CHICAGO —The Institute of Food Technologists annual meeting and food exposition is often ground zero for emerging food and beverage trends and technologies. This year several exhibitors focused on spicy flavors and demonstrated how they may be incorporated into a variety of applications.
During the show, McIlhenny Co., maker of the Tabasco brand sauce, Avery Island, La., highlighted several spicy applications, including a crawfish Maque Choux, soft-serve Snowball ice cream, Avery Island wedding cookies and Bloody Marys.
“I don’t necessarily follow trends when showing ideas at I.F.T.; it’s more of a creative process,” said Judson McLester, executive chef and ingredients sales manager for McIlhenny. “I know which ingredients I want to spotlight, and then I think what would be a good application to use it in.
“I typically like to have a beverage, something savory from Louisiana, and something sweet or snackable along with a licensed product (like) Tabasco Bloody Mary Mix or Hot N’ Spicy Cheez-It Crackers made with Tabasco brand Green Jalapeño Pepper Sauce.”
Two of the applications, the soft-serve ice cream and wedding cookies, featured the melding of sweet and spicy.
“Sweet heat is not really a trend as it has been around for quite some time in the form of different cuisines from around the world,” Mr. McLester said. “The sweetness aspect is what makes the heat more tolerable. I have played around with ice creams and candies like caramels infused with Tabasco, just to name a few. The sky’s really the limit here.”
Mr. McLester pointed to beverages as an area of growth in the use of spicy flavors.
“Beverages are a perfect vehicle to add spice, and in fact, I’ve been doing this for some time now,” he said. “Smoothies, vegetable and fruit blends, carrot juice, Mexican spiced coffee with chipotle sauce, sweet tea with lemon and Tabasco are just a few examples of beverages where spicy flavors work really well.”
Lynn Dornblaser, director of innovation and insights at Mintel, Chicago, highlighted harissa as a potentially up and coming spicy ingredient during a presentation at the I.F.T. A staple in North African and Middle Eastern cooking, harissa is a spicy, aromatic paste of hot chili peppers, garlic, olive oil and such spices as cumin, coriander, caraway and mint.
The flavor is expected to expand in the United States, driven by the continued popularity of ethnic cuisines, particularly among younger consumers. Additionally, Ms. Dornblaser noted, North African food is still relatively unique to the market, which may appeal to many consumers seeking new flavor experiences.
A potential caveat of harissa is its hot and spicy flavor profile, which Ms. Dornblaser said may be “attractive to some, but a turnoff to others.”
The majority of new product introductions featuring harissa are sold in Europe, but several North American launches have taken the flavor beyond its primary category of sauces. Examples include a chicken and couscous frozen entree from Wicked Kitchen in the United States and harissa hummus rippled potato chips from Loblaw’s President’s Choice brand in Canada.
“As you identify new flavors to try and see if they work for your portfolio, do not be afraid to move the flavor beyond that home category where it lives,” Ms. Dornblaser said.
In search of the next hot chili
Spices are surging in product development, led by cayenne pepper, up 47% in global product launches last year, according to Innova Market Insights, Arnhem, The Netherlands. Other trending spices include caraway (up 40%), saffron (up 31%), horseradish (up 29%) and turmeric (up 21%). Products launched last year containing chili grew 34% in North America, 55% in Latin America, 35% in Australia and 12% in West Europe.
“There are so many chilies; I don’t know how many we’ve identified,” said Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation at Innova Market Insights. “That’s something that’s captured everybody’s imagination.”
Peppers and spices aren’t limited to sauces and seasonings. Global soft drinks containing spices grew 20% in 2015 over the prior year. Flavored bottled water containing spices rose 84%, while oils with spices increased 62%, fats and spreads with spices grew 59%, gum with spices was up 38%, and chocolate with spices climbed 37%. Recent global launches featuring spices include The Chaat Co. Savory Yogurt Snack featuring mango chili yogurt and a crunchy turmeric spiced lentil puff topping (United States), Lurpak Infusions Butter with Chili and Lime (United Kingdom), and Belly Real Dulce De Leche Ice Cream with Spiced Chocolate (Canada).
Mizkan America, Inc., Mount Prospect, Ill., demonstrated a number of flavor applications that ran the gamut of spicy, savory and sweet during the I.F.T. On the spicy side was a bourbon and red jalapeño maple-glazed fried chicken as well as a triple green chili cornbread Benedict and a green chili vegetable grilled cheese.
“We created the 2016 I.F.T. sample menu to showcase the breadth of ingredients that Mizkan now offers,” said Dave Sackett, executive director of sales and marketing for Mizkan Food Ingredients. “Our peppers create heat, our tangy organic vinegars awaken the palate, and our denatured spirits have versatility for sauces, glazes, marinades, desserts and more.”
Bell Flavors and Fragrances, Northbrook, Ill., highlighted the emergence of flavors from India during the show. Capable of running the gamut from savory to sour and spicy to sweet, the unique contrasting tastes of India may create new comfort foods for consumers, according to the company.
Applications demonstrated at the trade show included Bhel Puri, which is a savory snack made with puffed rice, vegetables and tamarind sauce. The application featured a cilantro tamarind chaat sauce, which includes tamarind, Garam masala and cilantro flavors as well as a cucumber mint raita. To make the dish spicier a tamarind fire sauce with sweet cooked tamarind and Garam masala flavor may be added, the company said.
Another application presented by Bell was a naan pizza topped with makhani sauce with tikka masala curry flavor, madras curry pimento cheese with yellow madras curry and cumin flavor, and sweet and spicy mango chutney with mango flavor.