Peppers pick up steam in flavor forecasts

by Jeff Gelski
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Different kinds of peppers
Ajies are Peruvian hot peppers.

Peppers from specific global areas should remain among important flavor trends in 2016 while the sweet-heat trend should keep evolving.

Sweet combinations with specialty pepper types will continue to expand, said Gary Augustine, executive director, market development for Kalsec, Kalamazoo, Mich. He mentioned such peppers as aji Amarillo, ancho, chipotle, guajillo, habanero and ghost pepper.

“Also, sweet combinations with ethnic systems such as harissa, jerk, Korean BBQ, Asian and Indian cuisines are expected to be increasing in popularity,” he said.

Kalsec offers a Fusionary heat line that combines heat level and various sweetness sources such as honey, citrus and fruit, Mr. Augustine said. Examples include tangy sweet ginger, sweet roasted chipotle and smooth lime heat.

Aaron Rasmussen, corporate chef for Bell Flavors & Fragrances, Northbrook, Ill., said new chili pepper varietals/hot sauces like Aleppo, cascabel and aji panca may become more prominent. Flavor combinations might feature wasabi and maple; ginger, black peppercorn and pistachio; Chinese 5 spice and almond caramels; watermelon and black peppercorn; Aleppo, pomegranate molasses and vanilla; and Aji panca, toasted sesame and dark chocolate. More people next year also might try pineapple jalapeño upside down cake, he said.

Bowl full of spice blend
Dukka is, a nut and spice mixture popular in Egypt.

Sriracha has been popular for a few years, and now other chili peppers such as gochujang are being paired with sweet flavors, said AnnMarie Kraszewski, lab manager for Wixon, Inc., St. Francis, Wis. Unique chili peppers that come from a specific area are on consumers’ radar as they show more interest in where their food originates, she added.

Looking at flavor trends overall, peppers from Peru could be on the rise, according to FONA International, Geneva, Ill. Consumer awareness of aji panca, aji rocoto and aji Amarillo peppers, the Peruvian equivalent of jalapeños or chipotle, may receive boosts from retail food launches.

African flavors were ranked highly in the “What’s Hot in 2016” report from the National Restaurant Association, Washington. Among the 1,575 members of the American Culinary Federation surveyed in the report, 62% rated African flavors as a “hot trend,” ranking them ahead of Latin American flavors (58%), Middle Eastern flavors (53%), Southeast Asian flavors (49%) and Mediterranean flavors (45%). The U.S. culinary industry further could explore such African cuisines as Berbere, harissa, dukkah, ras el hanout, tsiri and other spice mixes and flavors, according to the N.R.A.

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