Uni, squid, octopus top seafood’s hot restaurant trends

Uni (sea urchin), squid and octopus are gaining traction amongst young people dining out in the United States, according to Colleen McClellan of food trends tracking firm Dataessential.

In a presentation at the National Fisheries Institute’s Global Seafood Market Conference in San Francsisco, California on Thursday, 19 January, McClellan said member of millennials and Generation Z are not as intimidated by foods that older generations may perceive as unusual or foreign to their palates.

“A lot of their rise is due to millennials seeking out new flavors as part of their enjoyment of ‘more adventurous eating,’” McClellan said. “They want to post about what new food they tried on Instragram, whether they loved it or not.”

Uni for example, though it still has “super-low” market penetration, has seen a 32 percent growth in its appearance on restaurant menus in the U.S., McClellan said.

“Chefs are putting it with pasta, making it more approachable, which is not easy due to its love-it-or-hate-it texture,” she said.
Octopus has seen an eight percent increase in its penetration on menus, and it is being served more frequently across the board in entrees, appetizers and salads, McClellan said.

“And younger generations are not intimidated by the suckers still being on there,” she said.

Squid – not calamari, according to McClellan – also has a rising profile, especially in restaurants featuring Mediterranean cuisine.
All of those proteins are trying to replicate the incredible recent success of poke, the Hawaiian-themed mix of cubed raw fish, rice and sesame oil (though that definition is rapidly expanding as chefs get more creative with the dish), McClellan said. According to Dataessential surveys, 13 percent of U.S. consumers have tried poke and 24 percent want to try it.

“Those are big numbers in consumer land where foreign food is scary,” McClellan said. “The poke concept is moving onto steakhouse and tavern menus, and you know when that happens, that’s a good sign from a volume perspective.”

So-called “forgotten fish or “trash fish,” including trout, monkfish and skate, are also appearing on more menus, she said.

“What once was trash is now a treasure,” she concluded.


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