Ideation is at the heart of product development. Successful food and beverage innovators need to know what emerging ingredients are capturing the consumer’s attention. Mike Kostyo, senior managing editor and trendologist for the market researcher Datassential, Chicago, identified 10 ingredients product developers should consider during a recent virtual presentation during the Research Chefs Association’s RCA+ conference.
Kostyo called 2021 the year “innovation roars back.” Citing Datassential data, he said 65% of consumers say they are tired of cooking at home, 58% are bored with comfort food, and 79% are craving something new overall.
“This supports the idea this will be the year of innovation,” he said.
Some innovation efforts have focused on creating comfort foods with a twist. The restaurant chain Shake Shack’s recently introduced Korean-style Fried Chick’n Sandwich, which features a spicy-sweet gochujang-glazed crispy chicken breast on a bed of kimchi slaw, was cited as an example.
Looking ahead, Kostyo identified 10 ingredients product developers may want to consider as they seek new ideas for innovation.
Fermented honey was one such ingredient. It sits at the intersection of two prominent trends — the consumer’s affinity for honey as a sweetener and the perception of fermented products as having a health halo, Kostyo said. As an example, he referenced the Butcher & Bee restaurant in Charleston, SC, which offers a whipped feta dip made with fermented honey and black pepper.
Next level produce like Del Monte’s Pinkglow pineapple and the Blue Java banana also are ingredients sparking interest among consumers. Such items offer consumers a twist in a familiar format, which has been at the heart of food and beverage innovation for a number of years.
Kheer, a Southern Asian pudding made by boiling milk, sugar and rice, tapioca or bulgar wheat also made Kostyo’s list. At the restaurant Rooh, Palo Alto, Calif., diners may find a wild rice kheer with dates and cashews on the menu.
In the 1980s, carob was thought to be an ingredient to challenge the dominance of chocolate. While that never happened, Kostyo said in 2019 and 2020 the ingredient grew 10% on menus.
“Chefs are realizing it has potential,” he said.
At Byblos, Miami, patrons may order an appetizer of lamb ribs with dukkah, buttermilk sauce, carob molasses and red chili schug.
Consumers also have taken an interest in curry, Kostyo said.
“Consumers have gotten savvy about it,” he said. “They understand there are different types of curries and they want to understand them. The different types on retail shelves really showcases the trend.”
Sudachi citrus, a small, green citrus fruit from Japan has the potential to be a next level option to yuzu, Kostyo said.
“It’s a great option when looking to add acid,” he said. “You see it in cocktails.”
Another ingredient showing up in alcoholic beverages is honeysuckle. The Cathead Distillery in Jackson, Miss., offers a honeysuckle vodka variety that offers soft floral and herbaceous aromas, according to the company.
Product developers looking for a next generation meat flavor may want to consider carne guisada. It is a Latin beef stew often made with pieces of beef simmered with beer, scallions, garlic tomatoes, cumin and cilantro that has grown 23% on menus during the past year, Kostyo said.
While seeds have been trending for several years, nigella seeds are gaining in popularity. The seeds have a slightly bitter taste that can add crunch to a variety of applications.
“It’s a great option that has grown 87% on menus in the past year,” Kostyo said.
Finally, chicory root was identified as an ingredient to watch.
“We’ve seen chicory root growing for a number of reasons, particularly because the coffee industry needs innovation,” Kostyo said.
Another beverage manufacturer that uses chicory root in its formulation is Olipop. Its line of products features a combination of marshmallow root, slippery elm bark, nopal cactus, calendula, cassava root, kudzu root, Jerusalem artichoke and chicory root fiber.