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Trends Shaping the Food Truck Industry Outlook in 2021

Below are ten notable trends that are shaping the food truck industry in 2021. Several factors impacting the food truck industry this year include the coronavirus pandemic, changing consumer preferences, and increased usage of technology.

Trends Shaping The Food Truck Industry

1. Increased Demand for Environmentally Friendly Food

The young customers that frequent food trucks are also conscious of the effects of climate change. In 2021, this advocacy will likely impact the food industry which will face pressure to serve food that is sustainably sourced and is farmed with renewable resources. Food trucks can be expected to supply more organic options and provide more labeling identifying the sources for their ingredients. Accommodating the views of their customer base will help food trucks expand their business.

2. Increased Vegan Options and Meat-Plant Blends

Beyond Meat products have taken off and have been added to menus of large fast-food chains. The food truck industry can expect this trend to be extended to food trucks as the demand for meatless protein options grows. Food industry experts have taken note of the success of the Impossible Burger and are moving to meet this new demand. Additionally, meat-plant blends are also becoming popular with omnivores who want healthier options. Food trucks are looking into burgers that include mushrooms, beans, and chickpeas.

3. More Event Partnerships and Promotions

Partnerships between food trucks and events such as carnivals, bars, and concerts are becoming more common. This is a win-win collaboration for both parties, as food trucks get more foot traffic and the events attract more fans. Bars are also participants in this trend, increasingly partnering with specific food trucks to park outside their venues and attract more customers. There is often an overlap of clientele, given that the 18-34 group is the demographic that most visit food trucks.

4. More Commercial Restaurants Experimenting wtih Food Trucks

Established chain restaurants including Outback are using food trucks as catalysts to test out new items and concepts. Many new restaurants are supplying food trucks with potential new menu items and tracking how sales perform. These partnerships eliminate the need to fund and implement focus groups providing a space for natural experimentation. Also, if the item is unpopular, negative consumer sentiment is attached to the food truck, not to the restaurant.

Additionally, food trucks are being used to gauge public opinion on types of foods and the potential for local success. Instead of taking surveys on what type of food may be successful in an area, established restaurants may send a food truck to that area and track its performance. There are many examples of restaurants that chose to open up commercial locations after sending food trucks to the area.

5. Increased Technology and Social Media

Food trucks are quickly expanding their social media presence past traditional platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. They are rapidly adopting Instagram, Snapchat, and Tik Tok to keep and expand their customer base that is reliant on the young population. Social media usage also allows food trucks to advertise their locations and hours to regular customers. Additionally, more food trucks are offering Wi-Fi services for their tech-savvy customers to use during their visits.

6. More Peanut Butter Alternatives

Recognition of allergies to peanut butter is gaining traction in the food truck industry and is leading to the consideration of alternatives. Additionally, consumers are choosing to avoid palm oil due to its large environmental footprint. Since it is a key component in peanut butter, many food truck companies are looking at experimenting with substitutes. including pumpkin butter, macadamia butter, and chickpea butter.

7. Flour Alternatives

The gluten-free trend is expected to continue in 2021 and will be extended to the food truck industry. Alternatives that are currently being used in the food truck industry include banana flour, seed flour, and cauliflower flour. Additionally, more pre-made baked goods such as cookies and bread will be made without gluten.

8. West African Cuisine

West African cuisine is set to explode given its novelty and use of superfoods that align with the trend towards healthier food trucks. Millet, fonio, and chili peppers are ingredients that are both good for you and new to many customers. Experts can expect the number of West African food trucks and fusion trucks to increase in 2021.

9. Churros

While churros are not necessarily a new development, there are more twists on the traditional cinnamon sugar churro that are making it to food trucks. They are cost-effective, have low preparation time, and can be personalized. Flavors such as Oreo churros and Fruity Pebbles churros are expected to rise in popularity as the popular dessert reaches new demographics.

10. Refined Sugar Alternatives

Another popular trend that is impacting the food industry is the increased demand for sugar alternatives. Increased awareness of the effects of sugar on obesity and the development of diabetes is leading to increased reception for refined sugar alternatives. In meeting this demand, food trucks will turn to natural alternatives derived from fruits. Natural sugars present in coconuts, pomegranates, and dates are rising in popularity.

There are ten statistics that all food truck business owners should know:

As much as 50% of revenue in the COVID-19 pandemic has come from order-ahead sales

Mobile dining combined with order-ahead dining has become a winning formula during the coronavirus pandemic. Some food trucks have been hurt by social distancing guidelines that have prevented long lines and the foot traffic they rely on. Others have taken advantage of technology to help customers order ahead and adapt to the current conditions. (Source: Businessinsider.com)

The average cost of opening up a food truck is between $50,000 and $60,000

Prospective food truck business owners should consider that a food truck is a substantial investment that requires obtaining many permits and maintaining safety standards. Prospective owners should have a clear business strategy with innovative menu items and a clear target audience before launching their business. While food trucks provide significant revenue streams in the long-run, owners should be aware of the substantial starting costs. (Source: Foodtrucknation.us)

The average revenue stream of a food truck is $290,000

This statistic points to the growth potential in the food truck industry and it is projected to continue to increase in the next five years. Food trucks are positioning themselves as the more affordable option for first-time food business owners compared to traditional restaurants. Although businesses may incur growing pains, the long-term outlook for the food truck industry is bright. (Source: Foodtrucknation.us)

The average processing time for the necessary food trucks permits is 37 business days

Before starting a food truck business, it is critical to know which food truck license is required to operate in the area. This will allow businesses to construct a timeline and better plan their budget. Industry experts recommend getting in contact with local city and state business offices who can supply owners with a list of business licenses, vehicle licenses, and operations permits needed for the truck. (Source: Foodtrucknation.us)

The average cost of all permits is over $28,000

The estimated cost of food truck permits, licenses, and ongoing legal compliance is $28,276 according to the Food Truck Nation website. Following health and safety regulations is critical to the operation of a food truck business. Significantly, the regulatory barriers differ greatly from city to city, so industry experts suggest that business owners carefully consider where they will locate their business. (Source: Foodtrucknation.us)

The food truck industry is outgrowing the restaurant industry, 5.5% to 4.3%

This owes to the fact that even with substantial startup costs, the food truck industry is being seen as a safer option. First-time business owners who are wary of the high costs of commercial space can use their food trucks to experiment with ideas and generate a revenue stream. If their products prove popular, they can transfer their business and customer base to a commercial space. (Source: Foodtruckoperator.com)

47% of millennials have eaten from food trucks

Millennials and Generation Z form the backbone of the customer base for food trucks. Building and maintaining their business will require that food trucks keep up with the latest trends including environmental and health awareness. The food trucks that generate the most business will be the ones who adapt the quickest. (Source: Bigthink.com)

Portland, Oregon is the cheapest city to operate a food truck

Portland residents refer to its food trucks as “food carts” with over 600 in operation in 2021. Given the relatively inexpensive costs of permits and licenses along with the food cart industry surging popularity, an investment in a food truck industry in Portland pays off. It is especially known for its Asian food carts such as Bing Mi and Nong’s Khao Man Gai. (Source: Foodtrucknation.us)

There are currently over 30,000 food truck employees in the U.S.

According to IBISWorld, there are 30,207 employees in the food truck industry today. The number of people employed in the industry increased by 6.1% in the last five years. Although this increase is expected, presently food truck businesses employ on average only 1.2 employees. This is an increase compared to the last five years though this is still low compared to other small businesses. (Source: Ibisworld.com)

Over 80% of food truck users called their dining experience “fun”, “exciting”, or “new”

This refers to the novelty of food trucks that attracts many food truck customers. They do not want traditional restaurant menu items. Customers are looking to experiment with new cuisines and combinations. Food truck owners should place close attention to which products are selling the most and should not be scared to experiment with new items. (Source: Mobile-cuisine.com)