A 'kick' of global flavor
Spices, herbs and seasonings offer ethnic tastes, often with heat.
KANSAS CITY — While Americans are eating more Mexican and Indian dishes, Asian and African flavors are making inroads, too. Spices, herbs and other seasonings serve as tools to take advantage of this global flavor trend, including in such grain-based products as bread, muffins and snacks.
Technavio, a market research company, forecasts the spices and seasonings market in the United States to exceed $6 billion by 2020, which would compare to a value of more than $4 billion in 2015. Fueling the growth are American consumers willing to experiment with new flavors and demand from Asian immigrants living in the United States, according to Technavio, which has a U.S. office in Elmhurst, Ill.
“The popularity of Indian and Asian cuisines and rising consumption of convenience foods are the major growth drivers for the spices and seasonings market in the U.S.,” said Vijay Sarathi, food industry analyst for Technavio. “Seasonings and spices companies also started new advertising campaigns that encourage consumers to try recipes at home. Increasing medicinal benefits and changing consumer taste and preferences will also continue driving growth within the market.”
Mexican and Indian food items are becoming mainstream cuisine in the United States, said Jean Shieh, marketing manager at Sensient Natural Ingredients, Turlock, Calif. Tortillas and naan bread increasingly are found on dinner tables.
“It’s not even a special ethnic dinner anymore,” she said. “It’s just part of our diet. I find myself picking up those items for a Tuesday night dinner.”
Many Mexican dishes feature chipotle peppers, and Americans could become more aware of other Mexican pepper varieties as well, Ms. Shieh said. Green serrano chili features fruity and citrus flavors backed by intense heat. Arbol chili comes with a searing acidic heat and grassy and smoky flavor notes.
The spices in Indian food may bring complex flavor profiles, Ms. Shieh said. Byadgi chili delivers bold color and a pungent sweet flavor, according to Sensient. It has a comparatively mild heat. Teja chili, which is much hotter, has a sharp flavor along with a rich, smoky-sweet undertone.
Bell Flavors & Fragrances, Northbrook, Ill., last December listed Indian as one of its five up-and-coming flavor trends.
“The contradicting and intoxicating flavors of India tease with their allure of spice, warmth, cool and freshness,” the company said.
The International Food Information Council, Washington, listed garam masala as a trending Indian flavor. A mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, mace, peppercorns, coriander and cumin, garam masala may be added to Indian recipes like curry and tikka. It also may be sprinkled in bread.
Gary Augustine, executive director, market development for Kalsec, Inc., Kalamazoo, Mich., said he has seen more demand for Asian flavors. For example, gochujang is a spicy fermented sauce comprised of red chilies, fermented soy, garlic and other seasonings.
Wixon, Inc., St. Francis, Wis., offers a Thai lemongrass coating for sweet and salty snacks. It features pepper, garlic, onion, sugar, ginger and turmeric.
Mr. Augustine said spices and herbs may assist in creating African, Filipino and Middle Eastern flavors as well.
“When trying to achieve authentic ethnic flavors in the hot and spicy category, work with the regionally appropriate pepper varieties for the most true to taste flavors,” he said. “While the specific region will impact the flavor profile targeted, Asian cuisine will incorporate key herbs and spices such as garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, galangal, lemongrass and various types of chilies such as Thai chilies. These often will be paired with various types of soy, or in the case of curries, characteristic spices such as turmeric.”
African flavors vary widely by region, too, he said.
“Moroccan cuisine may be highlighted by warmer spices like nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon and clove,” he said. “Ethiopian dishes may feature berbere, a spice mix made with chili peppers, coriander, cumin, fenugreek, black pepper, ginger, and paprika among other spices depending on the recipe.”
Filipino foods may feature ginger, garlic, onion, pandan and bay leaves with lemongrass and various types of chilies, he said. These seasonings and flavors may be added as dry spice or as concentrated extracts to the dough prior to processing. They also may be added topically as a powder or glaze after the baking process for a more intense flavor delivery.
Spices, herbs and seasonings may grow in America, too. Sensient Natural Ingredients offers organic-certified, California-grown chili peppers, paprika and onions for the food and beverage industry. The onion line is available in powder, granulated, minced and chopped forms. The peppers and paprika are in powder form. All of the Sensient Natural Ingredients’ organic crops are transported to the company’s processing facility and processed within 24 hours of harvest.
Ms. Shieh mentioned a Hatch chili grown in New Mexico’s Hatch valley that delivers a meaty flesh and clean mild heat. Sensient has experimented with Hatch chili in muffins and biscuits.
“The usage level will be very, very small, just to give you that little kick of heat,” Ms. Shieh said.
Hatch chili grown in New Mexico's Hatch valley may add heat flavor to muffins and biscuits.