While Middle Eastern countries have adopted global trends in stride, many of their own staple products and flavors have made their way around the world. Take the demand for pita bread and hummus, or chickpeas, in the United States. These products are consistently purchased, and companies must provide new flavors to keep up with cravings. Dates are another example, as many snacks, particularly bars, include this ingredient for flavor and nutritional benefits.
Einat Peled, business manager of Israel-based Bonjour, a baking company under Osem Group, points out the recent penetration of challah bread to foreign markets. This traditional Jewish bread that is portioned then braided is now found across the globe in fresh bakeries and as a packaged product.
At IFT19, the Institute of Foods Technologists’ annual meeting and expo held this past June in New Orleans, Melanie Zanoza Bartelme, global food and drink analyst at Mintel, emphasized that Middle Eastern dishes and ingredients are becoming common. 55 percent of U.S. consumers are interested in buying Middle Eastern food in restaurants or preparing them at home, and 66 percent of U.S. consumers are interested in seeing more of these seasonings in retail stores, while 3 percent want more Middle Eastern sauces and condiments, according to the research firm.
Turmeric has almost caught up to the hummus craze, particularly within snacks. Named a superfood, this spice is flavorful and colorful. Research company Nielsen evaluated products with turmeric at $11 billion in sales in the year ended July 7, 2018. These products also had a 97 percent consumer penetration rate.
RW Garcia expanded its artisan cracker line to include Organic Lentil with Turmeric Crackers. Under General Mills, Larabar has Larabar Organic with Superfoods Turmeric, Ginger and Beet. And Vegan Rob’s produces Turmeric Chips.
Sesame is another ingredient that has taken various forms such as tahini within Western markets. Found in a variety of snacks, Bartelme said it also has become versatile as a sprinkling finish or a source for milk and dessert ingredients.
As the flavors and foods originating from the Middle East persist in western cultures, more will come from countries such as Israel, Syria, Yemen, and Oman, she added.
This article is an excerpt from the September 2019 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on the Middle East, click here.