“Low and slow” is a backyard buzz phrase this summer as more and more people are migrating to smoking rather than grilling. This shift, along with a move toward ceramic barbecues instead of traditional models, is among the summer trends identified by Belmont Meats, a North American foodservice industry leader based in Toronto, Ont.
“Low and slow – low temperatures and longer cooking times – is really gaining in popularity,” said chef Curtis Dool, Belmont’s culinary expert. “Cooking in the back yard is one of the great joys of summer, and we’re seeing a growing willingness to spend more time getting it just right.”
Barbecues have become very sophisticated, with fuels ranging from natural gas to propane to manufactured charcoal briquettes, natural all-wood charcoal and various types of split-wood pieces like chunks and chips. Consumers have also evolved and now use their barbecues to make a much wider range of products, from traditional burgers and steaks to whole pork shoulders and even pizza, vegetables and desserts.
Here are other foodservice trends Belmont is seeing as the summer gets underway:
Burgers are boss. According to recent statistics, 42% of consumers eat burgers at least once a week. Consumers eat an average of 3.7 burgers per month – even more than pizza, which consumers eat an average of 3.2 times a month.
“Burgers may be forever popular, but what is in the burgers is changing, with more blending of pork and beef. The pork is lower cost and helps to provide moisture and give a different bite to the burger,” Dool explained.
He noted that what people are putting on their burgers is also new: “Unique and gourmet condiments are trending, such as fancy combinations of mustard, banana ketchup and kimchi, as well as spicy options such as sriracha and ghost peppers.”
Bacon is big. Bacon-wrapped fillets have been a standard for years and have evolved to lower-cost bacon-wrapped sirloin and other cuts. “The popularity of carnival food has raised new interest in all things wrapped in bacon – from burgers and wieners to meat loaf, sausages and chicken tenders,” Dool said.
Different steaks. With beef prices rising steadily since 2011, less-common cuts of steak have become popular. More people are buying the terres major – or shoulder tender – which is similar in tenderness to beef sirloin, or the flat iron steak, another cut known for its tenderness, soft texture and generous marbling.
Lamb is also rising in popularity. “Consumers are rediscovering things like lamb chops, shanks and lamb legs – all fantastic on the barbecue,” Dool said.
Part-time carnivores. A new category of consumer has emerged called the Flexetarian. These are people who opt to not eat any meat for two or three days every week, creating growing demand for veggie burgers that contain vegetables, ancient grains and beans or pulses.
Close to home. “Locally sourced (food) is a high priority for most consumers,” Dool said.
Hot, hot, hot. In the retail market, trends toward the spicy continue, with Asian (particularly Korean) and Hispanic-based flavors gaining fans.
Content matters. Consumers are making conscious sourcing decisions, looking for antibiotic-free beef from animals raised without added hormones. “People simply want to know what they are eating,” Dool explained. “Restaurant chains such as A&W and HERO have been very successful in not only educating their customers on what they are eating but also being at the forefront of a major trend in the ‘healthy halo’ category.”