5 emerging multicultural ingredients with cross-generational appeal

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

5 emerging multicultural ingredients with cross-generational appeal

Related tags Packaged facts Avocado

Multicultural wellness ingredients are emerging as a tie that binds the diverse desires of multiple generations together, according to the latest Packaged Facts’ Culinary Trend Tracking Series report. 

The report notes that while most Americans say they want to eat healthier, the proportion of those who do is heavily skewed towards adults 35 years and older. Likewise, many Americans are interested in trying new foods, but this time the trend tips more toward adults aged 18-44, Packaged Facts Research Director David Sprinkle notes in the report.

To bring these two groups together are “multicultural wellness ingredients,”​ which appeal to the adventurous younger shopper and the health conscious older shopper, Sprinkle said.

Five increasingly popular ingredients that fit this bill include teff, avocados, matcha, pumpkin seeds and lentils, according to the report.

Teff taps into demand for gluten free

Teff may be the world’s smallest grain, but it offers big possibilities for manufacturers operating in the booming gluten-free space. Ground into flour, teff “is an excellent substitute in recipes for many baked goods,” ​ but because it is so dense it should be combined with other gluten-free flours for yeast-risen foods, according to Packaged Facts. Teff’s texture also lends well as a dry coating on baked goods, used similarly to cornmeal, or as a thickener in smoothies, sauces and cereal.

As an ancient grain, teff also appeals to consumers who are avoiding genetically modified foods. In addition, as a superfood, it boasts 50% more protein, 25% more calcium and five times more fiber than brown rice, Packaged Facts notes. This makes it a good addition to CPGs that want to make trendy fiber and protein claims.

While still new to many Americans, teff’s sales potential is outpacing quinoa – up 58% in mid-2004 compared to 35% for quinoa, the report notes. In addition, a Packaged Facts survey concluded in April found in the previous 30 days, 8% of adults bought packaged or bulk items with teff and 4% ordered a menu item made with it.

Avocados move from savory to sweet

Avocados' popularity in the U.S. has surged in the last 10 years, with consumption of the Hass avocado more than doubling since 2004 to reach 1.85 billion pounds in 2014, according to Packaged Facts. But, it notes, until recently, the avocado has been sidelined as a savory snack, with football fans eating 25,000 tons of it on Superbowl Sunday alone – primarily as a dip or fresh sandwich ingredient.

The high levels of healthy fats in avocados along with is creamy texture, however, make it an ideal substitute for butter in baked goods, which opens the door for CPGs that are reformulating products – especially desserts  – to meet consumers' growing demand for vegan fare, according to  Packaged Facts. The report cites Datassential MenuTrends data that found the number of dessert items featuring avocados increased from one in 2005 to 12 in 2014.

The same data also revealed avocados increasingly are appearing in drinks, from smoothies and juices to cocktails. In 2005, nine drinks featured the fruit, but in 2014 it was in 30. Based on this, Packaged Facts suggests the ingredient will start appearing in more ice cream and frozen pies as well as baked items in retail stores, and in drinks at foodservice.

Matcha is the new “un-soda”

As Americans continue to turn their back on the empty calories and high levels of sugar in cola, they are gravitating towards lower calorie beverages that also offer health benefits – such as green tea, according to Packaged Facts.

It notes household penetration of green tea climbed from 19.9% in 2010 to 21.1% in 2014, driven primarily by the health benefits. The way in which matcha is made – by pulverizing leaves and mixing them with water rather than steeping them like regular tea – means it retains more of its nutrients, which helps it appeal to increasingly health conscious consumers, the report adds.

Currently, matcha resonates best on the East Coast, where it penetrates 30% of homes in New York, and the West Coast, where 29% of California homes have it on hand. This is compared to 21% nationwide, according to the report.

Pepitas add pep to products

Just as pumpkin has broken free of its seasonal confines, so has the growing popularity of pumpkin seeds, according to Packaged Facts. Pepitas appeared on 5.1% of menu items in 2014 – up from 1.2% in 2005, and is now ahead of sunflower and poppy seeds, the report notes.

Because the seeds are highly versatile in how they can be used – whole, ground or as a garnish – they can be incorporated into a wide range of products, including dips, salads, dressings, soups, bakery items, granola and snack bars. Another key driver in their popularity is their high fiber and nutrient content and consumers’ perception of the seeds as authentic, the report notes.

Lentils emerge as gluten-free, protein powerhouse

Protein is one of the hottest functional food trends currently and with 63% of Americans replacing some meat protein with that of beans, lentils are well positioned for growth, according to Packaged Facts.

Because the legume also can be ground into a powder they also can tap into the gluten-free trend as a substitute for wheat in the formulation of gluten-free snacks, bread and pasta, the report notes.

Like avocados, lentils have been viewed primarily as a savory ingredient, but chefs increasingly are using them in sweets, such as cookies and panna cotta, further expanding the legumes potential, Packaged Facts notes. 

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