Culinary forecast, flavors gaining favor in 2017.

Culinary flavor forecast

Market researchers track culinary trends such as smoke, heat, citrus and umami as they expand their flavorful reach into 2017.

KANSAS CITY — Some of the culinary trends, most flavorful buzzwords showing favor 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, according to Suzy Badaracco, trends forecaster and president of Culinary Tides, Tualatin, Ore.

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 cites smoke, char, tea, vinegar, alcohol flavors like bourbon, beets, pumpkin, natural sugars, chiles and florals as all showing crossover potential and adding to the excitement for flavors like honey or sriracha.  Here, Ms. Badaracco and other culinary trend-spotters sound off on the trends expected to make a flavor-filled impact through the New Year.

Botanical spinsLavender cookies

Noting that florals “have been hanging out awhile,” Ms. Badaracco sees hibiscus, lavender and rosewater growing in usage. Florals have a bit more “refinement” to offer a product, she said, while citrus — such as lemon, lime and grapefruit — are strong, “as long as you go for a varietal and name the specific type (such as kefir lime or yuzu) for it to be cool,” she said.

Flower-specific honeys like kefir lime honey or orange blossom honey are poised to take off according to Ms. Badaracco and may well generate national demand, more so than the “zip code honeys” produced by hyper-local hives.

While attending the Produce Marketing Association trade show this year, chef John Csukor of Ashland, Va.-based KOR Food Innovation was impressed by the extent of hybridizing and crossbreeding of classic fruits and vegetables “to create another flavor/texture/variety” that plays off of familiar citrus notes.

For example, Ruby Red grapefruit meets lime to create “the floral headiness of a lime — a mash-up with the sweet/bitter contrast of the grapefruit.”

The open flame

As Mr. Csukor develops current menu concepts, he has noticed how those seeking “modernist” menus work with the concept of the open flame, which imparts even more of the smoke, char and burnt flavors that have been trending over the past decade. “It’s going to continue to have steam,” he said. “It will even carry into fine dining and uber fine dining — for example, serving fish with a smoky flavor under a dome. I see it going from very casual to fine dining. Those whose flavors [of their cuisine] match this style of cooking will have a good ride in front of them.”

Mr. Csukor is also seeing the growing importance of cast iron in “latitudinal cuisine.” That is the term he applies to the mainstay dishes prepared in those countries from Northern Mexico to Southern Italy, located in the geographic band of “Baja weather.” In the US, for example, you may see meatballs prepared in a cast iron skillet in a wood-burning oven. “It’s low and slow personalized flavors coming from the skillet out of wood-fired or stone deck ovens.” (continued in full article)

Seaweed makes waves

Chefs are intrigued by the possibilities presented by seaweed beyond snacks and sushi. “Sometimes it’s the rock star (as in sushi) and sometimes it’s just more of a background note (like powdered dulse); each seaweed has a different flavor profile,” Ms. Badaracco said. Dulse, a red algae, may be powdered and sprinkled over soup or pasta; pieces of kombu, a brown seaweed, may be used as a thickening agent.

“Seaweed is coming in in Hawaiian-Asian cooking,” she explained, where sheets of nori seaweed make an appearance in a Hawaiian wrap with lots of vegetables.

Chris Koetke, executive director of the Kendall College School of Culinary Arts in Chicago and vice-president of Culinary Arts for Laureate International Universities, Baltimore, agrees there’s a phenomenon around seaweed and algae as uniquely flavored ingredients that are steadily trending upward. “Seaweed brings together sustainability and nutrition; seaweed as seasoning, powdered seaweed — mix into whatever, perhaps seaweed bread — it is going to go somewhere.” Flavors based on such Middle Eastern ingredients as za’atar, a thyme-sesame spice mix, and sumac, a tangy spice, are trending

Middle Eastern flavors

Middle East expansion

Mr. Koetke believes Middle Eastern flavors are “really big” for 2017. He noted that people outside the Middle East are already familiar with foods like tabouleh, baba ganoush and pita, but that more authentic dishes are being offered and appreciated now.

“I’m seeing Middle Eastern and Israeli food popping up on the menus of James Beard Award nominees. Za’atar, a Middle Eastern spice mix, is becoming a flavor as well as sumac, with its tart, lemony notes. There are incredible chiles and spice mixes from Turkey — it’s piggybacking on the hummus [craze],” he said.

Meanwhile, he sees harissa, an aromatic Tunisian chile paste, as a related trend since the hot sauce-like condiment is popular in North Africa and throughout the Middle East.

“I expect it will go beyond North African food since you can take it out of context — for example, harissa sushi.”

Going to extremes

Liz Moskow, creative culinary director for Boulder-based Sterling-Rice Group, sees the “sensational” flavor trend continuing to pack a wallop among consumers seeking an “extreme sensation” or “extreme reaction” to food. She sees chefs adding hot flavors like sriracha to vanilla ice cream for those Instagram-obsessed guests who “just want to have stuff to talk about, even briefly.”

Overall, spicy has become a core flavor profile according to Mintel, but it’s “a more layered experience with new flavor profiles creating the heat,” according to Ms. Kelter.

“In the QSR sector, spicy is the leading flavor. The flavor trend is also coordinating with regional trends. For example, KFC added a Nashville Hot Chicken Littles sandwich to their menu. The dish is described as featuring a perfect blend of spicy cayenne and smoked paprika,” she adds.

Adding heat without being too spicy is an attribute of Korean gochujang, Mintel’s Ms. Topper said. She sees the flavor in sectors from fine dining to fast casual. “Fine dining restaurants are using it in dishes like bibimbop, but even Noodles & Company offers Korean BBQ Meatballs with Gochujang Sauce,” she said. At retail, it’s found in ketchup, seaweed chips and veggie burgers.

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. “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.”

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.

Continue reading the full article at Food Business News

Daniel Karsevar, Founder & Chief Problem Solver at SOLUTIONTOPIA & is also a Mentor at TheBrooklyn FoodWorks and Advisor to many CPG brands. SOLUTIONTOPIA provides turn-key solutions, product development, and operational scaling solutions for food start-ups and national brands in the natural foods CPG space.