Accent on adventure

by Keith Nunes
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Meat and poultry products are ideal delivery vehicles for flavors. The variety of marinades and rubs being introduced today combined with where the creative talents of research chefs may take the segment in the next few years makes this an interesting time in the marketplace.

In 2013, it appears flavor combinations may be the order of the day. New from the Kraft Foods Group, Northfield, Ill., will be three new varieties of A.1. Dry Rubs and A.1. Marinade Mixes in flavors such as chipotle BBQ, tomato and chili pepper and cracked peppercorn. The new products highlight how consumer palates have extended beyond traditional flavors.

McCormick & Co., Sparks, Md., introduced a variety of innovative flavor options in 2012, including molasses bacon seasoning and steakhouse onion burger seasoning under its Grill Mates line. The company also showed the impact of global cuisines under its McCormick Gourmet banner with the introduction of Tuscan, Cuban, Moroccan and Southwest seasonings.

Yet the challenge for product developers is to predict what flavor trends will drive sales in the future. In the savory segment, Bell Flavors and Fragrances, Northbrook, Ill., said Mexican food consumption is increasing faster than any other segment in the foodservice category and is becoming more popular for home preparation. As a result, the company believes consumers will be looking for regional Mexican and Latin American flavors, which may include flavors derived from Aji Amarillo, a Peruvian yellow chile powder, sofrito, which commonly features garlic, onion and tomatoes, and moles. There also will be more interest in regional cuisines such as New Orleans seafood boil, bourbon and Andouille sausage.

The market research firm Packaged Facts, Rockville, Md., reinforced Bell’s focus on regional Mexican and Latin flavors by noting Hispanic foods and flavors will remain on-trend. Hispanic foods and beverages appeal to a wide variety of consumers, from Spanish-only speakers to multicultural consumers and “foodies” to, in fact, most households in America, said David Sprinkle, research director of Packaged Facts. Aiding the appeal of the market there is no shortage of product innovation. Mainstream consumers are becoming more adventurous with less well-known Hispanic flavors and textures, due to the influence of Hispanics and the popularity of culture. Mainstream food processors, such as Ruiz Foods and Goya, have noted the more sophisticated tastes, according to Packaged Facts, and are adjusting their product mixes accordingly.

In its annual Flavor Forecast, McCormick & Co. predicts US consumer interest in ethnic cuisines will continue to grow. A trend featured in this year’s Forecast is “Global my way,” which describes how consumers are discovering “ethnic” ingredients beyond their traditional uses and incorporating those flavors into their meals.

“Don’t be surprised if in the next few years Japanese Katsu, a tangy cross between barbecue and steak sauce, and cajeta, a Mexican caramel, gain the broad appeal that once-regional tastes like Asian hot chili sauce have achieved,” said Kevan Vetter, executive chef with McCormick.

The members of the American Culinary Federation (ACF) tend to agree with the McCormick forecast. The 1,800 members of the ACF that participated in the National Restaurant Association’s “What’s Hot” annual trends survey said ethnic cuisines will continue to have an impact on emerging flavor trends. Looking ahead, the group noted the top ethnic cuisines and flavors in 2013 may be Peruvian, regional, fusion, Korean and Southeast Asian, specifically Thai, Vietnamese and Malaysian.

But the McCormick forecast also highlighted another issue facing the meat and poultry industry in 2013 when it noted that lesser-known cuts of meat may become popular.

High feed costs in 2012, which were a byproduct of the drought, are going to lead to higher meat and poultry prices at foodservice and retail. Mintel International said the price of a chicken breast used as a menu item rose 52 percent between the third quarter of 2009 and the third quarter of 2012. As a result, the higher prices may prompt operators to become more creative in an effort to appeal to all segments of consumers.

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