Tofu is the leading cutting-edge protein used in sandwiches.


On the sandwich front

Chicken and bacon are, by far, the most popular proteins on sandwiches, but what’s next?

“The Technomic Lifecycle is pushing the envelope by showing us real-time ingredient innovation,” said Bernadette Noone, vice-president at Technomic. “We’ve noticed with the growth of consumers’ desires to remain healthy, that tofu is the leading cutting-edge protein used in sandwiches. Other ingredients like Muenster cheese, truffle aioli and English muffins were also identified as innovators in the sandwich category.”

On the other hand, Technomic often finds that ingredients can be mainstream in some meal categories, while being unique and competitive in others. A perfect example would be chipotle mayo. When paired with chicken sandwiches, it is often found in the mainstream part of the lifecycle, while adding it to steak sandwiches places it on the introductory and growth scale.

Some of the trendiest, most flavorful buzzwords showing promise for 2017 and beyond aren’t new. In fact, they have been talked about for some time, but they keep growing in menu mentions and retail applications. That is not surprising since trends tend to gather momentum before becoming ubiquitous then leveling and proving their staying power.

Trends don’t fade away as fads most surely do, she said.

“There are long-term trends and short-term trends,” Ms. Badaracco said. Regardless of the trend shelf life, the strongest have crossties to other flavor trends as well as to trends outside of the food industry, such as in culture, technology, consumer interests, health and other fields.

What is most interesting about the flavors in the most current crop of trending tastes are that they are crossing the food and beverage divide, she explained, with flavors showing up outside of their expected category, across sweet, savory and beverage applications. For example, Ms. Badaracco cited smoke, char, tea, vinegar, alcohol flavors like bourbon, beets, pumpkin, natural sugars, chilies and florals as all showing crossover potential and adding to the excitement for flavors like honey or sriracha.

Seeking umami

Combining the fermentation and seaweed trends, Ms. Moskow said the ongoing search for umami is evident because of the growing interest in seaweed, soy sauce and pungent cheese.

Manufacturers are replacing meat flavors with mushrooms.

“Chefs are experimenting with ways to add that umami flavor; the hunt is on to replace that flavor from meat by using mushrooms or various molds,” she explained. “Koji (mold) from Japan typically gives miso and soy sauce its fermented flavor, (with) mold being the catalyst.”

Ms. Moskow said she knows one chef who has added it to pork chops and another to vegan cheeses to create a sharp flavor.

“I believe more fermented umami flavors will be replacing spicy flavors such as sriracha and other trendy peppers; umami is more of a deep, unctuous sort of salty-meets-rich-earthy-flavor,” she said.

Similarly, she said mushrooms (powdered or dried) are “really hot” in teas and soups — along with seaweed — as a flavoring agent because it adds umami flavor.