Seafood’s Growing Popularity on Menus Across the Country
Converging trends are making seafood an ideal protein for enterprising chefs. In casual and independent restaurants across the country, diners are looking for healthier options and assertive taste profiles, as well as consistency.
“When consumers sit down for a restaurant meal, they are more likely to order a seafood dish over anything else,” says Harry Balzer, chief industry analyst and vice president of the NPD Group. Balzer says that 29 percent of patrons at a sit-down restaurant order seafood as opposed to the 20 percent who choose the second-most-popular protein, chicken. “The fact that so many people are inclined to order seafood when they go out provides a huge opportunity for new versions of dishes as well as the opportunity to try new species,” Balzer adds.
Many industry experts believe that seafood provides one of the greatest opportunities for culinary innovation, for a host of reasons:
Customers are becoming educated about good products. How fish are raised and how fresh the product is makes a big difference in its quality. When you eat something in season it is fabulous. Seafood has to be served super fresh or it won’t be good. In addition to the demand for healthier menu items, consumers are interested in sustainable products.
And it’s Good for You
Several studies have shown that seafood is a healthier choice than several other proteins. The Journal of the American Medical Association found that even modest consumption (once or twice a week) of fish with high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids was found to reduce the risk of coronary death by 36 percent and the overall death rate by 17 percent.
Other healthy benefits in seafood are derived from vitamins A and D, which are found in fish liver oils, as well as high levels of the B complex vitamins, particularly niacin, B-12 and B-6.
Shrimp and More Shrimp
In addition to sustainability, customers and chefs alike seek products that are stable, predictable and value-oriented. During the past couple of years, the high end of seafood has melted down into more of a value-oriented presentation.
To that end, stable and predictable are two of the reasons consumers are finding new shrimp dishes on menus in record numbers. Shrimp is showing everywhere. It has always been the most popular seafood on mainstream menus, and it shows no signs of slowing down.