Convenience operators looking for data-driven tweaks to their foodservice offerings should look just south of the border: According to Technomic’s MenuMonitor, Mexican entrees are the number two category steadily growing in convenience foodservice, experiencing 4% growth in the overall number of Mexican items added to c-store menus since 2016.
Sometimes unwisely overshadowed by the number one growing category, sandwiches, Mexican entrees and flavors can satisfy increasing inclination and keep customers coming back for more. “It’s clear that c-store operators are focusing on more variety for Mexican fare to answer consumer demand,” says Aimee Harvey, managing editor at Technomic.
Burritos and tamales lead the growth in food items, while chorizo, mole sauce and ancho peppers lead the growth in ingredients. MenuMonitor also identifies forward-trending complementary flavor combinations that balance a citrusy or sweet backdrop against something spicy, smoky or savory as an area of opportunity—things like chipotle-lime and mango salsa accents.
Massachusetts-based Home Market Foods is putting these findings to use. Last year, the company updated its original cheeseburger line of RollerBites® with premium, pub-style flavors, a strategy based on the trend of specialty burgers and the proliferation of burger joint type restaurants.
Their brand, called Burger Joint, has continued to evolve on the cutting edge of flavor trends as it recently launched two Mexican-style cheeseburger RollerBites®. These items—the Spicy Tex-Mex Chili Cheeseburger and the Triple Chile Cheeseburger—were inspired by the best street taco carts in the business. The Spicy Tex-Mex Chili option is flavored with a West Texas kick of red chilies, jalapeno and toasted cumin.
“Americans have a growing love for chilies, which is why we chose a blend of poblano, serrano and green chilies to deliver an earthy heat and a touch of sweet in our Triple Chile Cheeseburger RollerBites®,” says Chef Owen Tilley, director of research and development for Home Market Foods.
Jalapeno has been a popular pepper flavor in recent years, but Technomic’s 2017 Flavor report spotlights ancho and poblano as up-and-coming flavors for Mexican and Tex-Mex menu offerings. “This means that consumers are likely eager for trial of these flavors and an avenue exists for food service operators and menu developers to experiment with them and uncover some growth potential,” says Harvey.
Harvey suggests c-store operators should also monitor what’s happening in the larger restaurant sector regarding Mexican flavors. According to MenuMonitor, top 500 limited- and full-service restaurant chains show mentions of chorizo are up 50% in breakfast entrees and 19% in lunch and dinner entrees since 2016. Mentions of ancho as a flavor in Mexican entrees are up 43% since last year and mentions of jalapenos in sandwiches are up 23%.