It’s the time of year when the data nerds are in high gear, looking back at the year that was and getting ready to do some crystal-ball gazing (more on that next month). We had a chat with our favorite data and trends “Maeve-n” Maeve Webster of Menu Matters – the following are a few of the highlights.
Lamb definitely enjoyed a surge in home consumption and use during the pandemic. Consumers were looking to cook new things at home, and sometimes limited supplies forced them into trying new options. The data show a surge in home consumption and retail purchase of lamb. Consumers trialed lamb (and goat and wagyu, too) and love/like scores subsequently went up. Funny how that works!
That’s part of the reason that predictive tools like Datassential’s Haiku are estimating a 15.6% growth rate for lamb on the menu in the next 4 years. Lack of familiarity has long been a major obstacle to lamb on the menu here in the US, and that wall is crumbling.
Looking at where lamb sits on the menu, Mediterranean, Indian, and ethnic flavors are clearly the favorites. Interestingly, those flavors are bringing lamb into more familiar, mainstream comfort-food dishes; like burgers, pizza, pasta and sandwiches. Here are just a few examples:
Orecchiette Giorgiono (Giacomo’s, Houston) – Local favorite Giacomo’s in Houston gives a traditional dish of puglia – often made with sausage - a lift with spicy lamb meatballs.
Paccheri (Fig & Olive, various) – This outstanding multi-unit concept is serving up a gorgeous paccheri (a rigatoni-like pasta shape) with lamb sausage ragu. We’d like this right now please!
Lamb Bolognese - Bolognese is the definite entry point for lamb pastas, and with good reason. It’s already familiar and hugely popular, and adding lamb just gives it that extra zhuzh to make it new, more special, and worth paying more for. We love our mate Conor Hanlon’s example.
Aussie lamb pairs so well with bold, fresh flavors that it slides right into the menu at Latin-inspired Babalu Tapas & Tacos, a multi-unit concept based in Memphis. Their sweet sourdough sliders with grass-fed Australian ground lamb, goat cheese, pickled red onions, arugula and chipotle aioli are dee-licious! Good onya Babalu, and thanks for the Aussie shout out!
Australian lamb sourcing callouts are up 135% on menus!
Spiced Lamb Burger with roasted eggplant, burnt onions and amba yogurt on a martin's potato bun with fries and spicy aioli. Wow! The Mediterranean cues from eggplant and amba (a kind of Israeli mango condiment) are a natural fit with lamb. Nice one team Pizzeria Mozza!
Madras Curry Lamb Sliders with arugula and cool-mojito yogurt sauce. These beauties from Chef Kenny Gilbert of Southern Kitchen & Bar in Jacksonville are a great example of the Indian flavor bridge. Putting those flavors and lamb in a burger just makes it instantly approachable, and an easy order for some safe experimentation.