Top Five Trends from NRA Show 2014

Foodable WebTV Network

Foodable WebTV Network

This year’s National Restaurant Association Show brought together restaurant operators, marketers and social evangelists, distributors and suppliers, and tech and food companies under one roof to network and — well, who are we kidding — eat. From global companies like Sysco to startups like Privy, each booth had something to offer industry insiders. Some boasted upgraded products or services and a handful gave us something new. Below are 5 Top Trends from NRA Show 2014.

Foodable WebTV Network

Foodable WebTV Network

Social Foodies: Before we get into the tangibles, let’s talk social media trends surrounding the #NRAShow. Our data shows that from the past week (5/15-5/22), there were 10,281 tweets, Instagrams and Facebook posts tagged with the hashtag #NRAShow from nearly 2,500 users, which yielded more than 57 million impressions! The 7 million reach of these posts is not only a clear indication of how largely represented the annual event is, but that foodies and foodservice representatives continue to become more social. The total social use of the #NRAShow hashtag skewed 43% female and 57% male. 39.9% tweeted, Instagrammed or Facebooked from an iPhone, whereas only 6.1% did so from an Android.

Tea Time: Type “tea” into the NRA Show mobile app, and more than thirty booths pop up. At this year’s show, we saw heaps of flavors (mint chocolate was a favorite), including a Malaysian variation, which had a tinge of milky chai flavor with a thicker texture than most teas we are used to here in the States. Owl’s Brew specifically markets themselves as “tea crafted for cocktails,” and featured their Coco-lada (traces of coconut and natural agave), Pink & Black (darjeeling with a tinge of hibiscus and agave), and The Classic (English breakfast variation with a tart taste, sweetened with agave) at their booth. Whether you like your tea with a kick or not, the beverage is undoubtedly being used many different ways. From the new Starbucks-owned Teavana tea bars to balancing out a great cocktail, it’s all about the tea.

Big (Behavioral) Data: We get it — the term “big data” has become a bit overused, but big data truly must be integrated into restaurant marketing and technologies in order to succeed and progress. It measures hotpoints — be it menu items or unit locations raking in the most volume — and tracks consumer behavior trends, which allows brands to do so much. Loyalty? Deciding which menu items to shave off? Determining which night would make the best specialty deal night depending on hot menu sales? Check, check, check. In the Tech Pavilion at this year’s show, we saw more products integrate big data into their systems — a lot of which based their product appeal solely on the data itself. Sysco’s new POS, food tech startup company Privy, and Fuduzu’s restaurant management systems were all great examples at the show of applying big data to bridge the gap between the operator/customer relationship.

Foodable WebTV Network

Foodable WebTV Network

Mediterranean: Hummus. Tabbouleh. Baklava. Pitas. Garbanzo beans. Feta. No matter which aisle you were hoarding samples in, it was apparent that Mediterranean was having a moment at NRA Show 2014. Vitamix even tried their hand on the trend by whipping up some (delicious) homemade hummus in a culinary demo.

Gluten-Free: If you’re allergic to gluten, a mass convention of food may not be your idea of a party, but there were quite a few booths spread throughout the show catering to the GF crowd. There were a couple of different brands boasting gluten-free pizza, as well as some GF bread booths, and a few other variations of gluten-free fare throughout. Consumer demand for food allergy options — especially for celiacs — has grown tremendously. According to celiaccentral.org, GF sales reached more than $2.6 billion by the end of 2010, and are expected to surpass more than $5 billion within the next year.

Overall, the culinary offerings at the NRA Show 2014 offered a slew of options, from specialty foods and beverages (like craft sodas and craft beers) to the tried-and-true foodservice giants (like Hormel and Trident Seafoods). It was refreshing to see, on the tech side of things, that mobile and more progressive technologies (like updated POS systems, menu ordering systems, and social marketing) have become more solidified to the restaurant crowd, which was seemingly lacking in the past. Amidst the more than 63K registrants and more than 2K exhibitors, NRA Show 2014 has been marked as having the highest attendance rate in NRA Show history. And with that being said, we already can’t wait to see what next year’s event has in store.

Were you at the Show? What were some of your favorite trends? Let us know in the comments below!