watermelon salad set in salad bowl on cloth napkin, fork on side on wooden cutting board

Foodservice

MenuTrends Research

The National Watermelon Promotion Board (NWPB) conducts menu trend research to understand the opportunity watermelon has in foodservice and to benchmark watermelon’s presence year-over-year. In 2019, the NWPB invested in Datassential MenuTrends Research. This database includes menus from more than 4,800 restaurants including independents, regional chains, and national chains in all restaurant segments. Please note, this research includes all mentions of watermelon, not just fresh usage.

Research Highlights
  • Watermelon is featured on 13% of menus and has grown by 54% in the past four years, making it one of the fastest growing fruits.
  • Watermelon ranks 22nd among most popular fruits and 3rd among greatest four-year growth.
  • In the Menu Adoption Cycle (Inception, Adoption, Proliferation and Ubiquity), Watermelon falls in Proliferation moving from Adoption in the 2017 report.
  • Watermelon is found more often on casual and fine dining menus but has seen growth across all segments.
  • Watermelon is most often found on all day menus and has seen the largest growth on lunch menus.
  • Watermelon is expanding across the menu with entrees experiencing the most rapid growth.
  • All regions of the U.S. are experiencing increased use of watermelon but coastal regions feature watermelon most often.
  • National chains are featuring and expanding the use of watermelon more often and at a faster pace than regional chains and independents.
  • Historically, watermelon limited time offers (LTOs) have taken place in the summer months but between 2017 and 2018; LTOs launched in all months of the year but one (November) illustrating its move to a year-round product.
  • Haiku, Datassential’s accurate prediction of future menu growth, ranks watermelon in the 98th percentile for future growth – reaching 16% penetration by 2022.
  • Watermelon is on 4% of appetizer, entrée, and side dish menus and growing – triple digit growth in casual restaurants but featured on fine dining menus most often.
    • Nearly three in ten watermelon savory dishes appear on American menus. Sandwiches, mixed ethnicity, Italian, and Mexican menus round out the top five cuisine types.
    • Although low penetration, watermelon is the fastest growing fruit featured on salads (more than 100% 4-year growth).
    • Salad ingredients like feta, vinaigrette, mint, cucumber and arugula are the top savory ingredients paired with watermelon.
    • Proteins most commonly menued with watermelon are pork, tuna and crab.
  • Despite being featured on only 1% of dessert menus, watermelon is among the fastest growing fruits on dessert menus.
    • More than half of watermelon desserts are frozen treats such as Italian ice, sorbet, sherbet, and frozen yogurt.
  • Featured on 3.4% of non-alcoholic beverage menus, watermelon has experienced triple digit growth over the past ten years.
    • Watermelon non-alcoholic beverages are more common at limited service restaurants, particularly fast casuals and QSRs.
    • Almost a third of non-alcoholic beverages featuring watermelon are blended drinks, which include smoothies, slushies, and milkshakes.
    • Watermelon, with 5.4% penetration is among the fastest growing fruits offered in smoothies.
  • One in ten restaurants serving alcoholic beverages feature a drink with watermelon, more than doubling in the last ten years.
    • Watermelon is among the fastest growing fruits in alcoholic beverages, up 54% over the past four years.
    • Watermelon is featured most often in house-created mixed drinks such as cocktails, margaritas, and martinis.
    • Watermelon’s light and refreshing flavor versatility makes it easy to blend with vodka, tequila, and gin.
    • Beer and sangria including watermelon has seen strong four-year growth.
    • The spicy heat of ginger balances the natural sugar of watermelon – as Asian inspired craft cocktails continue to grow, so does this pairing.

For more information or to request the full report, please email Megan McKenna at [email protected].

Watermelon on Menus

Consumer Omnibus Survey

The National Watermelon Promotion Board (NWPB) conducted a consumer omnibus survey with Datassentials to gauge consumer preferences regarding watermelon on menus. The method was an online survey of 1,519 consumers, focusing on 1,291 who did not reject watermelon. Objectives were to assess opportunity for watermelon on menu, understand consumer preferences for watermelon in foodservice including preferences in applications, preparation, daypart, and seasonality and determine premium perception of watermelon as it compares to other fruits.

Research Highlights
  • Most consumers (71%) order watermelon away from home (in a dish or drink), but few order it with regularity.
    • Lack of availability on menus is the primary inhibitor to watermelon orders – this is an actionable inhibitor!
    • General dislike of watermelon is a smaller hurdle than creating new recipes and dishes with watermelon as an ingredient.
  • Watermelon is most likely to be enjoyed away from home as a snack.
    • Of the traditional meals, watermelon fits best at lunch.
    • There is no single daypart at which watermelon is completely rejected, with different applications likely to pique interest at different times of day.
  • Raw (no preparation) watermelon in fruit cups / bowls is most preferred.
    • Beverages, like juice or smoothies, are appealing applications.
    • No preparation methods are appealing, possibly due to low trial of non-raw watermelon.
  • Watermelon drinks and desserts (smoothies, popsicles, cocktails, & agua frescas) garner the highest interest.
    • While consumers agree that watermelon pairs well with both sweet and savory items, interest in savory watermelon-based items is generally lower than sweet items.
    • Interest in grilled watermelon doubled with the presence of an image.
  • There is opportunity for popular summer time drinks and food items that incorporate watermelon.
    • There is near universal interest in watermelon in the summer.
    • Few consumers want watermelon in the winter, but a quarter believe it is a year-round fit.
  • Consumers overwhelmingly agree that watermelon is healthy and pairs well with many different flavors.
    • Limited availability is an issue, more than ¾ of consumers wish there were more items with watermelon on menus.
    • While few seek out watermelon in the fall / winter, most know that it’s available year-round.
  • Nearly half of consumers believe watermelon is more premium than oranges and other melons like honeydew and cantaloupe.
    • Premium perception of watermelon is on par with strawberries.
    • None of the tested fruits are considered more premium than watermelon.

Watermelon on Menus

Operator Omnibus Survey

The National Watermelon Promotion Board (NWPB) conducted an operator omnibus survey with Datassentials to gauge operators preferences regarding watermelon on menus. The method was an online survey of 410 operators. Of the 410 surveyed, 254  currently offer or used to offer fresh watermelon and 156 have never offered fresh watermelon. Objectives were to measure watermelon penetration on menus and assess usage and interest for various watermelon applications, gauge operator readiness to include watermelon items on takeout and delivery menus, understand what types of support would motivate operators to menu more watermelon items.

Research Highlights
  • Fresh watermelon works best in slices or as a salad ingredient.
    • Smoothies, salsas, and desserts are also promising watermelon applications.
    • Watermelon is a good fit at on-sites, while restaurants (especially chains and QSRs) are less willing to adopt it.
    • However, restaurants are likely to use watermelon in alcoholic beverages.
  • Operators are open to including watermelon on their takeout menu.
    • Roughly half of those who serve watermelon are already doing so.
    • Though being takeout-friendly is not a top attribute associated with watermelon, many operators can see themselves offering watermelon items on both their dine-in and takeout menus. This is especially true for watermelon salads and condiments (sauces, salsas, glazes).
  • Recipe ideas can help boost positive perceptions of watermelon.
    • Watermelon is already viewed as affordable, easy to prep, and readily available from distributors.
    • However, some operators believe it’s too seasonal and would not fit the menu or sell well.
    • New recipes that showcase watermelon’s versatility would motivate operators to purchase.
    • Operators would also appreciate more consistent availability, although watermelon generally performs well in this area already.

For more information or to request the full report, please email Megan McKenna at [email protected].