Poke bowls are a featured topic of the “In-Season” section of the spring edition of Insights for Foodservice from the United Fresh Produce Association, while jackfruit and romaine lettuce are featured in the “On the Horizon” section that looks at trends anticipated for fall.
Poke (pronounced “poh-kay”), “a trendy fish salad,” originated in Hawaii but is spreading rapidly across the mainland, the report says.
The name poke means “to cut into pieces” in Hawaiian and features chunks of sushi-grade fish marinated in soy sauce, onions and sesame oil, according to the report.
It’s usually combined in a bowl with seaweed, green onion and nuts.
“The explosion of poke bowls on menus across the country, however, coupled with the customizable bowl trend, has led to an endless number of ingredients and toppings being used in this on-trend dish,” the report says.
A poke bowl often includes a variety of colors, flavors and textures from ingredients like pickled vegetables, avocados, cucumbers, pineapples, carrots, radishes and edamame served over quinoa, rice or other grains.
Datassential says 36% of U.S. consumers are likely to try poke at a restaurant, and 12% of operators plan to add it to their menus.
Poke bowls are experiencing a 43% four-year growth rate in the West with 3% penetration; 25% growth in the South with 1% penetration; 11% growth in the Midwest with 1% penetration; and 35% growth in the Northeast with 1% penetration.
The largest growth rate by far is in the fast-casual segment with 247%.
Jackfruit, which is native to Southeast Asia, is said to be the world’s largest tree fruit and can weigh in at more than 100 pounds and grow up to 3 feet long.
It’s characterized by a tough, spiny skin, the report says. And it’s nutrient dense.
Unripe jackfruit can be shredded and used as a meat substitute, similar to pulled pork or chicken.
The fruit becomes sweet as it ripens, some say taking on the flavor of Juicy Fruit gum. It can then be used in smoothies, salad, cakes and frozen desserts.
In the past, only canned jackfruit was available in the U.S., mostly at Asian markets.
More recently, fresh jackfruit is becoming more widely available.
The fruit experienced a 394% growth rate in the Midwest, 100% in the South and 1% in the Northeast but was down 50% in the West, according to the report.
It’s still a relative rarity, however. All areas reported a penetration rate of less than 1%.
It’s most popular in Asian restaurants.
Romaine is a member of the lettuce family and is distinguished by its long heads and thick ribs that run down to spoon-shaped, tightly packed leaves, the report says.
There are several varieties of romaine that vary in size and range from bright green to dark reddish/purple.
“Some believe romaine is the oldest cultivated lettuce variety,” the report says.
Romaine is valued by foodservice operators because it is sturdy and can hold up to hot foods, it’s available year-round, and it’s healthful and versatile.
“The smaller inner leaves may be used as spoons to hold dips or salads, while the larger outer leaves can serve as a lettuce wrap or even a vegetarian carrier for a burger or taco,” according to the report.
Romaine probably is most associated with the Caesar salad, which is found on 45% of U.S. menus, according to the report.
Romaine experienced an 11% four-year growth rate in the South with 48% penetration; 8% in the Midwest and Northwest with 49% and 48% penetration respectively; and 6% growth rate in the West with 48% penetration.
Fresh Insights for Foodservice is developed in partnership with Datassential, a market research firm dedicated to the food industry.
The report, sponsored by Tanimura & Antle, looks at how chefs and restaurants are featuring fresh produce on their menus.
It’s free to United Fresh members and available by visiting unitedfresh.org.