Every spring brings so many seasonal changes that consumers can see outside. It also can mark several changes—inside—to their favorite restaurant menus. This spring saw US Foods, one of the nation’s largest foodservice distributors, launched 20 new items for customers’ spring menus.

The Rosemont, Ill.-based firm offers more than 350,000 products, including its own brands such as Chef’s Line, a line of “chef-inspired” scratch-quality products; and Rykoff Sexton, which features premium specialty ingredients. The company’s product development team develops these and other exclusive offerings at its headquarters. Leading that effort is Stacie Sopinka, vice president, product development and innovation.

“Our team’s mission is to bring chefs and restaurateurs on trend products that can inspire their menus, attract more diners and optimize their operations throughout the year,” says Sopinka. “With 82% of operators looking for products with clean ingredients, we are excited to introduce these 20 items that are bold in flavor and simple in ingredients, so they can create buzzworthy dishes that will keep their diners coming back for more.”

2016 is “Year of the Veggie.”

“In 2016, vegetables are taking center stage, moving from a side dish to center of the plate,” says Sopinka. “One of the fastest rising stars that many have dubbed ‘the new kale’ is cauliflower, which has become a favorite for those looking for alternatives to high-carb, starchy foods.”

Cauliflower is a versatile ingredient that can be transformed into everything from pizza crust to no-rice pilaf to fritters, and US Foods introduced its Cross Valley Farms Riced Cauliflower to make it easier for chefs and restaurateurs to cater to diners looking for this trend. The cauliflower is freshly pre-minced, which saves time in the kitchen, loaded with vitamins and minerals and allows chefs to get creative with the ingredient and make it their own.

Appetite for Appetizers

Sopinka says patrons also are opting for an array of starters in lieu of entrees.  US Foods’ new appetizer offerings include a Chef’s Line Bavarian Soft Pretzel, as well as two dips and spreads.

Sopinka notes that beer cheese has grown 145% on menus during the past four years. A new Molly’s Kitchen Beer Cheese Dip combines craft beer, sharp cheddar and Romano cheese to create a versatile dip, sauce or cheesy topping. Also joining the lineup is Glenview Farms Spreadable Brie, which she describes as “a rich, buttery spread that pairs perfectly with anything from carrots to crackers.”

Beverage Trends Lead to the Bar

US Foods found that it’s a challenge for restaurateurs to find higher end bar mixes that are available nationally. As a result, the company introduced its Rykoff Sexton Bloody Mary Mix, which provides a fresh, tomato flavor with a hint of spice. Limeades are also on the uptick. The Rykoff Sexton Watermelon Limeade combines fresh watermelon and Persian limes to create a refreshing tang that can stand alone or be mixed into craft cocktails and sorbets.

“As you can see, simple is really taking center stage in restaurants and uncomplicated, quality ingredients that are fresh and full of flavor are becoming increasingly important to diners,” says Sopinka.


Originally appeared in the June, 2016 issue of Prepared Foods as Keep it Simple.