Barbecue is linked to the oldest cooking technique in the world, using open fire. But just as the flavors and cooking techniques vary by region in the United States, so too are there global variations and traditions as barbecue style cuisine evolves. The type of fuel, position of the protein from the fire, species of meat, type and grade of cut, sauce, rub and many other factors distinguish one part of the world’s interpretation of barbecue from another, becoming an integral part of each region’s culture.

The popularity of barbecue in the United States is well established and it continues to grow with plenty of international influence. In its summary of the top global taste trends, published in 2021, Kerry North America, based in Beloit, Wis., said barbecue was easily the top global taste trend and its momentum has continued. Since then, the fusion of global flavors has become prominent on menus, in retail meat departments and even in the flavor profiles of snack foods, and in the case of Holladay Distillery, Kansas City, Mo., even in spirits, with the debut of its 360 KC Barbeque Flavored Vodka, in partnership with the Kansas City BBQ Society.

According to Kerry’s report, “Barbecue — in all the many variations that can arise when cooking with fire — is electrifying consumer appetites and elevating expectations for new and interesting flavors.”

The flavor-focused company identified 26 barbecue, smoked and grilled tastes in Kerry’s Taste Charts in Europe, Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa, North America and Latin American countries. The company said about 12 of these were considered emerging tastes, while five others were categorized as up and coming. In its report Kerry cites Innova data stating that one in seven new products developed around the world was barbecue themed. In Europe 43% of new food and beverage launches in 2021 featured barbecue as a component.

“Barbecue might just be the world’s new favorite taste, and the global-leading barbecue trend our analysts are seeing right now shows that consumers everywhere are looking for new and ethnic-inspired specific tastes — such as Korean, Texas or Brazilian — in various meat and snack products,” said Soumya Nair, Kerry’s global director of consumer research and insights, about the report. “Consumers love the balance of sweetness, salt, spices and smoke that seems to enhance virtually any application, and we regularly witness new barbecue-flavored items showing up on menus and in stores, in foods such as snacks, meats and meat alternatives.”

In his forecast for the year, celebrity chef, cookbook author and open fire-cooking expert, Steven Raichlen’s Barbecue Trends for 2024 said the global influence on the category is continuing to be evident.

“As barbecue moves into its latest phase (first came regional American barbecue, then regional American barbecue outside the regions where it originated), in the coming year, we’ll see more ethnic meets American barbecue fusion,” said a post on Raichlen’s website at the beginning of the year.

Examples of the global influence comes from Africa, including suya, a beef kebab flavored with peanut powder, cayenne, ginger and paprika. Or Nigerian kebabs seasoned with bouillon cubes and hot peppers. Senegal is another example featuring mustard and onion marinade applied to chicken and seafood.