Slideshow: Ten savory flavor drivers

by Monica Watrous    View Me on Google+
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DUIVEN, THE NETHERLANDS – From peri peri to pickle, savory flavor trends reflect a growing appetite for exotic spices, sweet and savory combinations, and complex profiles.

Adding sophistication to snacks are such gourmet-inspired flavors as smoked chili, gorgonzola, chorizo and maple, according to Innova Market Insights, a research firm based in Duiven, The Netherlands. Savory snacks also are taking on full-meal flavors, from roast turkey to rack of ribs. Recent examples include Frito-Lay’s garlic bread variety of Lay’s potato chips, Enjoy Life Foods’ margherita pizza-inspired Plentils lentil-based snack chips, and Lance Bolds buffalo wing blue cheese cracker sandwiches.

Innova unveiled 10 key savory flavor drivers during the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition held June 21-24 in New Orleans.

1. Street food in focus

From the street to the shelf, products inspired by food truck fare are heating up. Nuevo Grille, a brand owned by Tyson Foods, offers frozen street tacos, made with soft corn tortillas, pork carnitas and tomatillo salsa.

Sriracha sauce, popularized by such street food mainstays as bahn mi sandwiches, has become a hot pick for popcorn and potato chip varieties from mainstream brands, including Pringles, Kettle Brands and Lay’s.

2. Bistro, café and deli

Deli meats, gourmet cheeses and roasted or caramelized ingredients are inspiring flavor applications in snacks. Ready meal and snack launches with “bistro,” “café” or “deli” descriptors rose 57% between 2012 and 2013, Innova said. Products include Town House Bistro Cornbread crackers from the Kellogg Co. and Lay’s Deli Style Original Potato Chips.

3. Flame and fire

Barbecue flavors have evolved to “flame-cooked” and “fire.” Last year, Frito-Lay introduced Ruffles Flame Grilled Steak potato chips, and Herr’s offers a Fire Roasted Sweet Corn variety of potato chips.

As restaurant chefs continue introducing such preparations as ashing and earth-cooking to impart distinct flavors, flavor descriptors such as “charred,” “ashed” and “burnt” may be the next hot thing in snacks and other savory products, Innova said.

4. Smoking spices

Rare or smoked spices are adding flavor complexity to products.

5. Vegetables on the verge

Snack makers are formulating chips and similar products with vegetables and legumes. Innova tracked a 48% increase in product launch activity for savory biscuits and crackers with vegetable and legume inclusions between 2012 and 2013. Popchips recently added a line of snack chips created with a blend of nine vegetables, including kale, spinach, tomato, pumpkin, potato, beet, bell pepper, navy bean and chickpea.

6. Chili creativity

Move over, jalapeño — there’s a new kick in town. ­­­The options for peppers and chilis are expanding as more origin-specific spices emerge. Hatch chile, for example, heats up a new pesto variety from The Gracious Gourmet, and the new Hatch Chile Cookin’ Sauce from Stubb’s Legendary Kitchen combines the New Mexican peppers with garlic and a hint of lime.

The fastest growing chili peppers, according to Innova, are peri peri, green chili, sweet chili, jalapeño and chipotle.

7. Middle East movement

Make way for sumac, harissa and other Middle Eastern flavors, which add ethnic appeal to mainstream products. Among global product launches, ready meals and sauces and seasonings with Moroccan spices grew 62% between 2011 and 2013, Innova said.

American Halal Co. recently expanded its Saffron Road packaged food brand offerings with a Harissa single-use simmer sauce variety, and the Campbell Soup Co. offers from its Campbell's Go! line a Moroccan Style Chicken with Chickpeas soup. 

8. Protein and cream

Subtle, creamy notes are being paired with big, meaty flavors to create an indulgent combination.

9. Sweet seduction

Hybrids are hot, sparking a movement of sweet ingredients, such as chocolate, fruit and honey, included in savory applications — and vice versa. Last year, Frito-Lay introduced for a limited time chocolate-dipped potato chips under its Lays brand, suggesting mainstream acceptance of nontraditional pairings is growing.

10. In a pickle

Dill pickles, Korean kimchi and other fermented flavors are in favor, adding a tangy twist to chips, popcorn and more. Recent launches include Herr’s Creamy Dill flavored popcorn, Lite Works Popcorn from The Popcorn Factory, Skinny Girl Pretzel Thins in cucumber dill flavor, dill pickle peanuts from The Carolina Nut Co., and Dilly Dally pickle candy from Barrels of Yum. Snacks, sauces and seasonings and ready meals with pickled flavors increased 72% between 2011 and 2013, according to Innova.
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