Amidst growing demand for healthful options, blueberries gain traction on top chain menus
April 28, 2014

As consumer interest in healthy dining options continues to rise, so does the presence of fruit on U.S. menus, and new research from Technomic shows blueberries – a fruit  renowned for its nutritional profile – gaining major traction among the top 500 chain restaurants. Overall blueberry mentions on American menus have increased 97 percent since 2007 – a stronger growth rate than that of strawberries, raspberries or blackberries – with fresh blueberry mentions up more than 176 percent in the same time period1.blues4

Contributing to this growth is a combination of factors including changing consumer preferences and an evolution in the way foodservice professionals view blueberries. The U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council (USHBC) works to influence both.

“Today’s consumers see blueberries as one of the little choices they can make in pursuit of a healthy lifestyle, and savvy restaurants are picking up on that,” said Mark Villata, executive director for the USHBC. “Our research shows that the health halo affiliated with blueberries extends all the way to dining establishments that feature them – so, restaurants looking to capture consumers’ interests should consider adding more blueberry options to their menus.”

Not just for muffins

The chain restaurants surveyed are using blueberries in more different types of dishes than ever before, with increased usage apparent across all restaurant segments and meal parts1. Key areas of growth include:

  • Non-alcoholic beverages, including smoothies – incidence of blueberry mentions up 93 percent since 2007
  • Entrees, including salads – incidence of blueberry mentions up 66 percent since 2007
  • Dessert dishes – incidence of blueberry mentions  up 45 percent since 2007

Increased use in beverages and entrees show how blueberries are gaining traction as a little way to make a commonplace dish a great one, and the upward trend in the dessert category is consistent with the finding that 60 percent of consumers now say they choose fruit for dessert at least once a week – more people than those who regularly opt for cookies (51 percent) or ice cream (47 percent).

 Riding the smoothie wave

As smoothie fever sweeps the nation, many chain restaurants have begun offering blueberry as a flavor that appeals to customers, particularly younger millenials (Gen-Y).

  • Menu incidence of blueberry mentions in smoothies increased 60 percent since 20071
  • 54 percent of consumers overall3  and 63 percent of 18-24 year olds say they find blueberry an appealing smoothie flavor4

Snacktime: An untapped opportunity

With more and more consumers drawn to healthy snacks and small plates, fruit has yet another opportunity to gain menu share5.

  • 51 percent say they eat snacks at least twice a day, with 58 percent citing fresh fruit as an occasional choice5
  • And, while nearly half of college students (41 percent) consider fruit their #1 choice for snacking (more than chips/pretzels, candy, cookies or cereal)6, the numbers indicate they may be in search of more options: only 11 percent of 18-24 year olds currently eat fresh fruit as a snack away from home7

By providing a variety of snack options featuring fruit, restaurants can position themselves to increase traffic and sales—particularly among a younger customer base.

Methodological notes: All research was conducted by Technomic.

1-        Research was conducted by Technomic, Inc., in January 2014. Base: Jul-Dec 2013 – 8,953 items from 773 restaurant menus from the Top 500 Restaurants, Emerging and Independent Operators; Jul-Dec 2010  – 4,665 items from 548 restaurant menus from the Top 500 Restaurants, Emerging and Independent Operators; Jul-Dec 2007 – 3,158 items from 440 restaurant menus from the Top 500 Restaurants, Emerging and Independent Operators.

2-       Base: 1,500 consumers aged 18+. Source: Technomic -The Dessert Consumer Trend Report (2013).

3-        Base: 624 consumers aged 18+. Source: Technomic – The Flavor Consumer Trend Report (2013).

4-       Base: 250 consumers aged 18+. Source: Technomic – The U.S. Beverage Consumer Trend Report (2012).

5-       Base: 1,500 consumers aged 18+.  Source: Technomic – The Snacking Occasion Trend Report (2014).

6-       Base: 697 full-time students aged 18+ who consumer snacks at least once a week. Source: Technomic – The College & University Consumer Trend Report (2013).

7-        Base: 443 consumers aged 18+. Source: Technomic – The U.S. Snacking Consumer Trend Report (2012).