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Eat on the Street: Top 10 ways retailers can use this hot trend

Street food is exploding onto the culinary scene. Restaurants, diners, home kitchens and now grocery stores are all jumping on this bandwagon as Americans embrace new cultural flavors, fast-paced preparation and on-the-go meals. It’s not all hot dogs and popcorn either: gourmet treats await the intrepid eater.

“Street food is changing the conversation around food by creating new, vibrant and diverse communities socially connected by a shared interest in a new way of eating. At various turns it is highbrow meets lowbrow, local and ecofriendly, socially conscious and globally diverse,” says the Center for Culinary Development CEO Kimberly Egan. “Street foods provide another avenue for consumers to explore new flavor adventures at an accessible value.”

Here are the top 10 ways retailers can take advantage of this hot trend:

10.) Combine old and new worlds: According to Packaged Facts, a consumer goods market research firm based in Rockville, Md., “street food vendors are mixing global flavors to create alternative fillings for tacos and crepes and to popularize different forms of satay.” Mix it up by displaying traditional Mexican foods (taco shells, ground beef seasonings, avocado) with Asian-influenced foods (soy sauce, ginger root, sesame seeds) with a recipe for “Asian tacos.” It’ll appeal to just about everyone.

9.) Appetize your customers: Looking for a hot new thing to demo near the deli? Try appetizers – especially around dinner time – to get your customers in the street food mood. “Masa-based Latin street foods—the Venezuelan arepa, the Salvadoran pupusa and the Mexican huarache—combine convenience with flavor exploration and novel forms,” Packaged Facts says.

8.) Pump up your frozen section: When was the last time you stocked an American frozen entrée? Long ago, probably. Indian frozen entrees are a huge hit with the American consumer and should be given special attention in the refrigerator with shelf tags or extra displays. “Indian flatbread sandwiches (“Naaninis” or “Naanwiches”) and other street-food inspired cuisine (chaat) are showing up in independent fast casual eateries nationwide, fusing Indian flavors and familiar appetizer and handheld forms to put a new spin on traditional Indian fare,” Packaged Facts says.

7.) Think luxury: “We used to live with a lot more glitz and glam,” Kazia Jankowski, senior market analyst for Boulder, Colo.-based food strategy firm Sterling Rice Group, says. Beef up the bakery with treats that could compete with the D-Bar in Denver or the Dessert Truck in New York City.

6.) Embrace pork in the deli: Porchetta, a Roman classic quickly becoming super popular in the States, (stuffed and pork-belly wrapped pork roast) will get your deli case moving food faster than you can say “pork.” It is the “hottest choice for sandwiches and entrées at small cafés, independent restaurants and farmers markets,” Packaged Facts says.

5.) Think global: Unsure if your customers are ready for the international food scene? Educate them. Have cards and handouts ready explaining where different dishes and trendy foods come from. Hold classes on Asian, Latin, African and European basic foods. Be ready to reach out to the unsure shopper.

4.) Become a follower: One of the best ways to introduce and indulge your street-food shoppers is to announce deals on it daily. Use Twitter and Facebook to bring new customers in the door looking for street fair they may not find elsewhere. “Using fast-growing social networks such as Twitter and Facebook, budding entrepreneurs announce the menu and locale of the day to a growing crowd of tuned in consumers who are eager diners if not loyal “followers” or outright “fans,” Packaged Facts says of the vendors diving into this trend now.

3.) Make it fast. Make it fresh: “Fine-dining chefs are serving upgraded street food in restaurants or from refurbished carts and taco trucks, while foodie entrepreneurs are making specialized, high-quality cuisine available on the go,” Packaged Facts says. Make sure you have plenty of options in the deli case that don’t need a microwave or oven to be tasty for your convenience shoppers.

2.) Don’t avoid the ‘dog: New naturals consumers long for their hot dogs of yesteryear; before they knew the nasties going into their favorite treat. Capture that nostalgia by stocking – and highlighting – natural and high-quality hot dogs with a diverse assortment of toppings.

1.) Be your organic, natural self: As many food service establishments are apt to tap into this trend, set yourself apart in the way you always do: by being organic, natural, local and healthy. “Whether sold from eco-minded carts and trucks, at local farmers markets, or as a fast, fresh campus dining option, these organic, sustainable, and locally sourced street foods appeal to health conscious consumers who want good taste with a good conscience,” Packaged Facts says. If you can say, “Yes, we have hot dogs and porchetta and naan-wiches – AND they are all natural,” you’ll have a leg up on the competition – as usual.

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