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Heat and spice have been exciting palates for millennia, motivating explorers and merchants to circle the earth to discover new sources of precious seeds, roots, barks and fruit to turn into flavor enhancers. Spices have also had an important healthful role, lending their nutrients to medicinal brews and remedies. Today, heat and spice are having a moment as restaurant chefs and domestic cooks alike seek out these ingredients to create full-flavored food, often built from authentic regional recipes, and quite often budget-friendly and healthful to boot.
In this latest Culinary Trend Mapping Report, we examine three overarching consumer drivers—Flavor Adventure, Authenticity and Health—that help marketers understand what’s going on behind the scenes and leverage these drivers strategically for their own consumer segments. While some of the heat and spice trends profiled here may be a little far out for some consumers, rest assured that multicultural Generation Y and growing demographic groups will continue in their pursuit for hot and spicy flavors. As marketers, we encourage you to be bold, find ways to experiment and be excited by the growing ranks of consumers eager for bigger, bolder hot and spicy flavors in nearly every daypart, food or beverage category, and season.
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- Stage 1: Smoke in New Places — At the root of the bacon craze that has swept the nation is a deep smoky flavor that drives people wild. Familiar smoked foods have all moved to the forefront of our menu choices; now it’s time for smoke flavor to move on to new, creative venues like drinks (including non-alcoholic bottled beverages) and desserts (cakes and ice creams).
- Stage 1: Aleppo Pepper & Co. — A moderately hot pepper, the Aleppo is native to Syria and Turkey, and is named after the largest city in Syria. Its flavor can be described as similar to the ancho chile but with a slight sweetness and fruitiness, as well as an oilier mouth feel and a hint of saltiness and cumin. The use and acceptance of Aleppo pepper and other Middle Eastern flavors is a sign of the continuing globalization of our pantry. Consumers are seeking out these exotic spices and spice blends, particularly when it comes to heat and spice.
- Stage 2: Hatch Chiles — The root of the Hatch chile trend is truly about celebrating authentic flavors and highlighting regional specialties in menu and product development. As U.S. culture becomes more diverse, more consumers are growing to recognize a broad array of chiles and developing a deeper appreciation for refined Mexican and Southwestern cuisines. Products developed around chiles also speak to the Latin audience, a growing demographic in all parts of the country, as well as Millennials, who seem to dip into new flavors with ease.
- Stage 2: Gochujang — Korean food has emerged to become one of today’s hottest cuisines. Some of the flavor that it offers comes from gochujang, the pungent, fermented sauce made from red chiles, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans and salt. Gochujang is following closely at the heels of popular kimchi as a trendy Korean ingredient that adds heat and flavor to global dishes as well as any American dinner table. Originally almost exclusively a homemade condiment, packaged gochujang is just now becoming more available, opening up the doors of flavorful possibilities.
- Stage 3: Spicy Sips — Whether it’s flavor driven or health driven or both, spicy beverages are making a mark across the board and opening the door for more experimentation and flavor combinations beyond just fruit, as is evidenced with many spicy cocktail combinations. The addition of heat and spice to beverages is a smart and logical next step as our palates expand to crave more heat and flavor adventure. Spices and chiles bring not only unique taste experiences but also potential nutrition and health benefits which appeal to all demographics.
- Stage 4: Healthful Spices — Already an intrinsic part of many national or regional cuisines, notably Indian and Mexican, the notion that spices are an important part of being healthy is taking deeper root in the American marketplace. Over the past several years, stories about the health benefits or antioxidant levels of certain spices have peppered the news media and now, in early 2012, consumers are listening even more closely as they wait for more scientific studies to reveal the effectiveness of this time-tested ingredient. But as with many potentially beneficial ingredients associated with health claims, Americans are often willing to try something on faith, particularly if it is backed by time-honored use.
- Stage 5: Buffalo Flavor — Chicken wings are the classic application, but buffalo flavor and its partner in crime, blue cheese, now seem to go hand in hand across the menu. You almost can’t go wrong with buffalo flavor for a wide swath of fans. With the love of this tailgate and snack food favorite growing even stronger, the American consumer is open to using buffalo sauce in a myriad of applications, even dessert! It’s important to note that buffalo flavor is typically associated with savory snacks and comfort foods, and that it does well with a cooling partner, whether it be ranch dressing, blue cheese or maybe even buttercream.
The Culinary Trend Mapping Report is an indispensable tool for those whose job it is to stay abreast of what's hot—and what will be—in the food world.
The reports leverage the Center for Culinary Development’s signature Trend Mapping technique, a validated method for identifying which culinary trends are gaining traction and which are simply flashes in the pan.
Each 65+ page journal is packed with trends, data, strategies and insights on the food industry that simply aren't available anywhere else. To further enrich our already industry leading analysis, our reports now include new charts, listings, and other features based on results culled from Datassential MenuTrends, a database that tracks 7,000 distinct U.S. restaurants and over one million menu items.
Each Issue of the Culinary Trends Mapping Report
- Identifies the maturity level of foods and ingredients according to CCD’s unique, proprietary 5-stage trend mapping process.
- Concentrates on a theme that is affecting the food industry, and then looks at the emerging and established trends along the Trend Map that are shaping this theme.
- Delves into these trends and what they mean for you and the manufacturing, retailing, and foodservice industries.
- Gives strategic insight into how consumers are thinking of and reacting to new foods and ingredients.
- Provides business know-how regarding opportunities, challenges, and ways to implement current trends into foodservice, retail, and packaged goods operations.
- Presents a feature interview with a member chef from CCD’s exclusive 80+ member Chefs’ Council who offers expert analysis and unique perspective on a specific trend.
Trend Mapping is guided by the premise that major food trends pass through five distinct stages on their way to the mainstream:
- Stage 1: The ingredient, dish and/or cooking technique appears at upscale dining establishments, ethnic and popular independent restaurants.
- Stage 2: The item is featured in specialty consumer-oriented food magazines such as Bon Appetit plus retail stores such as Sur La Table that target culinary professionals and serious home cooks.
- Stage 3: The item begins to appear in mainstream chain restaurants—Applebee's or Chili's—as well as retail stores such as Williams-Sonoma that target recreational cooks.
- Stage 4: Publications such as Family Circle and Better Homes and Gardens pick up the buzz.
- Stage 5: Finally, the trend makes its way to quick service restaurant menus and either starts to appear or gains increased mainstream presence on grocery store shelves.
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