“The protein industry is so far behind in flavor trends. We continue to see garlic, herb and lemon … but they need to realize that consumers want different tastes,” as illustrated by the boldly flavored snacks and meals bought out that consumers increasingly are eating, said Kim Holman, director of marketing at Wixon.
She encourages manufacturers working with protein for the center of the plate “to think outside the box a little more on flavor profiles and take risks with limited-time offerings or small scale stuff” to gauge consumer interest in adventurous flavors.
For example, she said manufacturers should tear a page from snack makers’ and food service providers’ playbook and embrace hot and spicy flavors.
In particular, she pointed to the light-hearted and interactive approach to spice taken by Taco Bell and Doritos-maker Frito-Lay.
Taco Bell in August dared consumers to try three spicy burritos featuring chipotle, habanero and ghost pepper. The challenge followed one issues in May by Frito-Lay when it launched for a limited-time Doritos Roulette Chips, which promised an “ultra-spicy chip” in every handful of otherwise normal Nacho Cheese flavored chips.
Hot and spicy claims, like these, are “big on packaging right now,” and likely will become more popular as consumers embrace gourmet chili peppers, Holman said.
Multicultural flavors rise
Americans’ interests in spicier flavors also is opening the door for more bold, multicultural flavors to gain popularity, Holman said.
For example, she noted adobo-infused meats with vinegar, soy sauce and garlic from the Philippines is influencing American food now. In addition, she said, the spicy and pungent Korean sauce gochujang made from red chili, rice, fermented soy beans and salt “is the next big condiment that should be sitting next to ketchup." She explained that the spicy sauce was made popular by food trucks that made Korean barbeque readily available to Americans.
These flavors also fit under a broader trend toward Asian cuisine and flavors in the US, Holman said. She noted that this trend goes beyond Chinese food to include more authentic pan-Asian and Southeast Asian flavors, including the bright, fresh flavors in pho noodle soups.
Other multicultural flavors that are emerging in the US include Brazilian and Peruvian foods, Holman said.
She explained the grilled meats popular in Brazil likely will “explode” in the US during the 2016 Olympic games when people everywhere will want to take a deep dive into the games’ host country’s culture.
Peruvian food is another flavor profile that has been on the verge of becoming popular in the US for several years, but Holman says she has yet to see it fully develop.
The key drivers of these emerging flavor profiles is increased exposure to other cultures through immigrants, social media and an increasing number of food television shows that promise to take Americans on a culinary tour of the world, says Holman.
In addition, she noted, some foreign governments – especially in East Asia – are sponsoring chef tours in which they host and teach chefs about their local cuisine. The chefs then bring back to America new techniques and flavors from the host country that they share with consumers, Holman said.
Regional American flavors hold steady
Many Americans’ flavor preferences also are staying close to home, Holman said. She explained, “American regionalism” is one of the most frequent requests that Wixon clients have.
Within this category, the top claims Wixon sees are for New York-style, Texan-inspired and Southwestern flavors, Holman said. The fastest growing claims, on the other hand, are “southern,” “New Orleans” and “Philly-style,” she said.
Holman suggested the demand for these flavors likely stems from the overarching consumer interested in local foods and knowing more about where their food comes from.