CHICAGO – As the American palate grows more adventurous, globally inspired flavors are making their way onto menus of all restaurant types, as confirmed by a panel of chefs and restaurant owners at the National Restaurant Association (N.R.A.) show in Chicago in May. Market researchers know what begins in food service soon makes its way into packaged foods at retail. This pattern extends to dairy foods, with cheese, ice cream and even yogurt increasingly including flavors, as well as fusions of flavors, from around the world.
The Sincerely, Brigitte brand of cheeses from Anderson International Foods Inc., Mineola, N.Y., exemplifies this trend. Brigitte Mizrahi, chief executive officer, is a French cheese connoisseur who has traveled the world to identify new flavors that turn ordinary cheese varieties into culinary adventures. Some of her creations include Moroccan spice Monterey Jack, tarragon ginger Monterey Jack and wasabi white cheddar.
During a culinary panel discussion at the N.R.A. Show, many food experts agreed that the global flavor trend should not be referred to as “ethnic,” as this is actually insulting to culinary professionals. Rather, the term “worldly” is preferred, which was emphasized by Ming Tsai, a celebrity chef and an innovator of Asian-European fusion cuisine. He explained that many of today’s cuisines and packaged foods are based on traditional recipes using authentic cooking methods, and fuse in personal culinary touches that build on flavors to create worldly flavors.
Take note of how American diners no longer go out for Mexican food, rather they go to a taco joint, he explained. Here they may order a traditional taco as well as a tortilla filled with kielbasa, sauerkraut and cilantro with a drizzle of lime juice.
Chinese takeout has changed, too. Today quick-service noodle shops offer marinara meatball lo mein, as well as curry ramen with eggplant, garlic yogurt and mint.
In the modern culinary climate, experimentation is the lifeblood of the food industry. Food preparations featuring bold, spicy and global flavors are of particular interest to consumers seeking food adventures that eclipse the familiar and the mundane in order to take taste buds to new realms. It is a trend that will continue into the foreseeable future, according to market research publisher Packaged Facts, Rockville, Md.
“There’s an entire world of flavor adventure being explored, and it only continues to expand to new and unexpected places,” said David Sprinkle, research director at Packaged Facts. “Sriracha has become a household word, kimchi continues to pop up in savory and dried snacks, and hot peppers keep getting hotter and more diverse.
“Consumers are also interested in unexpected pairings, like vanilla with cardamom, and basil or cilantro with traditional spices like cloves. These trends bode well for the spice industry, and the flavors industry generally, as historically flavor-limited foods get reborn with new flair.”
This includes dairy products. The white, creamy, neutral flavor of milk and products made from milk, make dairy an ideal carrier for different flavors.
Bold isn’t just about exotic Asian flavors, Mr. Sprinkle said. For example, citrus has jumped onto the bold bandwagon, along with other tangy flavors such as tomatillo and cilantro.
Research from Chicago-based Mintel International suggests that nearly half of Americans who visit restaurants consider themselves to be “foodies,” including 68% of consumers age 25 to 34. As food enthusiasts who are typically on the forefront of trending dishes and cuisines, foodies display dramatically different attitudes and interests than non-foodies in what they would like to see more of at restaurants, with 91% of foodies agreeing that they like to experience new flavors when dining out, as compared with 56% of non-foodies.
These “food hobbyists” are on the lookout for new types of foods with some 86% of foodies interested in learning more about international food. The curiosity continues when they grocery shop.
“Americans are self-identifying as foodies and displaying an interest in trying new experiences and unique flavors,” said Caleb Bryant, food service analyst at Mintel.
Sometimes worldly flavors are less about being bold and exotic and more about communicating authenticity. They possess flavor profiles distinct to a particular region.
“We recently introduced a new Brio flavor, Madagascar vanilla,” said Anne Rillero, marketing and public relations director, Brio, Montpellier, Vt. “It features true Madagascar vanilla crafted from sunshine-cured prime vanilla beans with a unique lush rich floral flavor. The result is a creamy and authentic vanilla ice cream that’s satisfying and rich, yet non-cloying with a clean finish.”
Embracing this authentic worldly flavor trend, Nestle USA, Glendale, Calif., introduced the Häagen-Dazs Destination Series of ice cream flavors. The line involves partnering with artisan culinary professionals to develop flavors inspired by some of the world’s most popular travel destinations.
For example, the new Mayan chocolate variety is chocolate ice cream with a warming touch of cinnamon spice, rich fudge and chocolate truffle chunks. Vanilla tangerine and shortbread melds creamy vanilla ice cream with ribbons of sweet-tart tangerine curd and buttery shortbread cookies for a treat reminiscent of teatime in the U.K. Toasted sesame brittle blends toasted sesame ice cream with crunchy honey cardamom sesame brittle pieces.
Matcha green tea is finding its way into a variety of desserts, including ice cream. The antioxidant-rich ingredient is the ground green tea traditionally used in Japanese tea ceremonies.
New York-based Gordon Desserts Inc. is rolling out mochidoki mochi ice cream, which the company describes as “a frozen dessert that melds two cultures into one beautiful and delicious morsel.” The single-serve, hand-held frozen dessert is premium, American-made ice cream enrobed by a soft, fluffy Japanese rice cake. Matcha green tea is one of the seven varieties. Other worldly flavors include lychee colada and mandarin orange cream.
‘Glocal’ dairy provides authentic flavors
A unique spin on worldly and authentic is the concept of “glocal.”
“Today’s consumers want global flavors as much as they want local ingredients, which often come with their own set of sensory characteristics,” said Lisa Stern, vice-president of sales and marketing, LifeSpice Ingredients, Chicago. “We call this ‘glocal.’ It’s the melding of globally inspired, somewhat foreign tastes with those flavors from closer to home. They are worldly flavors with a hometown spin.
“Chefs across the country are offering restaurant diners, from quick-service to fine-dining establishments, glocal foods. Retailers want to stock such products in store perimeters to get shoppers back into the supermarket.”
The locally sourced nature of milk, and the often perishable state of dairy products, embodies the glocal movement. For example, Kourellas Dairy, New York, imports Greek fruit puree, authentic cultures and even packaging to New York to make its new organic Greek yogurt line. Using the company’s traditional strained Greek yogurt recipe with origins in Grevena, Greece, Kourellas Dairy is entering the U.S. market with small-batch Greek yogurt that is made using locally sourced New York state milk.
The new line made its debut at the Summer Fancy Food show in New York at the end of June. The yogurts contain no added sweetener of any type. They are naturally sweetened with the Mediterranean-grown fruit, including such varieties as apple, blueberry, clementine, kiwi, orange and strawberry.
Trimona Foods Inc., Port Jefferson, N.Y., produces a distinctively tart Bulgarian yogurt line using authentic Lactobacillus bulgaricus cultures and local New York state milk from grass-fed cows. The new side-by-side dual-compartment yogurts come in four Bulgaria-inspired flavors: blueberry lavender, honey ginger cinnamon, mango passion fruit and raspberry coconut.
Fage USA Dairy Industry Inc., Johnstown, N.Y., offers its own spin on glocal yogurt. The company recently introduced Fage Crossovers Greek yogurt, which is described as chef-level snacking. The dual-compartment 150-gram containers have strained yogurt on one side and crunchy toppings on the other. The eight varieties are: caramel with almonds, carrot ginger with pistachios, coconut curry with cashews, coconut with dark chocolate, honey with walnuts, maple syrup with granola, olive thyme with almonds, and tomato basil with almonds.
Expanding beyond the yogurt case, Chobani L.L.C., Norwich, N.Y., is getting worldlier with a new line of dips and drinkable yogurts. Rooted in the rich tradition of the Mediterranean table and inspired by global flavors, Chobani Meze Dips feature vegetables, herbs and spices blended with creamy Greek yogurt. Varieties are: chili lime, roasted red pepper, smoked onion Parmesan and three-pepper salsa. The Drink Chobani beverage line comes in apple cucumber spinach, mango, mixed berry and strawberry banana flavors.
In the cheese department, Formaggio Italian Cheese Specialties, Hurleyville, N.Y., showed attendees at the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association expo in early June in Houston, that mozzarella may be more than pizza cheese. The company introduced five varieties of Stuffed Mozzarella, which is burrata, a fresh Italian cheese that features an outer shell of solid mozzarella surrounding a filling of soft cheese. In this case, it is a flavored ricotta cheese filling. The worldly combinations are: applewood smoked bacon, Italian-style meat with herbs, truffle oil and basil, two cheese, and sundried tomato and basil.
Family-owned, Fairfield, N.J.-based Schuman Cheese is introducing Yellow Door Creamery, a new brand that offers the 70-year-old cheese company a platform for experimentation.
“By taking an experimental approach to a traditional category, Yellow Door Creamery leads with an off-the-beaten path and optimistic approach to cheese making,” said Allison Schuman, a fourth-generation family member with an active role in product innovation. “Yellow Door brands evoke the senses through unique formats, flavor profiles and blends. This maverick, trendsetting approach provides cheese lovers, industry influencers and home chefs with amazing, one-of-a-kind cheeses.”
A series of fontina cheeses are among the first Yellow Door Creamery products. The new line of semi-soft, mild and creamy cheese makes its debut in three varieties: habanero and lime (a citrus finish with every bite of heat), harissa (a smoky blend of chili, cumin and caraway seed) and Tuscan (a classic blend of Italian herbs and spices).
The habanero and lime offering is another example of how citrus may assist with mellowing the heat of peppers. It is the “heat meets sweet” trend that works well in dairy foods.
According to the annual flavor forecast from McCormick & Co., Hunt Valley, Md., America’s love for spicy flavors is taking on an evolutionary twist with tangy accents for more multicultural flavor combinations. It’s that culinary fusion Mr. Tsai described.
McCormick predicts that the tang from ingredients such as cranberries, limes and kumquats, along with the distinctive sweetness of Southeast Asian tropical fruits, will help product developers incorporate a bit of kick into traditionally neutral foods, such as dairy. Such flavor fusion invites even the most sensitive palates to explore.
This is exemplified in two Chobani Flip varieties — chipotle pineapple and sriracha mango — introduced earlier in the year. And Robert Rothschild Farm, Urbana, Ohio, introduced some new heat meets sweet dairy dip flavors at the Summer Fancy Food Show. There’s hot pepper peach and roasted pineapple with habanero.
Consumers are embracing the unexpected in the dairy case. It is where east meets west and heat may be sweet, too.