Datassential: 15 flavor trends to watch in 2017 and beyond

What’s the next _______? It’s what everyone in the food industry wants to know. What’s the next the sriracha? Kale? Quinoa? What’s the next fast casual? Chef casual? Food truck? What’s the next Southern cuisine? Asian ingredient? Bacon?

Every year Datassential dives into the American menu using our MenuTrends database to understand the ingredients that are just beginning to impact what consumers are seeing and eating. We combine the data with consumer and operator data, real-world research and expert insight to create our list of the flavors and ingredients that the industry should watch in the year ahead. All of these flavors and ingredients are in the inception phase of Datassential’s Menu Adoption Cycle – they are still brand new to most consumers and only the most trend-forward chefs are using them – but they have elements and features that indicate that there is room for them to grow; they could even become the next big thing.

As demographics change and consumers demand more novelty and innovation, chefs and manufacturers are embracing new ideas and flavors faster than ever before, which is speeding up the menu adoption cycle. New ingredients and flavors are popping up on menus at a rapid pace, so this year we expanded our annual list of 10 ingredients to watch to include 5 more. If flavor and ingredient trends matter to you, these should be on your radar:

Dukkah: Egyptian dukkah blends spices like cumin, coriander, sesame seeds, thyme, mint, and pepper with toasted nuts and seeds, ranging from hazelnuts to pumpkin seeds. It’s often used as a dip or meat rub. Though it still appears on relatively few menus, it is one of the highest-scoring ingredients on Datassential’s “What’s Hot Index.”

Agrodolce: Italy’s sweet-and-sour condiment combines vinegar (usually balsamic) and sugar, often with flavors like wine and fruit.

Cajeta: This Mexican confection is made by reducing goat’s milk until it’s caramelized for a sweet, tangy syrup that can be used as a next-level dulce de leche.

Avocado Oil: Made by pressing avocados, this oil is prized as both a cooking oil with a high smoke point and a healthy alternative to olive or coconut oils, used in salad dressings and condiments. The growth of avocados on menus in recent years (+21% in the past four years alone), coupled with the popularity of “alternative” ingredients (milks, nut butters), is driving interest in avocado oil.

Galangal: Widely used in Southeast Asian cuisines, galangal looks and acts like ginger, though it has a sharper flavor with citrus and pine undertones. Ginger appears on over half of U.S. menus today, so galangal can step in as a more unique option.

Next-level Seaweed: Seaweed certainly isn’t new to consumers, but operators are embracing new iterations, from shio kombu to farm-raised American wakame. Use it on salads, bowls, seafood, and as a seasoning.

Finger Limes: Fine dining chefs have been fans of finger limes for a few years and now the Australian finger lime industry is finally catching up to meet demand for this natural citrus “caviar.” According to Datassential’s July 2016 issue of On the Menu, over 30% of consumers are interested in trying this fruit.

Umeboshi: As flavors like miso and kimchi grow on menus, these pickled and fermented Japanese plums with a sweet-and-salty flavor profile are a next-generation Asian ingredient to watch. According to our June 2016 issue of On the Menu, 1 in 4 consumers are interested in trying the plum.

Chermoula: Think of chermoula as the North African version of pesto or chimichurri, made with cilantro and/or parsley, fresh chilies, spices, garlic, and olive oil. According to Datassential’s World Bites: Morocco, 36% of consumers said they would purchase chermoula from a restaurant or supermarket.

Tobiko: Flying fish roe, or tobiko, has long been used on sushi, but now US chefs are embracing it (and its many colors and flavors) to top poke, Asian-inspired bowls or plated seafood entrees.

Gose: Pronounced gose-uh, this top-fermented German wheat beer is brewed with coriander and salt – it has a distinctive tart/salty taste. It’s one of the fastest-growing options on alcoholic drink menus today.

Teff: This tiny Ethiopian grain has been a staple for the country’s famed runners and now it’s being hailed as the next ancient grain superfood in the U.S.

Zhug: This Yemeni hot sauce is ubiquitous in Israel, where fresh herbs like cilantro are combined with spices like cardamom, some olive oil, and plenty of hot chilies to give it a spicy kick.

Karashi: Hot-and-spicy Japanese karashi mustard can be used in place of wasabi for an in-your-face flavor. It also scores high on Datassential’s “What’s Hot Index.”

Sambal: Sambal refers to range of sauces and relishes in Indonesia, but sambal oelek is the most common in the U.S., typically made with fresh chilies, salt, citrus, garlic, and a bit of sugar. One in three consumers said they would purchase it from a restaurant or grocery store, according to Datassential’s World Bites: Indonesia.

These 15 trends are part of Datassential’s complete “2017 Trends to Watch” forecast which covers macro-level trends like the future of meal and food delivery and the evolution of healthy ingredients, plus micro-level trends like the resurgence of natural fats and social media-worthy foods.

Mike Kostyo is the senior publications manager of Datassential, a supplier of trends, analysis and concept testing for the food industry. For more information about Datassential’s 2017 Trend Report, contact Kostyo at mike.kostyo@datassential.com.

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