“There is a trend toward global flavors in American-style menus right now” that is a reflection of the country’s history as a ‘melting pot’ of cultures and of mainstream America’s increasing “boredom with the everyday and desire to add something new their palate,” said Chitra Agrawal, the owner of Brooklyn Delhi, which specializes in Indian inspired achaars, relishes and Indian condiments that use traditional cooking techniques and global ingredients.
She explained to FoodNavigator-USA at the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City last month that this combination has created a perfect opportunity for entrepreneurs with ties to other cultures to bring to market international-inspired condiments that can be used on traditional dishes or fused with more familiar American cuisine, such as pizza and pasta.
For example, Brooklyn Delhi sells several types of achaar and Indian relish that are “staples in every Indian home as a topping on rice, dahl or curry, but which can also be paired with dishes that are more grounded in American-culture, such as sandwiches, eggs or even as a marinade,” Agrawal said.
She explained that creating condiments that are so versatile came naturally to her because she grew up eating her mother’s and grandmother’s traditional Indian dressings, sauces and spice blends not only in Indian food but on homemade pizza, pasta and even Mexican dishes.
Consumer education is still needed
While these pairings came naturally to her, Agrawal acknowledged that there is still quite a bit of heavy lifting to do when it comes to educating mainstream American shoppers about how they can use her sauces and condiments.
“We do a lot of education as to how you can use the products. So, we have recipes on the jar and tons of recipe cards and different ideas on our Instagram account and our website to help” people who have never tried an achaar or relish before, she said.
This way, she says, consumers don’t have to wait for a special occasion or a night when they want to cook Indian food to use her sauces.
“Our tagline is Indian flavor or every day,” so giving consumers familiar ways to use unfamiliar condiments is built into the company’s DNA, she added.
Rashmi Mehndroo, who moved to the US in 1997 from India and started the Indian-inspired condiment company Mishrun, Inc., agrees that the best way to introduce mainstream shoppers to unfamiliar international flavors is to pair them with foods they already know and with which they are comfortable.
For example, she adapted her mother’s and grandmother’s recipes for chutneys and sauces to incorporate produce that is familiar to Americans, such as pineapple and apples.
“This way, they are not so daunting and are less foreign to people” who have never heard of, let alone had, a chutney, she said.
She also uses catchy American phrases to describe and name her sauces so that they are not as intimidating to consumers while still highlighting their benefits. For example, her Sweet Onion Relish is cleverly called “No Tears In A Jar,” because as Mehndroo explained, consumers can enjoy the rich flavor of onions and garlic blended with vinegar and spices without the watery eyes that chopping fresh onions can cause.
New products offer cleaner ingredient decks
Many of the new international products that launched in the past few years set themselves apart from their predecessors by featuring clean ingredient decks that are free from the preservatives and additives that consumers today avoid but which are virtual staples in legacy international brands.
Sandra Rhow-Haik, director of Divine Marinade Limited, said she originally created and launched her line of Korean barbeque marinades three years ago because her children’s friends and their parents were constantly asking her to make Korean barbeque or teach them how to make the authentic Korean dishes that she grew up eating made by her grandmother.
“I had so many requests that I began to look at the choices on the market that might make cooking these dishes easier, and when I researched them all the marinades that were out there were full of additives and preservatives and were very unnatural,” she told FoodNavigator-USA. “I didn’t want to feed my family that and I didn’t want to recommend our friends feed their families that either.”
Fed up with the limited choices, Rhow-Haik said she began bottling her grandmother’s recipes using “pure and clean ingredients,” with no preservatives and only ingredients that already were available in her pantry.
She acknowledged that using premium ingredients means her sauces demand a premium price, but she said that consumers are willing to pay for healthier options.
“When it comes to buying healthier products, we are becoming increasingly price insensitive and for those people who are price insensitive, this is an option,” she said, adding one of her main goals is to “educate parents about how to feed their children better, delicious things and change their eating habits.”