It’s back to school time, which means it’s back to packing kids’ lunches. Before you head to your local grocer and ransack the aisles to find something your little scholar will eat (and enjoy), it could be valuable to consider a few rising kid food trends hitting restaurants across the U.S.
Most parents believe that kids’ food could be healthier. Mintel reports, “74% of parents agree there are not enough healthy kids’ menu options.” This sentiment is not lost on restaurant owners, evidenced by a growing push to add healthier options to kids’ menus. A growing desire for healthier ingredients and varied flavor profiles is on the rise. “Healthy as a claim for kids’ menu items increased by 33% from 2016 to 2019,” according to Mintel Menu Insights.
Grilled is supplanting fried, fruit and vegetables are replacing French fries, and the traditional American flavors we’re used to seeing are expanding into new tastes. Panera Bread’s VP of Wellness and Food Policy, Sara Burnett, told delegates at the Partnership for a Healthier America Summit in April 2019, “Kids are becoming more exploratory, where they might try a salad one time and something else another time. We definitely see it go up with age, where we see a shift in consumption of these broader palate choices and dietary patterns.”
Which new flavors are performing best? Mexican cuisine is a top performer on kids’ menus thanks to the customizability of the fare (think quesadillas, tacos, bowls, and endless ingredient combinations). Mintel reports, “Trending menu item dishes on kids’ menus include tacos up 27% and enchiladas up 33%. Guacamole is also up +107% as an ingredient in kids’ menus from 2016-2019.”