Atención: Latino Foods are in!

March 24, 2009

Forget your cheeseburgers, pizza, apple pie, meat and potatoes and other tried-and-true traditional dishes; the North American palate has evolved in recent years, fueled by a desire for new, risky ethnic flavours.  “Chinese food” and “Mexican Food” used represent the consumer’s foray outside of their culinary comfort zone, but an influx of cultural influence has thoroughly infiltrated the food landscape.

The reasons for these changes have been out of both necessity and interest.  For food manufacturers and restaurants, experimenting with new flavours is viewed as a great way to spice up traditional offerings.  It’s much cheaper to add spices such as tandoori, curry and jerk to your average chicken dish than revamp an entire operation or menu, and consumers can’t seem to get enough risk with their food.

The Spanish are probably one of the most under served and under appreciated demographics in North America, but that is beginning to change.  This vocal plurality carries a tremendous amount of consumer influence, and companies have downplayed their significance for far too long.  Plus, their food is flavourful, passionate, invigorating and complex.

MediaPost highlights a report on what kind of products are hitting the scene: “Epazote, Seville oranges, aji amarillo chiles and sofritos, according to a new Culinary Trend Report on next-wave Latino foods from Packaged Facts and the Center for Culinary Development (CCD).”

“Epazote is a Mexican culinary herb that smells like “grassy turpentine” in its raw state, but when simmered in a pot of black beans, “mellows to a rich, grounding presence that more and more chefs are finding addictive,” report CCD’s trend-spotters.  They expect the herb to move beyond upscale Mexican restaurants to become a common ingredient in canned and CPG products.

Seville oranges are becoming increasingly popular ingredients in sophisticated contemporary Latin restaurant fare, and CCD predicts that CPGs will soon be using the oranges’ somewhat bitter citrus flavor to add “Caribbean tang” to a variety of products.

Aji amarillo chiles, the most popular variety in Peru, offer a distinctively fruity flavor while retaining chile bite.  The combination adds up to crossover appeal similar to that previously shown by now-ubiquitous chipotles, making aji chiles prime candidates for inclusion in “everything from spicy wings at QSRs to jarred salsas,” reports CCD.”

Other trends MediaPost points out:

•    “Rotisserie chicken flavored with authentic, regionally inspired flavors from Latin America. CCD believes this trend is destined for wide adoption by food manufacturers and restaurants because it offers the familiar comfort food roast chicken with a novel twist, as well as built-in nutritious, wholesome positioning.

•    U.S.-made versions of Mexican cheese varieties are in demand by Latinos and non-Latinos alike, and marketers are gradually catching on. Wisconsin’s Hispanic cheese production has doubled since 1997, and big national brands like Sargento and Tillamook have added Mexican cheeses and shredded jack-and-cheddar quesadilla blends, notes CCD.

•    Bland tableside guacamoles are being reinvented as consumers look for fresh, healthy ways to snack. Freshly made, hand-mashed, chunky varieties that can be customized to taste with more/less onions, chiles and other seasonings are hot–and CCD stresses that marketers should look to apply the same lessons to many other types of food offerings.

•    Soft-corn tortilla tacos–which offer both health and flavor advantages over the crunchy variety–are popping up in QSR’s and casual dining restaurants, and becoming more available in supermarkets as well.

•    Mojito isn’t over. While mojito cocktails may seem old-hat to some, seemingly endless variations on the basic tart lime/mint flavor are now finding their way into soft drinks, marinades, chocolates and even chewing gum. Far from reaching saturation, this Cuban flavor profile “will go on inspiring CPG manufacturers across a broad spectrum of products,” predicts CCD.”

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