Trends: Bowled Over

A bowl is just a vessel, right? It can hold your favorite soup loaded with chicken and noodles or some bedtime ice cream. At the same time, a bowl is a symbol of comfort, childhood, sustenance and plentitude. It contains a surprise with every serving because of the last, best bite waiting at the bottom to be savored. But the bowl has become so much more in the past couple of years. Most likely made famous by Chipotle’s iconic Burrito Bowl, bowls are now dubbed “Nourish Bowls” on Pinterest and suddenly, a whole new section on the menu has quietly rolled in.

The basic principal of a Nourish bowl is to have as many nourishing food groups or components in the bowl that share either an ethnic bent or theme and then blend them with a dressing, broth or sauce. That means a bowl can be a soup (think Pho) or a salad (think Cobb) but most are hearty, healthy and trend-setting with a touch of the exotic and always with bold flavors.



Spinach, kale, lettuce, chards, leafy greens
Complex Carbs and Grains /
Couscous, Brown or white rice, Sweet Potato, Parsnip, Corn
Broccoli, Cauliflower, Zucchini, Tomatoes, Carrots – etc
Quinoa, Chicken, Beef, Fish, Lentils, Chickpeas
coconut oil, olive oil, vinegars
Berries, exotic fruits, apples
sauerkraut, kimchi, feta, spices,
Healthy Fats
avocado, seeds, nuts

BOWL = Infinite Possibilities

Savvy manufacturers and restaurateurs are sliding bowls into menus…EVERYWHERE. QSR’s, fast casual, bars, and restaurants – if you go there, chances are you have seen a bowl offered. Whether a “build your bowl” option or preset ingredients, bowls are some of the most popular offerings and many times they have a distinctively ethnic inspiration like Asian, Latin or Indian. And bowls manage to satisfy and incorporate many trends into one meal. Bowls are healthy (check), bold flavored (check), encourage trial and exploration (check), comforting and indulgent (check, check)…you get the idea. Food developers can meet a lot of objectives and please many consumer groups in one round space.

As Seen in A Bowl

  • At Doc B’s Fresh Kitchen, a popular dining spot in Chicago’s Gold Coast, diners can choose a Wok Out BowlTM with their choice of protein like black tiger shrimp, salmon, tofu, or steak; their flavor profile (Sesame Teriyaki or Spicy Thai) served with their carb and Market Veggies.
  • Even breakfast bowls are popping up that are beyond instant oatmeal. Austin, Texas based food truck, Blenders and Bowls offers custom organic acai bowls with a blended base of acai and a variety of fruits and veggies with the promise “to keep you nourished all day.”
  • Fast casual, Panera’s popular Asian Bowls veer distinctively off their familiar path with an umami broth that of course we celebrate. Described by Panera as “craveable wellness.”1
  • Portland based Laughing Planet Café, specializing in “burritos, bowls and goofiness” offers a Bollywood Bowl that combines natural chicken, garlic green beans, spinach, sweet potatoes with brown rice and a Southern Indian spicy coconut sauce.2
  • Taco Bell’s Cantina Power Chicken Bowl combines everything you love from their burrito into a healthy bowl. Offering fire-grilled white meat chicken, premium Latin rice and slow-cooked black beans, this popular spot for late night diners looks to get in the bowl action.

If you aren’t yet bowled over (sorry we couldn’t resist), by bowls, consider this:  sales of Mexican bowl menu items at fast casual restaurants climbed 14% between 2012-2014 and the Asian bowl offerings jumped 8%.3 As burger chains lose sales growth, trend-laden bowls are comforting consumers at dining spots everywhere.