STREET FOODS, HYBRIDS, AND GROCERANTS – THE NEW STANDARDS IN EATING
Food, glorious food. It’s a familiar saying that in many ways, is very profound in itself. First, food is our main source of survival; it comes in various forms, and it is endlessly giving of itself to be enjoyed in the simplest to the most creatively ingenious ways. Nowadays, food is not only nutrition but art, science, entertainment, comfort, and, dare I say, magic. Through what other diverse, colorful, and abundant means can one restore a person’s energy, uplift spirits, and garner unbreakable captivation with the presentation of a dish so outstanding, it could only be described as magic?
Nevertheless, as a chef, you realize that the presentation of your culinary art is far from the enchanting illusion of magic. In reality, the craveability of food is reliant on the diversity of what is prepared, the intrigue of how it’s presented, and the convenience of obtaining it. All of these factors are realized in three major food fads turned trends—street foods (diversity), dessert hybrids (intrigue), and grocerants (convenience).
If taken literally, the term “street food” may not sound as appealing as the saveur fare that it is, which does not require a lot of savoir faire (social grace). However, www.foodinstitute.org, provides a clearer definition, determining that street food is tasty, ready-to-eat food or drink sold on the street, in a market, fair, park or other public place. It is sold by a hawker or vendor from a portable stall, cart, or food truck.
It is recorded that more than 2 billion people consume street food on a daily basis. American food hubs such as New York City, New York; Chicago, Illinois; Los Angeles, CA; and Charlotte, NC, to name a few, are delicious examples of why consumers are drawn to street food. In culinary havens like these, where wafts of domestic and exotic blends of aromatic spices and smells relentlessly tease the senses of passerby, while live visuals invoke an entirely different set of cravings, consumers are eager to explore the world of culturally-diverse epicurean fantasies for several logical reasons.
According to www.newyorkstreetfood.com they offer:
- Change from chains
- Face-to-face contact with the chef
- Salvation from food deserts
- Introduction to new cuisine
- Food court on wheels
- The opportunity to meet new people
- A chance to support locally owned (mom & pop) businesses
- Be a part of the community
- Fresh menu items and ingredients
- The feeling of being “cool”
- A new spin on old favorites
If these reasons are any indications of why the explosion of street food is growing, it’s clear to see that its popularity is a long way from slowing down. Not only is street food the inspiration behind many of today’s favorite desserts such as churros, doughnut holes, fruit fritters, sweet empanadas, funnel cakes, Danish, crepes, scones, and a countless number of frozen treats, but it is also the root of the more high-end cuisine found in many brick and mortar establishments.
Moreover, in many cases, the street food environment has been the breeding ground for unconventional culinary exploitation that leave a major impression on consumers, much like that of dessert hybrids.
“What is it?” That would likely be the first question. “What does it taste like?” Presumably, the following question about a food hybrid – the combination of two concepts to make something incredible and brand new. Many times, as children, we may have created a hybrid, or two, that we could not conceive would be a phenomenon among the masses, but were mishmashes that simply tasted good to us. To name a quick few, the unique combinations of chicken & waffles; potato chips and ice cream; cake & pie; ketchup & cantaloupe; peanut butter & hamburgers; spaghetti tacos; and cheddar cheese on apple pie, etc. have satisfied many palate curiosities, and, in some form, have introduced themselves into today’s gastronomic scene (yes, there is such a thing as ketchup based with fruit other than tomatoes). And though explorative, adventurous, and imaginative minds have been creating food marriages for centuries, America’s fascination with the matrimony of varied sweet vittles is one that has spiked since the highly-publicized union of croissants and doughnuts.
The invention of the Cronut® in 2013 caused dessert-lovers everywhere to become paralyzed with ravenous captivation over the blend of two extremely popular pastry staples – the beloved American doughnut and French-rooted croissant. Much like the Statue of Liberty, this amicable union of France and America continues to draw consistently enthusiastic crowds, leaving the American consumer on the lookout for the next big thing.
So far we’ve enjoyed delicacies such as the:
Duffin=doughnut + muffin
Donnoli=doughnut + cannoli
Crogel=croissant + bagel
Doughscuit=doughnut + biscuit
Cruffin=croissant + muffin
Crepe cake=layered crepes + filling
Cherpumple=cherry + pumpkin + apple pie cooked inside cake
But, as intriguing as dessert hybrids are, what is the real fascination for consumers? According to “Opinion: Isn’t the World Tired of All These Food Hybrids? Because We Are,” published on www.hungryforever.com, the world loves food hybrids because they look good on Instagram and everybody likes posting pictures of their food on Instagram. Is it really that simple? For the consumer, perhaps, though aided by a pinch of curiosity in regard to the final taste of the latest flavor mishmash. But chefs share a different understanding.
As explained by the chefs of the PreGel International Training Centers – Charlotte, there is no underlying competition between chefs to be the creator of America’s next dessert hybrid obsession, but simply that chefs are more captivated by how a hybrid is actually executed and the intellectual aspect behind it.
Alicia Stevens, International Training Centers coordinator – international, PreGel America, explains, “Even as a pastry chef with that training and background, you see something on social media you think ‘oh, how did s/he put that there?’ Was it still liquid and it set really quickly or what? You’re thinking about how did s/he do that?’”
Stevens continues, “We [chefs] want people to be intrigued and wonder ‘How did he do that? How did he get that taste? I want to be able to do that the next time.’”
Michael Downing, PreGel International Training Centers corporate pastry chef – international, PreGel America, added, “Not only do we [chefs] wonder ‘how did he do that?’ But also how do you make a classic in a new way?” adding to the intellectual esteem behind the creation of a dessert hybrid.
Whether spawned from consumer curiosity or chef intellect and mutual admiration, there is no doubt that America will continue a long-term fascination with the idea of hybrids…dessert form and otherwise.
It’s been referred to as the hybrid of a restaurant and grocery store: the prepared food section of the supermarket, otherwise known as the grocerant…and consumers are flocking to them.
As published by www.forbes.com, the online publication of Forbes magazine, Americans (and Millennials in particular) want someone else to cook for them, but they don’t want to stop going to the grocery store, either. The compromise between the two? Purchasing prepared food from the supermarket.
Much like street food and hybrids, a wide variety of selections can be found at the grocerant for the plethora of consumers with ranging culinary tastes. And the sector is booming with market increases recorded at a growth of 30% within the past decade, according to NPD market research of in-store dining and take-out prepared foods from grocers. Additional research suggests that more than 40% of the U.S. population purchases prepared foods (sweet and savory) from grocery stores.
The bottom line is that evolution in business is crucial to continued growth, so it is imperative to always consider change and staying ahead of current trends. For instance, remaining abreast to the latest trends in ethnic ingredients and cuisine is important, as international flavors is one of today’s hottest food topics.
Some of the top retail grocers also incorporate organic foods and in-store cooking classes to provide a more unique experience. Wine and beer bars are another frontier grocerants are adding to provide a better-rounded take-away meal. Innovating new and creative meals and desserts that incorporate the latest trends in cuisine help promote customer interest, brand loyalty, and repeat traffic.
In the case of grocerants, opportunities are huge for share of market. And keeping with one of today’s biggest food trends, yes, their food is Instagrammable, too.