While we soak up the unmistakably refreshing feeling that the onset of a new year always brings, retailers and foodservice operators have an opportunity to capitalize on the eagerness consumers feel towards starting anew—not only in their lifestyles, but also in their diets. When consumers mosey through their favorite supermarkets or stop by local fresh food haunts, they might not be aware that there is so much more than meets the eye—and stomach. The new trend hitting foodies everywhere is root-to-stem cooking. Awareness of this concept is opening new doors for produce by highlighting the entire edibility a plant has to offer and showcasing various creative ways to utilize this movement.
For example, beets are very versatile and can be dressed up or dressed down for any feast, like sides of sautéed beet greens and roasted beets that are salted to perfection or a center-of-the-plate beet “flatbread” masterpiece that can be topped with whatever the heart desires. Carrots can also be enjoyed in a multitude of ways, but the greens more often than not get tossed. An easy idea for consumers to latch onto is carrot tops’ usability in sauces like pesto; they can also play a vital role in main dishes, such as homemade veggie burgers—uh, yum! And those broccoli stems that often end up in the trash bin? They make for delicious, fresh chips for dips like that carrot top pesto. See where I’m going here? There are so many ways to mix and match fruits and vegetables to use much more of the tasty goods that consumers walk away with, and as root-to-stem revs up, retailers and foodservice operators can take part in the magic that occurs when customers feel like they are getting much more out of fresh produce.
Honestly, the limit to this trend is as far as the at-home—or foodservice—chef’s ingenuity can reach, so the ticket to ensuring its success is in marketing the vast versatility these goods have to offer. Although some might ask why this trend is catching speed when these produce items have been dinner staples for so long, it all circles back to a growing awareness of the environmental impacts our everyday actions have. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 50 percent of root crops, fruits, and vegetables go to waste every year worldwide, and in industrialized countries, 40 percent of food waste occurs at the retail level. This waste unnecessarily consumes many resources, including water, energy, labor, and capital. In a business era that is becoming increasingly aware of sustainability efforts made throughout the world, the promotion of root-to-stem cooking seems like a fitting fix to some of these problems.
This trend will not only help the environment, it will help businesses, as consumers look to retailers and foodservice companies for guidance and support in their root-to-stem endeavors. Because a lot of consumers might have forgotten or may not even have known that certain parts of their produce—delicious parts, might I add—are consumable, some easy sells for this reviving trend are beets, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, and asparagus. What is great about root-to-stem items is that they play out through the entire menu, from appetizer to star of the meal-time show, making every meal worth every penny.