Local specialty foods leaders ponder the possibilities for 2017: it’s going to be ‘something we all know … reinvented.’
Food trends come and go. A certain fare becomes a hot item for a short span of time and so often fades away.
Not too long ago, it seems, cupcakes topped the list. And, pies. Cakes. Ice cream. “Cronuts.”
It’s hard to predict what Atlanta’s next ‘it’ food item could be, but two local leaders in the food industry recently took a stab at it, or more accurately, they pondered the common threads that seem to set in motion the game-changing ideas in Atlanta’s fast-paced food scene.
Kevin Peak, chief popper at CaJa Popcorn, said that whatever the new “it” may be, it’s often the case that it’s the type of fare that’s likely to take someone “back to their childhood.”
But, once the novelty is gone it’s easy for “over-saturation” to occur.
“There’s the case of cupcakes for instance,” Peak said. “There for quite a while cupcake shops were popping up all over the place, and now some of them have shut down or retracted or slowed their growth … there’s so much saturation that at some point it kills that market. Instead of having five cupcake places that all do well, you have 15, and none of them do well. Nobody can make money because there’s so many of them … it causes the entire market for that product to crater a little bit.”
Added Peak: “And, it’s not a popular item anymore.”
Peak also referenced the cronut craze.
“Part of what made those so popular was that there were only a limited number of places you could find them for a while, but as soon as they were made more available, that gimmick sort of fell apart,” Peak said. “When everybody has it and you can get it all the time, it takes the excitement away and nobody’s making money on it.”
According to its website, what sets CaJa Popcorn apart from the rest is that their food “doesn’t require heavy oils, large quantities of butter or preservatives …”
The food comes in a variety of flavors — from sea salt caramel, spicy BBQ, Pimento Cheese, and kettle, as well as a special flavor of the month. Keeping it simple in terms of the number of flavor offerings is also key, Peak said.
Andy Rudd, chief operating officer of Da Vinci’s Donuts, said that what gives new life to old-schools foods — such as donuts and popcorn — has a lot to do with giving customers the ability to “pick and choose.”
At his and his wife, Melissa’s, donut shop for instance, customers can customize their confections. According to Da Vinci’s Donuts website, the business model is “a unique and creative take on donuts and the typical donut café” offering flavors like tiramisu, maple bacon, and dulce de leche.
“From an ‘it’ food standpoint, I think, the ability to customize is a big factor,” Rudd said. “The ability to create a model where people have a hand in creating it … that’s going to continue and it’s going to be big.”
That’s, after all, what he and his wife have done with the local donut shop.
“When you come to our store, you can order our flavors but you can also create your own,” Rudd said. “You pick your icing, you pick toppings and you pick a drizzle and you can create your own unique donut.”
Added Rudd: “Where you can take something and simplify the process as an operator and yet give freedom to the consumer to have … all this different variety — that’s key.”
When Rudd said he and his wife first started their business, donut shops were “nowhere near as prevalent as yogurt shops and cupcake shops … and, so we saw an opportunity for a food item that’s been around for a long time but hadn’t yet really been reinvented.”
And, he said, that’s what it’s all about for whatever happens to become Atlanta’s next “it” food: It’s going to be “something we all know … reinvented.”
What’s your prediction? Leave your thoughts in the comments!