Agri-Food Trade Service
Content Manager's Blog
This Web site was created 15 years ago as a source of market information and export support activities for Canadian companies. As the web evolves and our interaction with clients intensifies we've decided to take a more active approach in keeping you informed with what we've published recently and to give a sneak peak at what you can look forward to in the coming months in the hopes of giving you a reason to come back and get more involved with our projects.
The Food Trucks of Today
February 10, 2011
While industry trend predictions are currently a hot topic for 2011, it's worthwhile to call attention to one 2010 trend that is expected to remain strong – food trucks.
Food trucks are certainly not a new concept; in fact they date back to the 17th Century in the United Kingdom, where local wagon drivers were employed to transport goods to military troops serving abroad. However, food trucks have dramatically evolved over the years and are gaining popularity in today's marketplace due to their ability to adapt to consumer tastes and lifestyles.
Considering the many consumer trends occurring in the market, it's perhaps not a surprise that the food truck sector is booming. Fast-paced lifestyles, the demand for convenience meals and snacks, as well as economic pressures forcing consumers to trade down from fine dining to cheaper meal options, have likely all contributed to growth in the food truck sector. Increasing demand for diverse food tastes and cuisine experiences may also be fuelling the variety of food trucks and food options now in this market, while the return of consumer preferences for simple, comforting foods is another benefit. With a downturn in the economy, food trucks have also offered a less costly alternative to those interested in entering the foodservice industry, but wanting to avoid the high costs associated with starting a full bricks-and-mortar restaurant. An example is the growing presence of high-end mobile food trucks in Manhattan that cater to the hungry lunchtime crowd with luxury fare, but avoid having to pay the steep real estate costs of a permanent restaurant location. With so many converging trends supporting the growth of the food truck industry, it looks as if there is some considerable room to further expand and differentiate in the future.
This revamp of the food truck market is also occurring north of the Canada-U.S. border, where Vancouver is revolutionizing its food truck industry. As a result, Vancouver's food truck industry has received quite a lot of media attention, including a recent article by The Globe and Mail on the evolution of the city's food trucks. In order to further develop the industry, the city launched a successful pilot program and is now overhauling its street food program, licensing 60 new food cart locations over a four year period. A new selection system using a panel of foodies should also provide a wider range of food truck offerings in the city, as opposed to the previous lottery system that was used. The city is also pioneering new nutrition rules that outline minimum standards for street foods, ensuring not only an increasingly ethnically diverse food truck market, but one with healthy and nutritious options.
Vancouver isn't the only Canadian city working to reinvent its food truck market. The Toronto Star has followed the industry in Toronto, where not long ago a food truck pilot program was launched; also designed to bring more diversity and healthier food offerings to the city. While the program was hindered by red tape and did not have the same initial success as in Vancouver, given similar issues with the challenges and costs associated with bricks-and-mortar establishments and the already diverse cuisine available, Toronto will likely continue to drive expansion of food truck fare in the future. As of the moment, nutritious and creative gourmet food trucks continue to grow throughout Ontario, however, more mobile-friendly regulations are likely needed to truly grow and diversify the industry.
We're not the only ones to notice this growing "restaurant on wheels" trend. The National Restaurant Association's "What's Hot" survey of more than 1,500 professional chefs, voted mobile food trucks and pop-up restaurants to be the hottest operational trend in 2011 for the foodservice industry. Furthermore, CNN's Eatocracy Blog recently featured a story on food trucks in Los Angeles, where these mobile cuisine trucks have both a strong market presence and a long existence, particularly in serving Mexican style cuisines. However, in the past few years, food trucks have particularly surged in numbers. While Mexican food remains a popular food truck staple, Korean foods and flavours have also become increasingly present in the food truck market. Additionally, food trucks have upgraded themselves and their product offerings, providing outstanding meal quality and high-end cuisine, using quality ingredients. Now, it's no longer necessary to sit down at a restaurant for some deliciously prepared food, but simply walk down the street to the nearest food truck location. A diverse range of food options can also now be found at food trucks throughout North America, including Indian dishes, Korean tacos, ice cream sandwiches, and fried chicken.
Food trucks offering Indian cuisine are becoming increasingly popular across the United States. These trucks, which are serving up gourmet and off-beat foods, are most popular in California, New York, Texas, North Carolina, Philadelphia, and Washington DC. Various traditional Indian dishes are being offered as a convenient meal option to on-the-go consumers. Some of these cuisine trucks have been so successful in attracting loyal customers that long wait lines are formed daily. Due to the recent surge in these Indian cuisine trucks, owners are trying to gain competitive advantages by creating different marketing tactics such as ever changing menus, social media influences, and using eco-friendly packaging including 100% recycled paper and biodegradable bags.
Food trucks have become so popular that they have even spawned a television show on the Food Network, The Great Food Truck Race. In the series, seven food trucks venture across America to see who can sell the most food, highlighting both the popularity and diversity of this sector. Competitors represent the wide range of food truck cuisines in the market, offering grilled sandwiches, crepes, gourmet hamburgers, pudding, Cajun and Vietnamese cuisine, as well as French dishes.
With this new market surge, food trucks have also been embracing social media technology to connect with consumers; keeping up to speed with the growing number of retail grocery, foodservice establishments, and industry brands that are increasingly leveraging social media to grow their business. Twitter is being used as a tool to let customers in on the whereabouts of a truck, deals and wait times. Other mobile cuisine applications for the iPhone and Android are appearing, offering similar services to mobile customers, such as maps that track the locations of a variety of different food trucks in a specific region, providing options for any craving.
With industry experts pointing to both food trucks and the use of social media as hot industry trends for the coming year, it appears food trucks will only continue to grow in popularity and diversity. The possible varieties of food truck offerings seem endless, and in the future, we may see more traditional restaurant cuisines increasingly turning up in the food truck market.
If you would like more information specific to this growing food truck industry, please visit Mobile Cuisine Magazine, an online resource destination for the mobile food industry. This web site provides valuable insight into the growing trend in the United States and covers a variety of topics including business tips, events, profiles, recipes and food truck trends. Vancouver Street Eats is also a good source for information on the Canadian food truck industry, and highlights the rapidly growing popularity for food trucks in the city of Vancouver.
If you have any further comments or questions, please contact us.
Until next time…
Online Product Manager, Agri-Food Trade Service (ATS)
Jeff // 07-December-2011
"I own a Restaurant now I want a food truck. Where can I buy one in Ontario, and what are the permits? I live in Sudbury. I would use it for catering and other events."
Reply (ATS Content
Manager) // 07-December-2011
""BizPal" (bizpal.ca) on the Greater Sudbury municipal website has an on line tool which generates a customized list of permits and licences you may need to operate or open your business. I tried the tool and they have a specific listing for food trucks. I think it is an excellent tool and I recommend that you use it to find the necessary permits and licenses. Also you can contact the regional business centre directly for a list of licenses and by-laws related to food trucks. www.regionalbusiness.ca"
Rachel // 10-November-2011
"Je suis sur le point de m'acheter un FOOD TRUCK (Texas BBQ) et j'Aimerais savoir si je peux opérer mon camion dans la ville de Québec." (French only)
Reply (ATS Content
Manager) // 14-November-2011
"I did some research on the permits necessary for operating a food truck in Quebec City, but I had some difficultly finding enough detail on the site (probably more my fault than the site). I suggest you contact the city directly to see what the regulation are and what permits are required. Also, I would suggest you contact the Centre local de développement de Québec (CLD) to learn more about their program. I hope this information helps."
Pauli // 27-May-2011
"Where could I get more on permits and regulations for operating a mobile food truck in the City of Hamilton?"
Reply (ATS Content Manager) // 30-May-2011
"Thanks for the question regarding how to obtain a food truck licence for the city of Hamilton. I would start on the City of Hamilton's website. Their licensing office has a page dedicated to mobile operator licenses. Thanks for visiting and commenting."
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