ARKANSAS, USA — Arkansas is gradually starting to be considered as a foodie state. It’s evident from all the choices in Little Rock and central Arkansas cuisine to the ever-growing food scene in Northwest Arkansas.
Grub Hub, Uber Eats, Postmates, and DoorDash all put out lists of their top ordered food items of 2019.
THV11 talked with local food blogger, Greg Henderson, about what trends made headway in Arkansas in 2019 and what might make waves next year.
1.) More Vegan/Vegetarian Options
Grubhub said they saw a spike in cauliflower pizza orders in 2019; not a small spike either. Orders rose 650% in popularity on their platform in 2019. That follows a growing trend of other plant-based trendy items like Beyond Meat. Postmates said more than 385,000 plant-based meat orders have been placed on the Postmates platform in 2019. It’s a trend Henderson said is no stranger to Arkansas.
“Vegan and vegetarian options are really coming up a lot in the city and I think it's a great trend,” said Henderson. “In 2020, as dietary needs are changing, I think it’s something that will keep snowballing where even restaurants that aren’t vegan will have more vegan options.”
2.) Arkansas BBQ on the Rise
This may sound a little ironic, but while plant-based items are seeing an uptick, meat eaters are still going strong. Grubhub said Arkansas's favorite food to order on their platform in 2019 was a pulled pork sandwich. Henderson said Arkansas is trying to make a name for itself by having a distinct style of BBQ.
“You’ve got Texas, Kansas City, Tennessee and Memphis BBQ right next door with so much talent around us,” said Henderson. “Arkansas has been a little slow in the BBQ scene, but I think you're seeing more places offer BBQ and they are doing a better job at BBQ than ever before.”
3.) More Food Diversity
DoorDash reports that in 2019, 30% of customers typically ate 5 to 10 different cuisines per month. They also said that 96% of Americans said they believe food is a great way to explore other cultures. Henderson says in Arkansas, we saw more diverse eating options available in 2019.
“We saw a huge amount of diversity come up in Little Rock like we had not seen before with new places serving things like African and Jamaican cuisine,” said Henderson. “I think that will continue and we’ll have some places with clearly defined ethnic cuisines coming through that we haven’t seen before.”
Looking forward to 2020
Overall, Henderson also said he expects to see more growth in 2020. He expects 2020 to have more new food trucks and more new restaurants than we saw in 2019.
“I think 2020 will be a more aggressive year because there are some pent up needs that will go in effect,” he said. “People been playing with experimental categories like ethnic cuisines and I think people feel they can build a business model around those and that they are going to work well.”
As new restaurants come in, Henderson does issue a warning. He said more trendy items may not make it for the long haul; something we saw happen in 2019 with multiple Poke restaurants closing down.
“This tends to happen in trendy stuff where things come in and you make a lot of money and then you over-saturate the market and realize you can’t make money anymore,” he said. “It wouldn’t surprise me to see ramen go that way in 2020, where a lot of ramen shops open up at the first of the year and close by the end of the year.”
Overall, Henderson said 2019 was a fun food year and there are lots of exciting things to look forward to in 2020.
So, how about we approach the new year with open minds and hungry bellies? It shouldn't be too challenging, right?