CHICAGO — Millennials and Gen Z only know life in a “foodie” culture. They grew up thinking it’s the norm to photograph and post a picture of their food before eating it. They review on-line menus — this is even true of some teenagers — before deciding on a restaurant and many have gone on a vacation planned around dining destinations.
They know food trucks and pop-up restaurants. They know that underground dining is not in the basement. They also want to experiment in their own kitchens but do not always have the time. All of this is going on while they remain mindful of their health, the community and the global marketplace.
This is where condiments come in handy. They are an easy purchase that may liven up the simplest sandwich or bowl of pasta. Innovations entering the market are designed to speak to the flavor cravings and mindfulness of young consumers.
For example, here’s a new condiment that combines bold flavor with better-for-you while sourcing local and addressing sustainability. Oly Kraut, Olympia, Wash., is adding Smoke & Kale to its organic gourmet sauerkraut topping line. Green cabbage gets combined with onion, carrot, kale, jalapeños, scallions, garlic, dried chipotle peppers, dried chile flakes and Jacobsen sea salt, resulting in a fresh, fermented flavor that adds pop to food while also contributing to digestive health. The company sources its organic produce from local and regional farms. The product is packaged in glass jars that customers may reuse or recycle.
San Francisco-based Mimi’s Confitures L.L.C. now offers Radicchio Jam, which is grilled chopped radicchio enhanced with balsamic vinegar and a hint of amaretto. The sweet, savory and slightly crunchy condiment is made with seasonal and local ingredients. The jam may elevate a variety of foods to a memorable treat, including hot dogs or grilled cheese sandwiches.
Kitchen Crafted, Boca Raton, Fla., developed a lively blend of mayonnaise, Creole mustard and the company’s signature eight herbs and spices blend. Creole Kicker Sprd has a vibrant flavor that adds zing to hot dogs, burgers, sandwiches, and even chicken and fish. The spread also may be used as a tangy dip for chips and french fries, as well as served alongside soft pretzels. Kitchen Crafted uses healthful ingredients for the gluten-free “sprd,” dropping the “e” and “a” for “everything artificial.
“At Kitchen Crafted, our goal is to help mindful eaters get more life and flavor out of our products,” said Niroo Kamdar, co-founder. “We’ve removed everything artificial from our products, giving consumers a new option to flavor ordinary foods from sandwiches to salads in an all-natural and gluten-free way.”
This is the third and final of three interviews with industry experts to discuss trends in condiments (read the first and second). The category includes dips, dressings, marinades, sauces and spreads.
Food Business News spoke with Jonas Feliciano, market research and consumer insights, Kerry, Beloit, Wis.; Lacey Eckert, market development specialist, Kalsec, Kalamazoo, Mich.; Aspen Burkhardt, regional account manager and culinary council member, LifeSpice Ingredients, Chicago; Juliet Greene, corporate chef, Mizkan Americas, Mount Prospect, Ill.; Christopher Warsow, manager of culinary applications, Bell Flavors and Fragrances, Northbrook, Ill.; Christiane Lippert, head of marketing-food, Lycored, Switzerland; and Roger Lane, marketing manager, savory flavors, Sensient Flavors, Hoffman Estates, Ill.
Food Business News: How are millennials and, more importantly, Gen Z pushing culinary professionals to go beyond their comfort zone to explore new flavors?
Mr. Feliciano: While many manufacturers and food service players are focused on the millennial generation, Gen Z consumers are an important demographic that companies are seeking to better understand. While they share some traits with their preceding cohort, Gen Z’ers have their own needs and tastes that companies must keep in mind when courting them. And though most Gen Z consumers are still reliant on parents for income, this generation is also more vocal about their food choices than generations that came before, meaning their tastes and preferences have a growing impact on what their parents purchase.
When it comes to ingredients, consumer research shows that about two-thirds of Gen Z consumers prefer foods and beverages that only contain recognizable ingredients. As children of the first “foodie” generation, Gen Z consumers also embrace authentic, ethnic cuisines and adventurous levels of spice.
While hot and spicy flavors are ubiquitous amongst U.S. flavors, they have different meanings, especially for Gen Z consumers. Affinity for “spicy” outpaces general “hot” concepts like “hot sauce” or “hot pepper” showing that Gen Z consumers want spicy flavors rather than simply “hot for the sake of hot.” Gen Z consumers also are becoming savvier of under the radar food trends as their exposure to foodie culture via social media continues to expand.
Ms. Eckert: With social media and the increasing popularity of sharing pictures of food, the culinary world is becoming easier to access for most consumers. The ethnic trend is evolving to be more hyperlocal and authentic. It’s not just Asian. It’s specifically Filipino or Malaysian. In an effort to broaden appeal, some operators are incorporating these flavors into more familiar dishes, for instance french fries with a Middle Eastern seasoning like Za’atar or Dukkah. The desire for foods with a spicy component is continuing, but the preferences are becoming more refined. It’s not just about how hot something is. Millennials and Gen Z want specificity, authenticity and nuance of the flavor profile. Food manufactures have to keep it interesting.
Ms. Burkhardt: Gen Z’ers influence their parents and push the envelope to get their families to try new flavors. They are so accustomed to seeing “new” every day. Gen Z is better at gathering information on their food source and the sustainability of that source. Those that are the drivers within this next generation will be more vocal than ever about their need for sourcing items that are viable for generations to come.
Ms. Greene: Gen Z really doesn’t see borders or barriers, so they expect the same from their food. They want flavors to be bold but honest to the region. They will be well traveled and know what is authentic. We will need to continue to deliver on crisp, clean flavors especially with sauces because that is really what brings a dish together. They believe anything is possible and that goes with flavors as well.
Gochujang is really on trend and becoming mainstream like sriracha was a few years back. Gochujang pasta is one of my favorites. The bold sauce melds gochujang, honey, fresh ginger and garlic with pickled vegetable slaw on top. It combines so many textures, flavors and global cuisines all in one dish.
Mr. Warsow: The Gen Z demographic was born as global denizens. Their use of technology is an innate tool. They don’t see borders. These factors also shape how they see food. The days of three piles on a plate are long gone. They want to bring the ethnic cuisines that they experience at authentic restaurants into their home, but simplicity is the key.
Since sauces are a very important part of meal preparation, there is a great opportunity for sales and expansion of sauces. Meal prep bases around a sauce could be a great opportunity. Another opportunity is combining the familiar with something out of the ordinary, the use of unexpected ingredients in very traditional preparations.
Think ranch dressing spiked with Japanese togarashi. It adds a depth or character to the dressing with the citrus notes and a nice balanced heat at the end. Gochujang works great in barbecue sauces. It adds a very savory note from the fermentation process and a nice well balanced, pungent heat to the finish.
Ms. Lippert: Younger consumers seek new experiences and want to explore adventurous flavor sensations like kokumi. They’re also health conscious and focused on animal welfare. They genuinely care about the environment. Culinary professionals are going to need to think natural and vegan when they create new recipes.
Mr. Lane: Younger generations know what global flavors are supposed to taste like so they want that authenticity when they try any food. By creating flavors directly from the source ingredient, you get a true-to-life flavor that is difficult to reproduce without it. And as consumers look toward shorter ingredient decks and more recognizable labels, they’re wanting natural flavors at the very least, if not organic.
With a certified organic flavor, consumers can feel comfortable knowing what they get is properly handled throughout the supply chain. We must remember that Gen Z is growing up in a world that has always been connected and multicultural. For them, there is no such thing as ethnic cuisine. It’s just “cuisine.”They’re also much more adventurous in their choices and crave uniqueness. I think this is going to lead to a larger push for fusion across all cuisine types. Why not create a burrito made from Middle Eastern seasoned meat, with Korean pickled vegetables and a pepper sauce from South America?