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Extreme flavors becoming mainstream, says new report

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 25-Mar-2011

‘Extreme and edgy’ flavors are increasingly moving into the mainstream, according to a new trend report from the Center for Culinary Development (CCD) and market research organization Packaged Facts.

This new report, “Extreme & Edgy Flavors: Culinary Trend Mapping Report”, claims that Americans are always interested in new flavors as long as they are not “too far out”, and will pay attention to edgy flavor combinations as long as they taste as good as they sound interesting.

CEO of CCD Kimberly Egan said: “Consumers around the globe are thrilling to new, bigger, bolder flavors and unique flavor combinations. Our palates are being pushed in all kinds of sweet, salty, sour and bitter directions, while new flavors tempt us from the edge of the culinary ingredient spectrum.”

CCD’s collaborative reports with Packaged Facts are based on trend mapping, which it says is guided by the premise that new flavor trends often go through five distinct phases on their way to becoming mainstream.

New trends tend to emerge at upmarket dining establishments, it says, passing into specialist consumer food magazines and television programs, before being picked up by mainstream chain restaurants, then begin to appear in family-oriented consumer magazines, and finally appear in grocery stores and/or quick service restaurants.

This latest report highlights flavors and ingredients at each stage in this process, including sea buckthorn berries, with which chefs at fine dining restaurants are beginning to experiment. The Japanese citrus fruit yuzu is starting to appear on cocktail menus and in specialty food magazines, the CCD report said, while tamarind, a flavoring component of Worcestershire sauce and a common ingredient in Latin, Southeast Asian and Indian foods, is now finding its way into chain restaurants in the United States.

Further toward full mainstream status is the combination of rich chocolate and spicy chili, which has been picked up in both sweet and savory recipes in popular women’s magazines. The report said that wasabi is an extreme flavor that has migrated entirely into the mainstream, and can now be found in a wide range of dishes, including mashed potatoes, hummus, aioli, dressings and chocolate.

Introducing CCD’s new report, Egan wrote: “How food manufacturers and restaurant operators apply these flavors in product development depends on the target audience, of course. Young men are in it for a big kick, women for a possible health benefit on the side, Latinos and Asian for familiar flavors in new places and everyone for the rounder, more balanced flavors all of these trends offer.”

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