KANSAS CITY — From microwave meals offering the tastes of Thailand to potato chips boasting Brazilian steak and chimichurri sauce seasoning, global flavors in familiar formats are growing in popularity.
The trend stems from consumers who have an appetite for adventurous flavors but still crave the comforts of conventional offerings, said Lisa Stern, vice-president of sales and marketing for Chicago-based LifeSpice Ingredients.
“It’s the melding of globally inspired, somewhat foreign tastes with those flavors from closer to home,” Ms. Stern said. “They are worldly flavors with a hometown spin.”
PepsiCo is catering to these consumers wanting to sample cultural cuisine without leaving the couch. The company’s Frito-Lay division is launching its new Passport to Flavor program, including four limited-time Lay’s potato chip flavors: Brazilian Picanha, inspired by the flavor of a cut of Brazilian steak and chimichurri sauce; Chinese Szechuan Chicken, featuring the heat of the regional Sichuan pepper; Greek Tzatziki, offering the Mediterranean classic flavors of dill, garlic and other spices added to yogurt; and Indian Tikka Masala, packed with spices such as turmeric and cumin.
|Jeannie Cho, vice-president of Frito-Lay marketing|
“This summer, all eyes will be on the global stage, reminding us of our desire to travel and explore the world,” said Jeannie Cho, vice-president of Frito-Lay marketing. “While most of us can’t just hop on a plane, all of us can travel through our taste buds.”
Offering familiar products that serve as a passport to flavors from abroad, The Kellogg Co.’s Kashi brand is introducing bars, crackers and bowls featuring flavors from East Africa to South America to the Mediterranean.
Kashi Savory Bars are available in two varieties: Basil, White Bean & Olive Oil, inspired by the Mediterranean, and Quinoa, Corn & Roasted Red Pepper, inspired by the Andean region.
The brand’s new Teff Thins, inspired by East African cuisine and the staple grain of Ethiopia, are available in three varieties: Lemon Chickpea Chili, Red Sea Salt, and Tomato Lentil Berbere, which features a spice blend of chili powder, paprika and coriander traditionally used in Ethiopian cuisine.
Kashi Quinoa Bowls are vegan entree bowls featuring South American-inspired flavors. Available in Chimichurri Quinoa and Sweet Potato Quinoa varieties, each bowl is made with quinoa grown and harvested from a collective of family farms in Bolivia.
“At Kashi, we are constantly inspired by some of the world’s most vibrant ingredients and love bringing them together to create food that provides progressive nutrition and amazing tastes,” said Jeff Johnson, senior director of marketing and new ventures at Kashi. “From the unexpected flavors to the real, plant-based ingredients, we hope the new culturally inspired foods leave consumers feeling just as inspired as we did making them.”
Unexpected flavors such as bold and unique spices often draw consumers to foreign fare, as spicier foods are perceived to offer more of the cultural experience, said Caleb Bryant, food service analyst at Mintel.
|Caleb Bryant, food service analyst at Mintel|
“Americans are self-identifying as foodies and displaying an interest in trying new experiences and unique flavors,” Mr. Bryant said.
Research from Mintel suggests that nearly half of Americans consider themselves to be “foodies,” including 68% of consumers age 25 to 34. 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.
To lure these spice-seeking consumers, Nestle S.A. is heating up the frozen aisle with its new Lean Cuisine entrees, inspired by international culinary trends and regional spices while offering the familiarity of microwave meals. The line includes Southwest-Style Potato Bake, featuring red potatoes, spicy cheddar cheese sauce and poblano peppers; Chicken Tikka Masala, offering white meat chicken, sweet peas, carrots, rice and an Indian-style tomato sauce; Cheese & Fire-Roasted Chile Tamale, featuring a sweet and spicy chili sauce and cilantro lime rice; and Thai-Style Ginger Beef, offering prime rib beef, broccoli, yellow carrots, rice and spicy Thai-style sauce.
“The Lean Cuisine culinary team keeps a constant pulse on food culture, taking cues from the latest flavor profiles, and we noticed an increase in people’s desire for bolder, spicier flavors,” said David Bailey, culinary chef for Lean Cuisine. “The new limited-time entrees gave our team of chefs a chance to explore new ideas and flavors while bringing creative, delicious foods to consumers’ homes.”
As more and more cultural-inspired products permeate American households, manufacturers can expect consumers to keep seeking that next global flavor frontier, 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,” Mr. Sprinkle said. “There’s an entire world of flavor adventure being explored, and it only continues to expand to new and unexpected places.”