“Using unique ingredients provides a level of sophistication and premiumization that so many consumers are clamoring for,” Lane says. “Any ingredient, whether it be alcohol, a globally inspired ingredient or regional pepper gives a standard rub or sauce new life.
“There’s a continued interest in globally inspired flavors, but since many consumers are now familiar with regions that used to be considered exotic – think Thailand – smaller, more remote regions are now being farmed for inspiration,” Lane says. “The Philippines and Vietnam in Asia and North Africa and Syria in the Middle East are getting more attention from upscale restaurants. Smoke and heat continue to be popular, but like global flavors, the more unique peppers and woods are starting to trend.”
Ingredients that add extra dimension in terms of boosting the umami taste are often the secret to a signature rub or sauce. These ingredients tend to be non-characterizing, but without them, something is missing.
“The umami rich flavor of traditionally brewed soy sauce plays well with herbs, spices and seasonings, making it ideal for grilled, roasted and braised meats, jerky and more – in virtually any flavor profile,” says Yusuke Hiraiwa, national industrial sales/research and development manager, Kikkoman Sales USA Inc., San Francisco. “When it comes to enhancing the flavor, umami, color, aroma and texture of meat products, a little dehydrated soy sauce goes a long way. It’s the clean-label way to boost flavor without monosodium glutamate or hydrolyzed vegetable protein with all the benefits of liquid soy sauce, plus more stable and intense aromatic properties.”
Rubs and sauces are an easy way to explore fusion cuisine. Think Asian fajita beef strips or Korean barbecue chicken quesadillas.
“It may sound counterintuitive to add an Asian sauce to Latin food, but the results are delicious,” Hiraiwa says. “Techniques such as fermenting, grilling or caramelizing enhance the flavors of both cuisines. These cultures even share some of the same spices, such as chiles, garlic, black pepper and cumin.”
Combining the unfamiliar with the familiar invites curious, yet somewhat reserved consumers to try new flavors and formats of common foods. Ethnic ingredients may add value without being overwhelming.
“Ethnic fusion is an exciting area with new flavors that are bold and yet approachable when bridged with terminology the American consumer understands,” Schaefer says. “If you take the deep soy, sweet and ginger flavor profile of Bulgogi, but call it Korean barbecue, you have a new international flavor superstar.”
Fusion flavors in hot peppers are showing up, according to Ralph Krawczyk, food technologist at Wixon. “Combine a habanero pepper with its fruity, pineapple flavor and heat, with a smoked Serrano pepper, and you get a complex fusion flavor that is hot, fruity and smoky, and brings out the best in both peppers,” he says.
Jean Shieh, marketing manager, Sensient Natural Ingredients, Turlock, California, says, “Premium ingredients from a specific growing region add authenticity and an interesting flavor twist. For example, Mexican mole seasoning or Jamaican jerk rub are getting popular with today’s consumers. A great story can be told around ingredients such as Oaxacan ancho and Jamaican pimento.”
When adding rubs and sauces to raw meat, processors need to be careful about potential interactions. This includes off-color development as well as excessive tenderizing.
“Be aware of herbs and spices applied direct to raw meat,” Kaegi says. “When they come in contact with the meat, they may leach out color and the visual appeal may be affected. If darker or brown spices are used, the raw meat may diminish and take on the look of older meat. Also, the use of quality spices and flavors are critical to help keep micro counts in check in order to prevent spoilage of the meat.”
There are many opportunities to wow consumers with sauces and rubs. Don’t forget to provide a story for their flavor adventure; use a callout on product packaging; share the history of a recipe; identify the source of herbs and spices; and discuss the role of characterizing ingredients.