Blog > Cashing in on the functional and superfoods trends

The macro trend of health and wellbeing continues to fuel the growth of functional foods and superfoods. These have moved beyond niche to mainstream and are increasingly forming part of restaurant and café menus. Here we examine the growth of this consumer trend, and what this means for vendor order management system software.

Functional & superfoods trends

Functional foods

Functional foods are driven by people looking for health benefits and to avoid chronic diseases, rather than to consume fewer calories. Revenue from functional foods worldwide grew from $55 billion USD in 2015 to more than $292 billion USD in 2021, with 13% of consumers reporting that the availability of healthful menu options is a key driver in choosing a restaurant.

Functional foods and beverages include modified, fortified, enriched and enhanced foods; medical foods; and foods for dietary use such as gluten or lactose free. The easiest way to think of these is the original food ‘plus’ some health-giving compounds. They may be found in everything from oils, biscuits and bars to bread and dairy.

In foodservice, functional foods are no longer the province of the niche and high end and have moved mainstream. Both full-service and quick service restaurants now include everything from ancient grains to spices such as turmeric to botanicals like lavender, as well as ‘basic’ ingredients such as avocados and flaxseeds.

High protein, vegetable-rich foods are attractive to diners looking for heart health, energy, gut health and weight management. Accordingly, the top 5 functional foods on restaurant menus in 2022 were plant-based meats, functional drinks, fermented foods (particularly vegetables such as cabbage), immune supporting foods, and fortified or ‘free-from’ foods.


Superfoods are nutrient-rich natural foods without modifications, considered to be especially beneficial for health and wellbeing. Superfoods are showing triple-digit growth on restaurant menus.

Kimchi, a traditional Korean fermented cabbage dish, was recently named – along with other fermented vegetables – by nutritionists as the number one of the top ten superfoods for 2023 in one study. Others on the list were seeds, blueberries, avocados, nuts, leafy greens, aquatic greens, green tea, ancient grains and non-dairy milks.

Blueberries, for example, have been on various ‘top 10 superfoods’ lists for a while now. Global production of blueberries more than doubled between 2010 and 2019 to cater to growing demand. Between 2022 and 2027, the global blueberry market is forecast to grow by USD $2,463.41 million, with a CAGR of 6.5%. North America is estimated to account for 32% of the growth, with half sold as fresh and half sold processed in other foods such as desserts, yogurts and ice creams, or in powders.

What’s driving the growth?

Both functional and superfoods are benefiting from increased consumer awareness and willingness for natural prevention methods and a shift to wellbeing.

  • The growth of predictive and proactive health approaches
  • Growing preference for natural remedies
  • Immune system-boosting products
  • Consumer willingness to spend on health and wellbeing. International Food Information Council (IFIC) research found that for almost two-thirds of American consumers, purchasing food and beverages is heavily influenced by healthfulness, resulting in preferences toward functional foods and beverages.
  • Changing demographics with active category needs: an ageing population, or ‘growing geriatric population’ with an increasing prevalence of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cholesterol, and obesity. With 109 million Americans aged 50 or older and 48 million aged 65 and older, lifestyle issues and conditions of aging will increasingly drive functional food sales
  • Younger generations are increasingly focusing on eating well, with half of older Gen Zs and over four in 10 millennials citing unique foods as important to eating well versus 24% of baby boomers.

More than half (56%) of adults are interested in eating more superfoods. It is safe to say this trend has been progressively picking up steam for the past 5+ years and isn’t going away anytime soon.

Impacts on foodservice order management

With research showing that restaurants are increasingly including the top functional foods and superfoods on their menus, it’s important to note that this trend is unlike seasonal trends that create demand spikes over only a week or two, such as those that we reported on in our previous article discussing supply chain fluctuations. This functional and superfood trend is more about certain categories being more desirable than others over the longer term … a steadily upwardly rising ramp.

This trend is rising at a steeper rate with more consumers searching for the healthiest options available, which means that foodservice distributors have to ensure they’re capable of meeting increased demands.

To do this, distributors first need to have the means to measure customer preference changes over time using sales data to anticipate future demands over the medium term for functional and superfoods.

Evaluating order management system software

Foodservice distributors can evaluate their system’s abilities by asking key questions:

  • Do you have pricing and order data ranging over several years?
  • Have you seen order weight trends change?
  • Has the nature of your foodservice orders and what is being ordered changed over time?
  • What are the commonly co-ordered and co-purchased items by on premise customers, such as avocadoes and wraps?
  • Customer sales histories can be analyzed to identify individual restaurant customer ordering patterns in order to predict future orders and identify upsell and cross-sell opportunities such as frequently co-ordered items; ‘this goes with that’. A good order management system (OMS) will provide these prompts. In addition, by analyzing product ordering growth trends, and based on reviewing ingredients and items that are popular in certain venue types and locations, salespeople can make menu and ingredient optimization suggestions to restaurants in order to proactively manage the process.

The importance of having the right order management system software

Ultimately, if you have historical sales and order data you can spot a trend early, so you can proactively suggest items to customers, whilst ensuring you can meet future demand.

Functional and superfoods are becoming mainstream due to overarching health and wellbeing trends, and as such are worthy of analysis in order to smooth ordering and warehouse management. While it is easy to become mired in the day-to-day of ordering, analysis of historic ordering trends and growth patterns can help you better meet future demand for functional and superfoods.

For more information on foodservice order management systems, visit our supply chain management solutions page or request a demo.

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