Processors are pushing the boundaries of flavor.

KANSAS CITY — Product developers, both large and small, are pushing the envelope on flavor development. It is no longer enough to develop a product variety with point of differentiation based on cost or quality. Today, it takes imagination to stand out in certain food categories.

Take the market for meat snacks, for example. There may be no other foodstuff as basic as dried meat, whether it is marketed in a strip, stick, shred or chunk form. The category is dominated by a few major companies principally marketing mild, medium, spicy and teriyaki varieties. But today, the market is changing as smaller companies are adding unique formats and flavors in an effort to develop a niche in the category.

The confluence of the snack and protein trends has made meat snacks more popular, and companies are emerging focused on broadening the category through the development of unique attributes and flavors. Several companies stood out in the category during the Winter Fancy Food Show, held Jan. 11-13 in San Francisco.

Most notable among the meat companies was Lone Mountain Wagyu, Los Angeles, which introduced a beef jerky and several sausage varieties sourced from 100% Wagyu beef. The raw material is sourced from cattle that are predisposed to intense marbling, and the beef is known for its rich flavor and texture.

“The high level of marbling from the Wagyu creates a velvety mouthfeel not common with sausage or jerky,” said Nellie Abel, a marketing specialist with the company. “Full blood Wagyu is an emerging trend in the U.S., and we’re excited to launch these products into retail markets, bringing what has traditionally been a very limited product to food-savvy consumers across the country.”

The product has a premium positioning, as a 3.5-oz package has a suggested retail price of $13.75.

While Lone Mountain uses its raw material as a source of flavor and texture to stand out in the market, Uncle Andy’s Jerky, Fort Collins, Colo., relies on such creative flavors as spicy coffee and maple bourbon.

Uncle Andy's Jerky offers four varieties of beef jerky, including tangy barbecue, maple bourbon, spicy coffee and lemon mint.

“When I looked at the market I saw a lot of the same,” said Andrew Hanenberg, owner, during the Winter Fancy Food Show. “The flavors I’ve developed are flavors I know I would like.”

The company currently sells four varieties of beef jerky, including tangy barbecue and maple bourbon in addition to the coffee and lemon mint items. A 2-oz package has a suggested retail price of $6.99.

Savory flavors were a focus throughout the Winter Fancy Food Show and a part of many trends identified by a panel of experts commissioned by the Specialty Foods Association to walk the show floor and identify what may be trending in food and beverage. Several cheese items, for example, like Yancey’s Fancy grilled bacon cheeseburger flavored artisan cheese, the Sonoma Creamery’s Mr. Cheese O’s, Silva Regal Spanish Food’s Manchego-style Cheese flavored olive oil, and Angie’s Boomchickapop’s caramel and cheddar mix popcorn all caught the attention of the panelists.

“Consumers are craving food with taste appeal, a sense of adventure, and a decided healthy glow,” said Denise Purcell, editor, Specialty Food Media, and one of the panelists. “These new products at the show play right into that appetite.”

Tracking savory 2.0

Sensient Flavors, Hoffman Estates, Ill., said that “savory 2.0,” which involves the blurring between product categories, is trending.

“As consumers take inventory of their pantries, savory updates on traditionally sweet applications are proving to be viable alternatives as long-term staples,” the company said.

Whether it is sugar replaced with salt or repurposing more familiar flavors, the company predicted the trend will include what it calls the everything bagel spice blend, which includes such ingredients as poppy seed, kosher salt, sweet onion sugar, sesame seed, garlic onion and fennel, as well as salted Satsuma, which features a sweet and savory balance of salt with Satsuma, a Japanese orange varietal.

“The 2015 Trends to Taste program centers around one consistent theme: ethnic exploration through flavors,” said Teresa Olah, marketing director for Sensient Flavors. “Consumers are seeking adventure in their food and see their choices as an expression of themselves. They are enjoying the ability to sample other cultures through food.”

Ethnic flavors are adding new dimensions to traditional applications.

Savory ethnic flavors were also the focal point of Fuchs North America’s Ethnic Inspirations II collection of flavors, which include 10 new seasonings and rubs. The new flavor line keys off of Fuchs’ original Ethnic Inspirations, which was launched in early 2014. The new offerings build on the popularity of those products, according to the company. Among the new flavors are such items as Babi Panggang seasoning, Bahia-Brazilian Churrascaria rub, Cambodian spice blend, Copacabana black bean seasoning, Korma spice blend, Laotian Larb seasoning, Moroccan Harissa rub, North African Adobo seasoning, Nuoc Cham seasoning, and a Panaji pork rub.

“These new profiles can be used on meats, in fully prepared meats, or in conjunction with what food manufacturers are doing to supply and support food service chain operations,” said Ken Wuestenfeld, vice-president of sales for Fuchs. “They can even serve as inspiration for surprising and unexpected new snack offerings. We expect them to be popular options for product design specialists, or anyone else responsible for developing food items that really capture the attention of consumers.”

Howard Cantor, Fuchs North America’s corporate research chef, said the new line builds on traditional elements of national cuisines — but they are unique new creations.

“Consider our Latin American items in the collection,” he said. “Our Bahia-Brazilian Churrascaria rub is a spicy, herbaceous concoction that really brings out the flavor of the meat. Now that diners have become familiar with the churrascaria restaurants that have opened in this country, they crave those same tastes in prepared food items they can eat at home — not to mention in their own grilling.

“We’re also very excited about our new Copacabana black bean seasoning. It’s oniony, garlicky — and full of the fragrant herbs of the Caribbean. This seasoning really dresses up black beans in a surprisingly new and unconventional way.”

Indian and South Asian cuisine continues to grow in popularity in America, and Fuchs tapped into the trend with two new items.

“Our Korma Spice blend and Panaji Pork rub capture the heady combination of flavors for which this region of the world is so famous,” Mr. Cantor said.

It is clear that as North American consumers become more aware of cuisines from around the world such flavor combinations will continue to emerge. It also stands to reason that the flavors that garner the most attention will extend their reach into a variety of applications.