food has fallen to fifth place from fourth year ago, indicating the growth in this segment is expected to slow down.

The report includes a detailed breakdown of these industry views and also analyses menu pricing and composition trends, consumer insight and concepts to watch.

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