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Trends and opportunities in global flavors

4 min read

Restaurant and Foodservice

Over the past two years of publishing World Bites, our TrendSpotting Report that covers authentic flavors, dishes and ingredients from cuisines around the world, we’ve seen some trends emerge — the dishes that typically score well with consumers (meats and sweets), and those that may be more challenging (raw fish). We’ve featured cuisines most consumers are familiar with — Italian, Mexican — and those that are brand new for most — Bohemian, Basque, Ethiopian — and everything in between. It’s our most data-heavy publication, with a full page of consumer research data for every topic we cover. Have consumers heard of this dish? Do they want to try it at home? At a restaurant?

We looked at the over-250 dishes we have tested with consumers, representing over a dozen different countries and regions, to find the dishes that resonate with particular demographics, the dishes that consumers most want to try away-from-home and the opportunities for those in the food industry. Here’s what we found:

Top scorers

The most appealing food overall, of the over 250 that we have surveyed, were pastelitos, the mini Cuban pastries filled with everything from guava to ground beef — 4 out of 5 consumers find pastelitos appealing. The second most appealing dish also hailed from Cuba — vaca frita, a dish of shredded and fried beef flavored with lime juice and garlic. Operators should pay attention to Cuban cuisine — not only did these dishes score well, but with political relations between the U.S. and Cuba thawing, interest in Cuban cuisine is booming.

Opportunities and surprises

Unsurprisingly, dishes from less familiar cuisines were more challenging for consumers — dishes from Filipino, Peruvian, and Bohemian cuisines were some of the lowest-ranked overall, but there were entry points that consumers found more appealing – Peruvian pollo a la brasa, Bohemian pierogis, Filipino lumpia (the Filipino version of egg rolls). And there are a number of dishes within well-known cuisines that score high with consumers, but have yet to make strides on menus — Italian budino (a rich custard), Mexican buñuelos (sweet fritters).

Meat resonates with male consumers

The four dishes with the highest away-from-home appeal for men were enchiladas, carne asada, bratwurst and pollo a la brasa, the marinated rotisserie chicken dish from Peru. Rounding out the top five were German pretzels — clearly a meaty pretzel sandwich will appeal to male consumers. But while the Latin American meat dishes scored well with both male and female consumers, the German bratwurst was less appealing to female consumers — only 46% found it appealing, versus 64% of men.

Sweet flavors appeal to female consumers

The top four highest-scoring dishes with female consumers were Norwegian krumkakes, gelato, Scandinavian rosettes and Danish ebleskiver, the mini, filled pancakes – three of these top four highest-scoring dishes were from our issue of World Bites: Nordic Countries, covering a cuisine that always seems to be on the verge of making it big in the U.S. As with male consumers, rounding out the top five were German pretzels — 66% of female consumers find them appealing.

Millennials love pretzels

Pretzels were not only the highest-scoring item in appeal for all millennials (ages 18-34), but they were also more appealing to millennials than the overall population — quite a feat considering that they already score highly with consumers. Millennials were also more interested in a number of drinks compared to overall consumers — ca phe sua da (Vietnamese iced coffee) and mojitos. After pretzels, millennials were interested in an overall mix of sweets and meats — krumkake, gelato, enchiladas and pollo a la brasa.

What do “foodies” want?

Two Basque dishes (the Basque region spans the border between Spain and France) scored far higher with foodies than the overall population – Idiazabal cheese, a raw sheep’s milk cheese with a nutty, slightly smoky flavor and stuffed piquillo peppers, a typical pintxo (tapa) in Basque country. Like millennials, foodies were also more interested in mojitos and ca phe sua da.

Interest in a variety of global cuisines continues to intensify, whether you are seeking out the next sriracha, finding lesser-known dishes within cuisines consumers already love or diving deep into a cuisine that is suddenly trendy or in the news (Southeast Asian, Cuban, Brazilian).

Mike Kostyo is the publications manager of Datassential, a supplier of trends, analysis and concept testing for the food industry. For more information about subscribing to World Bites, contact Kostyo at 312-219-6435 or [email protected].


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