SPECIAL REPORT: Asian Flavor Invasion

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13 Feb 2017 --- The world is more connected than ever and people have easy access to information about food in other places in the world. Ethnic, and particularly Asian foods and flavors are increasingly authentic and traditional. Rather than fusion cooking, flavors and recipes are becoming more specific and often carry a local/regional name. This is not just a Western world trend, you see it now globally: many consumers eat from multiple non-regional cuisines on a regular basis.

Consumers are now becoming more traveled, both through visiting more countries, but also as a result of greater interest in cooking programs and cooking tips through social media platforms. The Asian flavor experience has had a real boost in the past few years, as consumers look for deeper and more exciting flavors from the continent of Asia. FoodIngredientsFirst investigates. 

Innova Market Insights tipped Kitchen Symphony as trend four for 2017 proving that the connected world has led consumers of all ages to become more knowledgeable of other cultures. As a result, there is growing demand for greater choice and higher levels of authenticity in ethnic cuisines. At the same time, pride in local and regional foods is also seeing an upsurge in some countries, with a resulting rise in availability and authenticity of local cuisine. Food and flavor experiences are what most people enjoy when it comes to creating a meal at home, or eating out at a restaurant, but what makes Asian flavors so unique and appealing to todays’ average consumer? 

Japanese foods and flavors have been popular for some time. The rising consumer interest in global cuisine has allowed for Japanese influence to take prominence in the flavor industry. Mike Moses, marketing manager for Nagase, explains to FoodIngredientsFirst that traditional pairings of flavors have been a vehicle to introducing Japanese flavors globally, he Click to Enlargesays: “One of the main reason wasabi became well known is because of its traditional pairing with sushi and this is now evident as the wasabi flavor has been involved with a variety of product launches such as potato chips.”
 
Flavors such as matcha (green tea) and hojicha have maintained popularity within Japan over the years, despite the age and gender of the consumer. The Japanese flavor yuzu has an unusual yet bold citrus profile and is very popular in beverages, confections and spices. Citrus is one of the most popular flavors worldwide, and yuzu has proven it has a place in the running where consumers want flavor profiles that play on favorites but with an exotic twist. Citrus notes combined with fragrant and a refreshing aroma is what makes yuzu so appealing. “These flavor trends are in-line with consumer demands with products that meet their demands for wellness and indulgence,” adds Moses, “Other Japanese fruits, such as persimmons, also appeal to consumers globally as well.” 

Flavor is an extremely important part of product development in Japan and this has moved to the western palette. “Flavors can be grouped into Japanese traditional flavors, fruit and vegetable and fragrant flavors, as well as western flavors,” he explains, “So there is an evolution of flavors with Asian influences.”

More recently, shichimi (shichimi togarashi) is a blend of flavors that tickle the tongue and enhances the flavor of noodles and grilled meats. This Japanese mixture made with seven ingredients including ground chilies, tangerine peel and flakes of nori has come out of the woodwork as an interesting Japanese flavor as the newest addition to this competitive flavor market. 

FoodIngredientsFirst spoke with Executive Director Gary Augustine to discuss some of the trends in Asian spices. “We see in the flavor world, flavor systems that have a fermented note with them are becoming popular. Gochujang is a good example of that,” he explains. Gochujang is a fermented Korean condiment made from red chili, rice, fermented soybeans and salt. This deep red paste has a mild heat profile from the red chili powder; savory notes from the fermented soybeans and can be a bold addition to any meat, fish or vegetable dish. 

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“Asian fermented products are spicy but not like kimchi, Gochujang has a fermented South East Asian note to it,” he adds. “I would say that there are a lot of influences from pockets of South East Asia where we see some pretty popular, flavor profiles.”

“There is always going to be a trend towards garlic and chili (Thai flavor Sriracha) they have been popular for quite some time, but I do believe that fermented flavor profiles are one to watch for 2017,” claims Augustine. 

“Overall it’s the evolution of the consumers looking for more experiences and more depth to their flavors and we can see overall that complexity growing out of the desire to try new things.”

“We have seen people being much more experimental with flavors from all over the globe and that is exactly why we have seen with cooking sauces and table sauces, are so popular because people can take them home and experiment with them in a prepared meal,” he continues, “It can add a dimension to a meal, and it creates interesting flavors for consumers to try at home.” 

The snacking category has also been hit by the growing popularity of Asian flavors. The growth in local flavors from around Click to Enlargethe world have become much more specific. Thai flavors have been popular for some time, but now vibrant and distinctive flavors from Malaysia and the Philippines have drawn attention from the adventurous palettes seeking bold new tastes. Street foods especially have gained momentum in the Asian snack categories. Pinoy BBQ is a popular Filipino street food, flavored with soy sauce, lemon, garlic, sugar, pepper and banana ketchup and Rendang Curry is made using a Malaysian spice past, delivers mild heat made from chilies, lemongrass, garlic, lemongrass, ginger, tamarind, coriander and turmeric. 

According to Bell Flavors and Fragrances, the cuisine of Southeast Asia has it all going on. Southeast Asian cuisine is born from cultural influences of many neighboring countries. Malaysian cuisine has Indian influence, while Filipino is a fusion of Chinese, Malaysian, Spanish and American. With all the cross pollination, comes a lot of flavor. 

Whether the application is a dressing, marinade, beverage or something for your sweet tooth, Bell Flavors are expanding their range of Asian inspired flavors. 

Last month, Bell announced their selections for the 2017 Spark trends for flavors and fragrances in the US market. Kelli Heinz, Bell Director of Marketing & Industry Affairs, told FoodIngredientsFirst:  “This year’s Spark trend forecasts include tastes from the Japanese late night, flavor enhancing cooking methods, and honoring culinary classics.” 
 
Late Night Japan 
Brightly lit paper lanterns of urban Japan are shining light on the rise of izakaya and sake cocktails in the US. You’ll stay up late for this trend and it’s exotic take on sharables and lively cocktails. 

“By evolving trends from last year’s Spark and identifying emerging flavors, Spark is your source for forward-looking trends that are shaping the flavor marketplace,” says Heinz.

Speaking with FoodIngredientsFirst, Megan Trent from Gold Coast Ingredients maintains that the food industry is driven by consumers’ demand for new and exciting taste. “Over the past few years, food manufacturers and start-up companies have differentiated their products in the market with Asian-inspired flavors,” she states. “We have seen many Japanese, Korean and Thai inspired foods boom as ethnic and spice flavors increased in popularity. For example, the food industry introduced new creations from Kogi BBQ tacos (Korean + Mexican) to ramen burgers (Japanese + American), Thai curry flavored potato chips and matcha infused desserts.”

Today, Asian-inspired flavors remain trending. However, many Japanese, Korean and Thai dishes have become this decade’s known flavors. Companies are now expanding their flavor creativity with influences from other Asian countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines to remain at the forefront of flavor trends. Click to Enlarge

Gold Coast Ingredients’ supplies its customers with flavors that satisfy their innovative, complex flavor requests. “We have formulated Asian-inspired flavors since the market started experimenting with ethnic cuisine concepts. Gold Coast Ingredients has created numerous variants of (red, yellow, green) curry flavors, Korean BBQ pork, bibimbap, satay, green tea and matcha, egg yolk, furikake, taro, ube, coconut, pandan, red bean, chili sauce, miso soup, pho and ramen style flavors.” Trent adds “It is incredible how our certified flavor chemists can take Asian-inspired dishes and turn them into powder and liquid flavors for applications such as sauces, snack foods, soups, baked goods, ice cream and more.”

At the 2016 Annual IFT Food Expo, Gold Coast Ingredients showcased a some Asian-inspired flavors in ice cream sundaes - Thai Coconut Curry Ice Cream, Thai coconut curry flavored ice cream topped with sweet Thai chili sauce, lemongrass flavored whipped cream and chopped peanuts and Japanese Miso Ice Cream, miso - green onion flavored ice cream topped with soy – orange sauce, ginger flavored whipped cream and candied furikake (Japanese seasoning). 

Moving forward into 2017, Gold Coast Ingredients expects to see an increase in Asian-inspired flavors including: sambal, geographical variants of laska, teh tarik, ayam masak merah (spicy red chicken), adobo and bird’s eye chili. 

by Elizabeth Kenward

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