Demand for ethnic foods, ingredients on the rise

by Eric Schroeder
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LAS VEGAS – Americans increasingly want more ethnic foods and ingredients in their diets, many of which offer unique flavor and texture, and a variety of health benefits, according to a presentation at the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food expo in Las Vegas.

“As the American palette has evolved and become more accustomed to a wider variety of spices and flavors, consumers are ready for and desiring more ethnic foods,” said Sarah V. Kirkmeyer, PhD, director of sensory for North America at Givaudan Flavors Corp.

Janet Carver, senior culinary team leader at Ingredion, Inc., said authentic and regional cuisines are becoming very popular.

“Not just Chinese, but Thai, Korean, and foods from other countries and regions,” Carver said. She noted many television food shows reflect this trend, and increasingly are highlighting “fusion” or “global mash up” cooking, which use the ingredients of many cultures and regions.

Carver said ethnic foods and ingredients also offer powerful, distinct flavors, as well as unique nutritional and health benefits.

“Everyone wants to enjoy their food; they also want it to be flavorful and healthy,” she said.

Studies also are showing the health benefits of different spices that are found in ethnic cuisine, said Diego Serrano, director of product development at McCormick & Co.

“Ethnic recipes can deliver over two grams of spices and herbs per serving,” he said, citing Indian food that typically contains twice as many spices as usual American fare.

Carver said many regional vegetables and spices may be used in place of salt, and/or to limit the need or amount of fat.

“If you balance out flavors (salty, sweet, hot and bitter), you can reduce salt and fat without diminishing flavor,” she said.  

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