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The Trend

A desire to be healthier and shifts in tastes and lifestyles are changing consumer preferences in South Africa’s foodservice Industry. Trends predicted by Insight Survey in its 2018 Industry Report on the SA Fast Food/QSR Industry Ladscape, are becoming more evident.

The report identifies the rise in popularity of three types of foods:

  1. Gut-friendly fermented food;
  2. Mushrooms; and
  3. Hearty stews, also known as hotpots.

The first two trends will be discussed further.

A growing culture for fermented foods

A growing culture for fermented foods

Awareness of the importance of probiotics and their role in digesting the nutrients in foods has fuelled interest in fermented foods. Fermented foods contain potentially beneficial bacteria, and some include other organisms, such as yeast. These microbes act as probiotics, supporting gut health.

As with many health foods, fermented foods are not suitable for everyone. People with weakened immune systems due to health conditions, such as HIV, or certain medications should avoid homemade fermented foods.

Proponents of fermentation argue that it is an easy way to add beneficial bacteria and other organisms to the gut to promote a healthy gut microbiome. Some research has linked a healthy gut to better overall health.

An operational bonus of this consumer trend is that, in addition to their health benefits, fermented foods also have a longer shelf-life, making them less likely to be wasted.

Mushrooms add their magic

Mushrooms add their magic

Mushrooms pop up in numerous forms as one of the biggest current food trends. Mushrooms are being used to add flavour and nutrition to meals in a sustainable way. The breadth of this trend is so vast that it includes its own movement. The Blenditarian Movement was initiated by the US Mushroom council and encourages people to add finely chopped mushrooms to ground meat. It’s intended to help people curb their meat consumption, save money and add more plant-based foods to their daily intake — without stopping eating meat altogether (Clark, 2020).

According to The 50 Future Foods Report (Knorr & WWF, 2019), there are more than 2 000 edible varieties of mushrooms. Cultivated for centuries for their taste and nutritional value, mushrooms are rich in B vitamins and vitamin D as well as protein and fibre. 

Mushrooms can also grow where many other foods would not, including on by-products recycled from other crops. They are not considered plants as they do not photosynthesise; they are classified as fungi. Their texture and umami flavour make them a tasty addition and a suitable substitute for meat.

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With some imagination and creativity, both these trends can be included in local foodservice offerings. 

Gut-friendly Fermented Foods

Villines (2019) discusses a few examples of highly nutritious fermented foods which can be included on the menu and in dishes.

Fermented vegetables

Fermented vegetables

Pickles and sauerkraut are among the most popular fermented foods. These foods are easy to add to salads, sandwiches, and other dishes. Many vegetables are high in fibre and contain important vitamins and minerals. Vegetables that people commonly ferment include broccoli, beetroot, brinjal and okra.

But be aware that not all pickled foods are fermented. It is best to check the label to look for the mention of ‘live bacteria,’ ‘fermented,’ or ‘probiotics’.



Kefir is a fermented dairy product that is similar to yoghurt but has a thinner consistency. It can be drunk on its own, like milk, or used on top of cereal, or mixed into other foods. Kefir is high in protein, making it a good option for vegetarians. Protein can also help people feel fuller for longer, which can help support weight loss efforts. According to research, kefir offers probiotic benefits, such as improved digestive health.



Kombucha is a type of sweetened black tea that uses fermentation to promote the growth of good bacteria. The bacteria turn the sugar in the tea to alcohol. As a result, kombucha contains a low level of alcohol but not enough to cause intoxication.

The authors of a review article on kombucha conclude that it may promote immune system health and could also counter some metabolic disorders. The chemicals that kombucha bacteria produce include antioxidants. Antioxidants counter the effects of free radicals, which are understood to have a range of health benefits.

Miso and tempeh

Miso and tempeh

Miso and tempeh are soybean-based fermented foods that are popular in Japanese cooking. Miso is best known as the primary ingredient of miso soup, while tempeh is a popular meat substitute similar to tofu. Soybeans are rich in protein, so tempeh and miso are excellent choices for people who do not eat meat.

Research suggests that the process of fermenting soybeans may release beneficial peptides, amino acids that help regulate the body’s functions.


The mushroom boom is not limited to its use as a meat substitute by the Blenditarians. The SA Fast Food/QSR Trend Report (2018) also sees them being added to beverages such as coffee.

Mushrooms can be added to vegetarian dishes to make them more attractive to the ‘conscious carnivore’ who would like to reduce their meat consumption.

But they can also be added to burgers, bolognaise, and mince dishes, amongst others, to increase fibre and vitamin content.

Decide on the mushroom-to-meat ratio in ‘blended’ dishes depending on what is being cooked. Clark (2020) suggests the following proportions:

  • 25-75 mushroom-to-meat ratio in burgers and meatloaf to maintain the texture and integrity
  • 50-50 mushroom-to-meat ratio for tacos and burritos
  • 70-30 mushroom-to-meat ratio for pasta sauces such as bolognaise

That being said, you can always experiment with adding a little more or less to achieve your desired consistency.

Mushroom burger
Mushroom tacos
Mushroom pasta

Final Thoughts

As South Africans increase their awareness of healthy eating, their appetite for different types of foods expands. Because of their versatility and availability, incorporating two rising trends - fermented foods and mushrooms – presents an easy win.

Insight Survey, (2018). South African Fast Food/QSR Industry Landscape report.

Villines, Zawn (2019).  What are the best fermented foods? Medically reviewed by Katherine Marengo LDN, Retrieved at

Clark, Edwina (2020). Why the Blenditarian Movement is a Win-Win For Healthy Eaters. Retrieved at