East meets West is best: Middle Eastern flavours gain popularity

By Emma Jane Cash

- Last updated on GMT

©iStock/vm2002
©iStock/vm2002

Related tags: Ice cream, Iran

Middle Eastern flavours are gaining popularity in unexpected European food categories, such as ice cream and cheesecake, as they tap into the demand for both floral flavours and modern twists on traditional recipes.

In line with one of Mintel's six key trends to look out for in 2017 - modernised traditional flavours - a growing numbers of food firms are adapting Middle Eastern recipes to meet European taste preferences, whilst still keeping their heritage.

© Darlish www.darlish.com/

An example of this is dessert company Darlish, a Persian-inspired creamery based in St. Albans, UK. Darlish was founded by Laura Dawson and offers six flavours of ice cream and three desserts, all inspired by her Iranian background.

Dawson conceived the idea when she tired of never seeing Persian desserts on UK menus. “I never say no to dessert but I was a little bored of the current dessert offering and found myself tracking down Persian supermarkets and restaurants to buy dessert.  At the same time, I noticed a lot of attention around Middle Eastern and Persian savoury food but not the sweeter side of the cuisine,”​ she said.

The creamery uses authentic Iranian flavours and the original influence of the brand is bastani, a Persian ice cream made from milk, eggs, sugar, rose water, pistachios, saffron and vanilla.

They come in formats that the Western market will recognise, such as ice cream pots and cheesecakes.

“Both taste and texture has to be considered when catering for a Western palate; you can't use too much rose water or orange blossom because the Western market is a little bit more sensitive to floral notes.

“I also make the desserts and Ice cream less sweet than I would do if I were making it for my family. People are always pleasantly surprised that the desserts and ice-cream aren't too sweet, so perhaps this is their experience or perception of Persian desserts,” ​Dawson added.

© Darlish

Floral flavours have been trending in Europe​ recently due to their perceived healthiness and sophistication.

Dawson said the packaging and names of its products are also highly Westernised so consumers know exactly what they are getting.

Currently, Darlish only stocks products in the UK, but Dawson hopes to expand into the European market soon.

However, the desserts are free from artificial preservatives so the challenge lies in extending the shelf life. Dawson hopes to overcome this challenge when the business is full scaled and she can put more money into R&D.

According to Mintel’s global food and drink analyst Jenny Zegler, there is opportunity for manufacturers to take inspiration from 'ancient' recipes and practices for new products.

Similarly, New York-based small-scale yoghurt manufacturer Sohha Savoury Yoghurt, is using Middle Eastern flavours in yoghurts.

Zenith say the company is bringing new flavours to their range, including za’atar - traditional herb mix used in Middle Eastern dishes - and sumac - a spice made from grinding red berries from the sumac bush.

The trend of savoury, Oriental-spiced yoghurts has significant potential to take off in the European market, according to Zenith, as consumers, especially millennials, are becoming more adventurous in what they consume.

© Paper Boat

Mintel says this trend is all about using “something familiar as a basis for something new and unrecognisable”​.

This trend does not just apply to the Western market. Asian brands are also using the idea to appeal to their home countries.

Indian drink company, Paper Boat, successfully created a range of grab and go drinks using traditional Indian recipes, such as chilli guava, but in modern, Western style packaging.

Mintel’s research shows consumers in the Asian market are far more likely to stick to traditional recipes so by presenting products as something familiar companies are able to widen their reach.

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