We love the idea of using a deck of cards as a tool to help spark innovation. From the medieval Tarot deck to Brian Eno's Oblique Strategies, there have always been attempts to capture creative inspiration in a few slips of paper. But New York restaurant The Nomad is getting even more specialized, using a deck of custom cocktail cards to help diners construct their ideal tipple.
Within the world of coffee enthusiasts, there's often a battle between Keurig users and purists: purists claim that a Keurig's pre-packaged units and brewing process limit the quality of the coffee being made, while Keurig enthusiasts point to the speed and ease with which their machine can brew a hot cup.
In the last couple years, a great deal of thought has been put into the pizza-ordering process. Hungry customers can follow Domino's Pizza Tracker, which logs every step of their pizza's creation, from the initial order, to baking, to the moment it leaves the store. A Domino's in Salt Lake City even installed 5 webcams in its kitchen for maximum transparency. And online ordering, through a company's site or services like Seamless, has become the norm. So where can we go from here?
Chipotle's decision to test Sofritas in a number of its west coast stores has been hailed as another victory for the growing vegan trend - and, given that it shares counterspace with plenty of meat options, it's been a good sign for those flexitarians among us, too. And it seems like the alternate protein, made with tofu and chiles, has been deemed a hit; Sofritas is now rolling out to Chipotles on the east cost, too.
Here at Consumer Eyes, we love immersing ourselves in the latest trends, and we can take it pretty seriously! We've recently started a Consumer Eyes Bake-Off Challenge, in which our different departments show off their baking prowess – it's a great way to immerse ourselves in baking culture, explore new ingredients and trends, and of course enjoy some delicious treats.
It's easy to see that craft beer is booming, with small American breweries gaining market share and critical recognition here in the States and abroad. And now it looks like documentaries about craft beer are booming as well. Flicks like CRAFT and Crafting a Nation are now building on the hype that Beer Wars, perhaps the original craft brew movie, began.
This past weekend, we visited the Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore to get a firsthand look at the latest foods, beverages and supplements in the natural foods arena. We were particularly struck by the range of subcultures that have popped up in this category – from the gluten-free crowd to casual snackers, hipster vegans to paleo dieters, artisan purists to consumers who just need a quick pre-made dinner, it's more clear than ever that there is no "typical" natural products consumer.
Even if you only casually follow food trends, you've likely noticed that we're currently in a boom of chain-restaurant "stunt" foods – started, arguably, by the bunless KFC Double Down a few years ago and best represented by the massively successful Doritos Locos Taco. The October issue of Wired magazine took a close look at the phenomenon and the enormous amount of research and development (not to mention social media analysis) that goes into each of these items.
Lately we've been hearing a lot about the craft soda trend. Brands like Izze and GuS have been giving consumers premium soda options for a while now, but in the last year or so, a new wave of hyperlocal artisanal makers has emerged on the scene. We currently have our eye on Genki-Su, a Portland-based brand that's still just $1000 short of their Kickstarter goal. Their sodas come in Japanese flavors like Yuzu and Shiso mint, and all feature an extra hit of tartness from Okinawan coconut vinegar.
In a world in which food trends are moving from the leading edge to the mainstream faster than ever before, it can pay for big brands to work with the little guy. Venerable New York landmark Murray's Cheese has had a successful partnership with Kroger supermarkets for several years now, and booming hamburger chain Shake Shack has just announced that they'll be using Dominique Ansel's cronuts for a new cronut "concrete."