The Sea’s Bounty

New opportunities are surfacing from the depths of the ocean. Lately we are noticing a raft of offerings:

Sea-Cuterie. As more consumers look for meat-alternative protein sources, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are looking for strictly plant-based solutions. Flexitarians are behind the fact that significantly more consumers are looking to increase their seafood consumption than to increase their veggie burger consumption.1 Up next is Sea-cuterie — Australia’s marine-based answer to cured meats – an alt-protein option that involves pickled, fermented, smoked or aged seafood and complimentary pairings presented in traditional charcuterie board fashion.2

various seafood on a platter - fish, octopus, shrimp and crayfish with herbs

Marine Plants. For those who do prefer plant-based protein, the sea has several offerings. There’s current buzz around superior protein yield items such as seaweed3 and microalgae4. Seaweed, which has penetrated the West through sushi and salad, is a rich source of nutrients and flavor and has recently branched out into snacks. While microalgae is still undergoing development as a potential bulk protein source, Spirulina — one version — has since made its way into energy bars, popcorn and smoothies.5 In addition, Seaweed and Microalgae boast new sustainability stories as they don’t require freshwater, pesticides or arable land for cultivation.

Squid Ink. The ocean provides an important eye-candy factor, especially when it comes to color. As we’ve seen, color plays an important role in food and beverage, sparking trends from Unicorn Frappuccino to Purple Cauliflower. For 2020, food delivery platform Uber Eats is predicting an increase in orders of squid-ink based items6 — attributed not just to its nutritional profile, but to its signature black color and power to transform ordinary items like pasta, rice and bread into surreal consumption experiences.

black squid ink noodles

While the conversation has been fixated on land-based answers to food and beverage innovation, we think it’s worth considering those of the deep blue sea.

[1] “Seafood Rides the Flexitarian Wave in Fast Food”, QSR, 1/20
[2] “Sailing on the Sea-Cuterie Trend”, Winsight Grocery Business, 2/10/20
[3] “Foodie Fashion for Hungry Hipsters”, Food Navigator, 2/28/20
[4] “Microalgae for Food”, Food Navigator, 2/24/20
[5] “By the Way, Doctor, Is Spirulina Good For You?”, Harvard Medical School, 4/11/19
[6] “The Food You’ll Be Ordering in 2020”,, 12/10/19

Restaurant Parting Gifts

In a world where entrée prices (and portions) have super-sized and dining out involves budgeting, it’s so meaningful and endearing to get something free. Fine dining establishments have recognized this for years, providing at least the illusion of ‘complimentary’ via pre-meal bread baskets, an amuse-bouche, after dinner treats or even “parting gifts” to take home. Five years ago, it appeared the “parting gift” was beginning to catch on. Restaurants like The French Laundry in San Francisco, Brennan’s in New Orleans, and Eleven Madison Park in New York were sending home everything from desserts to morning granola as a means to create a personal connection with diners — to make them feel like part of the family.1

At present, we’re intrigued by an emerging spin on the “parting gift” — away from items made in the kitchen to special ingredients used by the kitchen. At Aquavit in Midtown Manhattan, for example, guests are given smoked sea salt to take home. And at Tocqueville, also in Manhattan, diners may leave with pale blue eggs.

Obviously, parting gifts can elevate the dining experience for the guest. But they can also elevate the experience for the operator…

Years ago, the infamous consulting firm McKinsey conducted a study that uncovered the missed opportunity of the Postpurchase experience. Everything to that point had focused on the period of time before a guest made a purchase and getting into their consideration set. What the study identified is the importance of staying in the guests mind long AFTER the transaction. Essentially, winning providers were really good at the “thank you” and using it to drive future loyalty.2

Chart illustrating the the consumer decision journey

For restaurant operators, this new parting gift is an over-and-above gesture of hospitality and an invitation for guests to play chef at home using “insider ingredients” favored at back-of-house. As the gift follows the guest home to create additional memorable experiences, the restaurant has increased its share of heart and mind and hopefully encouraged repeat visits…and possibly an “instagrammable” moment or two.

[1] “The Rise of the Restaurant Parting Gift”, Food & Wine Magazine, 11/16
[2] “The Consumer Decision Journey”, McKinsey, 2009

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