The growth in popularity of dishes such as pulled pork is moving the goalposts for operators when it comes to effective menu planning, hospitality buying company Lynx Purchasing has warned.

The growing consumer appetite for US-style hot dogs and BBQ dishes such as ribs and pulled pork has largely flattened out the seasonal peaks and troughs that used to be seen in pork prices, reports the new Autumn/Winter 2014 edition of the Lynx Purchasing Market Forecast.

“We’re definitely now seeing what you might call the ‘pork belly effect’ extend to other cuts,” said Lynx managing director John Pinder. “Where pork belly was once a very cost effective option for dishes such as stews and pies, once gastropubs, and then national pub and restaurant groups, moved it centre-plate the price inevitably increased.

“We’re now seeing a similar effect on pork shoulder, which is an ideal cut for slow cooking. With pulled pork now appearing not simply on the menu in specialist BBQ restaurants, but in many mainstream restaurants and pubs, demand for pork shoulder is high all year around.”

Lynx’s report, based on exclusive insights from its suppliers, tallies with the most recent Menurama data from industry analyst Horizons, which reported that hot dogs appeared on 86% more menus in June 2014 than a year previously, with pork ribs the second biggest riser with an increase of 15%.

Pinder said: “Pork still represents very good value for caterers, but the reality is that the price is going to remain at a steady level all year round rather than see the seasonal variations that clever operators have been able to take advantage of in the past. The one exception, inevitably, is demand for streaky bacon in the run-up to Christmas, which as ever is going to push up the price as we get closer to December.”

The Market Forecast also sounds a warning note on turkey prices, which took a seasonal upturn earlier than expected at the start of September.

“We’re keeping a close eye on pricing trends as our customers plan their Christmas menus,” said Pinder.  “Most suppliers won’t have their birds fully ready for market for a few more weeks, so the picture on turkey prices won’t be totally clear until mid-November, although we’re already negotiating prices for some of our customers who are placing large orders for their Christmas menus.”

He added a positive note on seasonal products. “Generally availability is good, quality of produce high and value for money excellent, while the stronger pound following the ‘no’ vote in the Scottish referendum will make produce imports from Europe better value. Operators should be planning their menus around seasonal fruit and veg wherever possible across the autumn and into the Christmas trading period.

“The Russian ban on imports of food and drink products from the UK will also potentially benefit operators. We’re talking to some of our specialist suppliers, and there are likely to be some bargains on offer on products such as smoked salmon and premium cheeses such as cheddar and stilton, that were previously earmarked for the oligarchs.”