Menu research points to proliferation, highlights opportunities
Watermelon on menus has grown by 27 percent in the past four years, according to a recent MenuTrends Research study commissioned by the National Watermelon Promotion Board (NWPB) and conducted by Chicago-based Datassential. The database used in this study includes menus from more than 7,000 commercial restaurants including independents, regional chains, and national chains in all restaurant segments. The biennial research program allows NWPB to identify trends in foodservice, furthering its goals of education and ideation assistance to maximize watermelon usage and distinguish menu items.
Watermelon has progressed from “Adoption” to “Proliferation” in the usage-menu adoption cycle as independent and chain foodservice operators alike are embracing watermelon’s unique yet-versatile flavor profile. Chefs can pair watermelon with salty, savory, bitter and umami.
According to the study, watermelon is one of the fastest-growing fruits featured on salads with more than 100 percent 4-year growth. Proteins most commonly menued with watermelon are chicken and pork. In addition to watermelon offerings trends, the research also helps identify opportunities for new, innovative usage: Watermelon is featured most often on alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverage menus. With the exception of side items, watermelon is expanding across the menu with appetizers experiencing the most rapid growth.
Using this information allows us to assist operators with recipe ideation to optimize consumption based on research-backed consumer preference.
Additional research highlights include the following:
• Watermelon ranks 24th among most popular fruits and 20th among fastest four-year growth.
• Watermelon is most often found on all day menus and has seen the largest growth on dinner menus.
• With the exception of side items, watermelon is expanding across the menu with appetizers experiencing the most rapid growth.
• All regions of the U.S. are experiencing increased use of watermelon.
• Watermelon is found more often on casual and fine dining menus.
• Despite being featured on only 1 percent of all dessert menus, watermelon is among one of the fastest-growing dessert fruits (34 percent 4-year growth)
• Watermelon is one of the fastest-growing fruit flavors in non-alcoholic beverages (29 percent 4-year growth).
• Watermelon is among the fastest-growing fruits in alcoholic beverages, up 39 percent over the past four years.
The National Watermelon Promotion Board (NWPB), based in Winter Springs, FL, was established in 1989 as an agricultural promotion group to promote watermelon in the United States and in various markets abroad. Funded through a self-mandated industry assessment paid by more than 1,500 watermelon producers, handlers and importers, the NWPB mission is to increase consumer demand for watermelon through promotion, research and education programs.
Megan McKenna is the director of foodservice and marketing for the National Watermelon Promotion Board since December 2014, but in the produce industry since 2007. She works with decision-makers in foodservice such as culinary, marketing, purchasing, nutrition and more, to get more watermelon on menus.