Ethnic flavors and applications are taking root in the dairy department.

Throughout the supermarket and on menus across the country, it’s apparent a powerful inspiration for innovation are ethnic flavors, particularly the tastes of Latin America and Asia. The recent World Cup inspired all types of Brazilian cuisine, and the 2016 Olympics in Rio will keep the trend going. And the latest trends in Asian travel include culinary tours designed for gourmet enthusiasts with an appetite for eating and adventure.the flavors of the regions while in the comforts of their home. Innovative formulators are finding ways to deliver them through dairy foods, often in surprising formats and combinations.

For example, Anderson International Foods Inc., Jersey City, N.J., markets the Sincerely, Brigitte brand of natural cheese, created by Brigitte Mizrahi, chief executive officer. The flavored cheese line was inspired by her passion for new flavors and adventure and includes such ethnic specialties as chipotle white cheddar, harissa Monterey jack, jalapeño cilantro Monterey jack, orange ginger Monterey jack, tarragon ginger Monterey jack, tomato olive Monterey jack and wasabi white cheddar.

In Spain, Innolact has developed a line of ethnically inspired cream cheese spreads. Marketed under the new premium Quescrem Sabores Espanoles brand, the Queso-Crème Con line comes in Algas (seaweed), Chorizo and Aceitunas (olives).

On the sweeter side of dairy, horchata is a traditional Mexican beverage made with ground rice, nuts or melon seeds mixed with water, and flavored with lime and cinnamon, and sweetened with sugar. The mixture looks milky, which presents an opportunity to translate the horchata concept into flavored milk.

SensoryEffects, Bridgeton, Mo., markets a spiced horchata powder base that only requires water and sweetener. A product developer may personalize the beverage by choice of sweetener and maybe an extra layer or two of flavor. The company also has translated the authentic flavor of horchata into an ice cream concept featuring ribbons of cinnamon cream.

Jambo Production L.L.C., Hallandale Beach, Fla., has introduced a new concept in frozen dairy desserts that includes the ethnically inspired Dragon Green Tea variety. Derinice Protein Rich Low Fat Ice Cream is a better-for-you combination of butter, milk protein concentrate, malitol, erythritol, agave inulin and other natural ingredients.

Green tea and chai tea are both becoming common in frozen desserts and ready-to-drink milk-based beverages. One particular form of green tea known as matcha is gaining recognition for its potent health properties. It is high in antioxidants, amino acids and other nutrients that also provide a natural energy boost. Unlike all other teas, matcha is ground into a fine powder so that when drinking matcha tea or a food or beverage made from it, the entire tea leaf is consumed. Matcha’s fine powder allows for the tea’s non water-soluble benefits to be obtained, providing more antioxidants, amino acids, protein, calcium, vitamin C and iron than a standard green tea bag.

Popular dairy applications for matcha include ice cream, dairy desserts and lattes. Ito En, Brooklyn, N.Y., offers three ready-to-drink tea-based lattes. Black Tea Latte and Matcha Latte rolled out about a year ago. Chai Tea Latte is new to the line.

A taste of Brazil

At the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition held this past June, Bell Flavors & Fragrances, Northbrook, Ill., embraced the World Cup theme and showed product developers how to incorporate the flavors of Brazil into a variety of foods. For example, a chili cheese sauce on nachos carried the flavor of feijoada, a Brazilian stew of beef, pork and beans. To wash it down, a non-alcoholic version of Brazil’s national cocktail — the caipirinha — was served. This sweet combination of sugarcane juice and lime is a popular cocktail in Brazil and in recent years has started appearing on menus in bars and night clubs throughout Europe and the United States. Mixologists often add a twist to the classic caipirinha through the addition of fruit juices, most notably kiwi, mango, passionfruit, pineapple and watermelon. Could this be the basis of a Brazilian frozen dessert collection or even a line of refrigerated dairy desserts?

Earlier in the year, Bell identified a variety of ethnic flavors expected to impact today’s food market, a number of which have application in dairy foods. For example, huacatay, also known as Peruvian black mint, is an aromatic herb that is a cross between basil and mint. Its leaves are typically ground into a paste used to add flavor and depth to many Peruvian Andean dishes. One common use is to blend the paste with fresh cheese and use it as a bread spread or potato topper.

Back to beverages, many consider Brazil the birthplace of agua de côco (coconut water). In beach-side towns, most notably São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, the classic Brazilian drink traditionally has been consumed through a straw direct from the source. Recently, coconut has become a popular add-in to all types of beverages, including chocolate milk. The Brazilian dairy company Lacto recently introduced a sports beverage: ChocoLatco+. The drink comes in two varieties — chocolate with coconut flakes and chocolate and tropical strawberry with coconut flakes — that provide a unique sensory experience in a milk-based beverage.

Brazil is also known for its freshly squeezed juices and smoothies. Some of the more popular fruits used to make the beverages include guava, mango, orange, papaya, passion fruit, pineapple, strawberry and the avocado. In Brazil, avocados are often consumed as a sweetened food rather than with salt and spices, as in many other countries. A popular smoothie combines avocado, milk and sugar.

Brazilian beverages tend to be overly sweet, as sugar is a primary ingredient of many drinks. In fact, the popular caldo de cana translates to “sugar juice.” It is basically peeled sugar cane pressed into a liquid and is about half sucrose by dry weight.

Coffee is served sweet, too. As one of the world’s leaders in coffee production, café is a mainstay in most households. It tends to be a rich, dark roast that is flavorful but not bitter. Morning coffee usually is served with milk, but the rest of the day, it comes only with sugar in small shot-style cups.

Sweet and heat

With the rise in popularity of ready-to-drink coffee-milk beverages, could there be an opportunity for a Latin-inspired, intensely sweet beverage line, possibly with overtones of Latin American spices such as caramel and cinnamon? Of course, the products would require an American twist, and that would be to keep calories and added sugars low. One way to achieve that overtly sweet taste is to use sucrose enhancers.

“Our sucrose enhancer flavor masks off-notes from high-intensity sweeteners while providing a sucrose-like taste,” said Lawrence Buckholz Jr., president of research and development of Signature Flavors L.L.C., Freehold, N.J. “It replicates the action of sucrose on taste receptors without contributing the calories of sucrose. Thermally and pH stable, the sucrose enhancer has extremely potent sweetness performance and is well suited for any application where sweetness enhancement is required, including dairy-based beverages, frozen desserts and even yogurts.”

The opposite of sweet is heat. In today’s culinary world, opposites often attract.

Responding to the consumers’ desire for more complex and flavorful heat, Kalsec, Kalamazoo, Mich., has developed a line of heat delivery products that combine heat (pungency) with unexpected ingredient combinations to provide unique sensory experiences. For example, the line includes herbal jalapeño, spicy orange, sweet-roasted chipotle and tangy sweet ginger, all of which have application in cheese spreads and dips.

“These products are a logical extension of our heat management platform, which will enable our customers the ability to provide consumers with a surprising new depth to their heat experience,” said Gary Augustine, executive director of market development. The heat management platform of ingredients is designed to control the timing, intensity and location on the palate of heat delivered for a variety of applications. It includes Szechuan pepper extract, capsicum and a complete line of specialty peppers, such as ancho, chipotle, guajillo, habanero and jalapeño.

Sensient Flavors, Hoffman Estates, Ill., offers what it calls a “world of chili pepper flavors.” Medium-heat pepper seasonings include guajillo, which is a woody-piney flavored pepper with tart berry notes and slightly smoky undertones. This pepper is commonly referred to as sweet heat.

At the super-hot end of the spectrum there’s ghost chili pepper seasoning. Ghost peppers are recognized as the hottest naturally occurring, non-hybrid peppers. It is up to eight times as hot as a habanero.

Food service distributor US Foods, Rosemont, Ill., recently introduced Glenview Farms Smoky Ghost Pepper Jack Cheese Slices. The cheese is made from Wisconsin Jack cheese and contains ghost peppers. By itself, the cheese may be considered dangerous for consumers not fond of extremely spicy foods. Its melt makes it an ideal complement to burgers, sandwiches and hot dips, providing the consumer with a consistent, constant burn.

At the I.F.T., Sensient showed how ice cream may be on fire. A prototype “sweet fire ice cream” contained a molasses red pepper base with jalapeño and red pepper variegate.

The complexity of Asia

Heat flavors are just as complex as Asian flavors, which are nearly impossible to pinpoint.

“Consider Asian cuisine,” said Howard Cantor, corporate research chef, Fuchs North America, Ownings Mills, Md. “There is endless debate over just how many culinary styles there are. Each of them developed over the centuries as a result of many factors like geography, climate and the social history of the various regions. China alone has at least four or five major styles of cuisine.”

Many of the styles may be applied to dairy applications.

The company recently introduced an ethnic-inspirations collection of distinctive seasonings and flavor bases that celebrate the world’s rich culinary diversity. For example, the gochujang seasoning, which combines the tastes of red chilis and fermented soybeans, may be used in cheese dips and spreads.

“We’ve drawn inspiration from all sorts of ingredients and flavors that are traditional elements of Asian cuisine, ranging from ginger, onion and garlic to pungent chilies, vinegar and soy,” Mr. Cantor said.

Southeast Asian cuisine, including Indonesian, Malaysian, Philippine, Thai and Vietnamese, was identified as increasingly on-trend in the National Restaurant Association’s annual survey of culinary professionals. The dairy industry has plenty of opportunity to capitalize on the Asian flavor trends.

For example, halo halo is a popular Filipino dessert that combines milk, boiled sweet beans and fruits. It may be served as a parfait in a tall glass or in a bowl or cup, much like yogurt.

A popular Indonesian flavor is lemongrass. Its subtle citrus flavor profile complements milkfat. It may be used as an enhancer of other fruity flavors in yogurt and ice cream.

The tastes of India, geographically considered southern Asia, continue to make inroads in the dairy sector. Opportunities exist with the spice cardamom, which is part of the ginger family. Whereas chocolate milk is popular in the western world, cardamom milk is a mainstay in certain regions of India. It is a simple combination of milk, cardamom and sweetener and is believed to relax the stomach and aid in a good night’s rest.

As borders blur, either by real travel or social media, consumers will increasingly crave … or at least want to try … new ethnic flavors. The dairy category, with its broad range of options, is uniquely poised to carry these flavors, taking consumers on a travel adventure in their own abode.