Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Americans are demanding more sophisticated, complex & global flavors

By Elizabeth Crawford contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Soup-To-Nuts Podcast, Flavor

Ready or not: It is pumpkin spice season, and according to data from Nielsen which show sales of pumpkin flavored products in the last week of August were up 10% from the prior year – this could be a blockbuster season for the trend

This is good news for consumers who love the flavor, and for companies that cater to their ostensibly insatiable desire for all things pumpkin. However, for those who are over pumpkin, or were never into it in the first place, this time of year can be a bit boring flavorwise. But it doesn’t have to be, because believe it or not – there are other emerging flavors besides pumpkin.

According to Dax Schaefer, the corporate executive chef and director of culinary innovation at the custom spice blend and functional ingredient supplier Asenzya, there is literally a whole world of emerging flavors that are captivating consumers. And while some may require a bit of outreach or education to convince consumers to take that first bite, Schaefer says once they do, these are flavor profiles that are guaranteed to keep them coming back.

In this episode of FoodNavigator-USA’s Soup-To-Nuts Podcast, Schaefer shares what flavors and cuisines are gaining traction among consumers and how manufacturers can incorporate them into products. He even throws in a few “dark horses”​ that could be winners farther in the future.

Some like it hot, but more like it flavorful

The first big trend that Schaefer is following is the evolution of the super high heat that was all the rage a few years ago to something that also offers more flavor. So, while he says consumers haven’t cooled on high heat, they are looking for more complexity and depth of flavor that will keep them coming back for more.

“Back when you did the ghost peppers and hot as hot can get, you weren’t getting the repeat sales,”​ but by layering in flavors, such as sweetness or hints of floral, alongside the heat manufacturers are discovering a new level of consumer loyalty, Schaefer said.

And one of the early winners of this combination is Nashville Hot, which is a fiery cayenne blended with a touch of sweet from brown sugar, he noted. Sriracha, which is high in sugar, is another example of the sweet heat trend.

While most consumers already know about sriracha, they might not be as familiar with Nashville Hot, which Schaefer predicts will take off in coming years not only because it brings the heat and a complex flavor profile, but also because it has an engaging back story of a lover scorned, which can pull in consumers who want to know more about where their food is coming from.

Nashville Hot isn’t the only example of spicy and complex flavor-blend on the upswing. There are also several options from around the world that are making it into Americans kitchens and menu selections, such as harissa, tomato achaar, sambal oelek, peri-peri and to a lesser extent gocujang.

“Everyone is saying gocujang is going to be the next sriracha,”​ but while its flavor profiles is popular, consumers need to be educated on what it is, how it is used and how to say it – all of which will hold the condiment and flavor profile back from mass adoption in the near future, Schaefer said.

Barbeque near and far wins consumers’ hearts

Another big trend that Schaefer is tracking is barbeque both near and far.

On the home front, Schaefer says, Americans are drilling down and looking for more regional barbeque flavors. They no longer equate barbeque with the sticky sweet sauce of Kansas City, but rather are embracing the flavor profiles of other regions in the barbeque belt.

For example, he is watching rising awareness about Memphis barbeque sauce, which like Kansas City style is still tomato-based, but it is thinner and has a moderate kick. North and South Carolina sauces are vinegar based and blend in sugar and peppers and in the case of South Carolina yellow mustard. Alabama’s white sauce also is gaining traction and is a unique blend characterized by mayonnaise, cider vinegar, lemon juice and pepper. And finally, Texas’ take on barbeque is gaining prominence, even though it skips the sauces and favors a dry rub.

A natural progression from American regional barbeque is growing interest in Asian barbeque, says Schaefer. These include bulgogi, which is probably most well known currently, but also galbi-gui, dak galbi, tandoori and yakiniku.

Barbeque is a gateway to other Asian flavors

Consumer interest in Asian barbeque also is opening a door for other Asian flavors and curry, according to Schaefer.

“We are starting to a little bit deeper into Asian. So, Korean is going to be really big. Vietnamese is going to be a lot bigger,”​ and also more sophisticated curries beyond red, green and yellow to include panang and massaman.

Mexican flavors are becoming more sophisticated

A little closer to home, more authentic Mexican flavors also are gaining traction with Americans as consumers gain a more nuanced appreciation for what the cuisine has to offer.

“We want more than just salsa. Now we want to know what type of salsa it is. So, pico de gallo … or salsa roja, salsa verde, these are all very popular right now,”​ Schaefer said. “Ones that are coming up are like salsa guacamole,”​ salsa de molcajete and salsa borracha, which Schaefer says is his dark horse of the salsas.

Based on Schaefer’s observations and predictions, Americans’ tastes are expanding and they are willing to try more flavors – but as the Nielsen data shows there is still plenty of room in the cart and at the coffee shop for pumpkin.

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