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Fast food and other popular American dining options have begun to shift in recent years, with many consumers paying greater attention to healthier options — and a number of brands adapting or failing to meet this trend. Now, a Chicago-based market research firm has issued a report which suggests that seafood might be the next step in fresh, fast and affordable food. Will this study cause more restaurants to invest in wholesale seafood to take advantage of this apparent trend?According to Technomic, Inc., 62% of consumers reported eating meals without beef, pork, chicken or turkey at least once a week, and 69% of consumers said they eat a seafood entree at least once every 90 days. Nearly three-fourths of consumers who ordered more seafood entrees over the past two years stated that they did so to eat more healthfully. However, while the study showed that consumers perceive seafood, vegetarian and vegan dishes as more healthy than meat and poultry, about half of the survey participants indicated that they found seafood dishes to be just as satisfying as meals with meat.

With this shift towards healthier options, and millenials representing a sizable portion of food service customers, Technomic says that restaurants need to make these items a priority on their menus. The study showed that around half of consumers said they would like restaurants to offer a wider variety of seafood, vegetarian and vegan entrees. Consumers also reported that mango, cilantro and sesame were the most popular flavors for seafood, while feta cheese, cilantro and pesto were well-liked when it came to vegetarian and vegan dishes.

The most popular type of fish, meanwhile, was salmon, a sensible choice when you consider that nearly half of the world’s sockeye salmon production comes from an American harbor: Bristol Bay, AK, which produces 38 million salmon per year. However, Technomic says that cod is quickly catching up on both limited and full-service menus.

However, despite this popularity, Technomic points out that restaurants are catching onto the trend slowly, with only 6% of seafood entrees on American menus found in fast-casual restaurants. There are exceptions, with chains like Pret A Manger, Au Bon Pain and Panera Bread having introduced options containing shrimp or lobster within the last year, while a few fast-casual restaurants like local eatery Da Lobsta have made a name for themselves by specializing in seafood. However, with few casual dining chains equaling the popularity of Long John Silver’s and Captain D’s, the market is still relatively open. Will restaurants take this opportunity to prioritize healthy options, expand their menus and find a wholesale seafood retailer? Only time will tell.

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