Barbecue used to be so much simpler: pick up a bottle from the condiments aisle for a home marinade or pick the standard Southern or Midwestern sandwich off the menu. Now barbecue has moved beyond America’s South to Chinese barbecue pork buns and sweet and spicy Korean barbecue such as Dwaeji bulgogi.
What else would one expect from a nation of foodies? It’s been obvious for quite some time consumers are willing to try new foods, as the popularity of Thai, Korean and Indian dishes attests. But now, consumers raised with the Food Network are pushing boundaries to learn about new cultures and foods such as Vietnamese, Burmese, Cantonese, Filipino and segmented Latin and Italian, which directly influences the marinades, brines and spices used with protein.
Meats, after all, have been tenderized by acidic or vinegar-based marinades as long as can be recorded. Native Americans, for example, wrapped meat in papaya leaves, says Mark Singleton, vice president marketing and sales at Rudolph Foods, based in Lima, Ohio.
“Marinades work so well with poultry, beef and pork because they enhance and take their flavors to a new state,” he says.
Yet marinades aren’t just for flavor; they also serve a function. They tenderize the protein and increase its ease in cooking.
“As phosphates, sugar and salt become more of a center stage issue, the industry is looking for solutions to lower the need for those ingredients,” says Rick Perez, corporate chef at R&D Culinary Consulting, in Jamestown, N.C. “When you use plum concentrate in marinades, you are able to remove phosphates and reduce salt and sugars.”
As sodium in protein products decreases, new concerns arise over product yields. “Can we reduce sodium and phosphates and still get our margins?” Perez asks. “The answer is absolutely yes, you can retain margins. It just takes a new way to look at ingredients, such as the plum ingredients, … such as vacuum tumbling or injecting and tumbling.”
Many of these solutions, particularly the ingredient-based ones, combine nicely with current flavor trends toward international cuisine.
“Chermoula, a simple marinade that is also used to cook with is breaking through,” Perez says. “Lebanese marinades are as well, while others like matar shawarma and taouk are still a stand-by favorite. Fusion flavors are popping up with Sriracha BBQ or Sweet Sriracha bourbon flavor. These are bold and universal.”
Certainly, consumers are pushing for labels to be more clean, with less artificial ingredients. “This one we saw coming, but there is no doubt that a lot has changed the past 10 years,” says Singleton. “All-natural, simple, clean and no artificial ingredients are achievable with marinades, seasonings and flavors.”
A versatile canvas
Pork seems particularly well-suited to international cuisine as an ideal match for the brines and marinades that use flavorful global ingredients.
“Pork’s flavor and texture and ability to take on flavor provides a versatile canvas for a variety of tastes, ranging from sweet brines with honey and fruit juices to spicy brines with chili peppers and savory brines with bay leaves, pickled herbs, garlic and coriander,” says Stephen Gerike, director of foodservice marketing and innovation at the National Pork Board, in Des Moines, Iowa.
Pork also pairs well with boozy brines that use beer and liquor such as bourbon, sake, vermouth, whiskey and brandy, Gerike says.
Menus are featuring new applications for marinated pork with sandwiches, noodle dishes and barbecue. “Sandwiches like Mexican tortas and Vietnamese Bánh mi or Cantonese Bao buns have reached ubiquity,” Gerike says. “Additionally, noodles are gaining popularity with dishes like Japanese ramen and Vietnamese pho.”
Pulled pork is another great example as Mexican carnitas and Italian porchetta are rolled out on menus.
“Savvy operations like Noodles & Co. are taking advantage of pork’s versatility by bringing in one type of neutrally flavored slow-braised pork and then applying multiple flavors to the pork,” says Gerike.
N’djua, from Calabria, Italy, is a spicy, spreadable pork sausage or “spicy pork butter” — as The New York Times calls it — that has become more popular.
“The sausage is made from roasted and fermented hot Calabrian peppers, aromatic herbs and a 50/50 mix of pork lean and fat,” says Gerike. “It can be used on a charcuterie board or as an ingredient like a pizza topping or as an addition to pasta.”
Moving from exotic to mainstream
Consumers have made it clear they want convenience and speed in meal preparation.
“For this reason, marinades and sauces are the perfect complement for pork, beef and poultry,” says Mike Ryan, vice president of sales and marketing at Tandoor Chef, based in Union, N.J.
In the Indian category, for example, Chicken Tikka Masala, a dish of chicken marinated in an intricately spiced sauce, is one of Tandoor Chef’s most popular items.
Indian cuisine, in particular, has made an imprint on the ethnic foods category, with strong sales over many years.
“South Indian food is moving especially quickly, due in part to its liberal use of savory spices and spicy ingredients,” Ryan says.
Flavors from Southeast Asia, China and South America are now considered mainstream, seen in everything from snack foods to frozen entrees. “This is a reflection of consumers’ desire to explore the world through authentic and ethnic flavors,” Ryan says.
A more exotic Asian influence — from Myanmar, Vietnam and the Philippines — and a renaissance of Chinese food may be next, says Singleton. “The Chinese will want to be leaders in cuisine, as they have been in art, over the next decade.”
The Pacific and South America will also continue to influence dishes. “I’ve never seen a more exciting time with food choices,” Singleton says. “There are foods available nationally year round that never would have been considered before.” NP
Spicing up Millennials’ lives
Not surprisingly, Millennials are more likely than other generations to have tried a range of ethnic cooking sauces, marinades and spices. What is somewhat surprising is that households with children are also more likely than households without kids to have tried a wide range of ethnic cuisines, as well.
According to Mintel’s December 2014 “US – Cooking Sauces, Marinades and Spices” report, more than half of consumers have tried many ethnic sauces, marinades and spice flavors. Specifically, more than seven in 10 respondents said they have tried American regional styles, more than two thirds have tried Spanish styles, more than half have tried Mediterranean and almost half have tried Thai.ot surprisingly, Millennials are more likely than other generations to have tried a range of ethnic cooking sauces, marinades and spices. What is somewhat surprising is that households with children are also more likely than households without kids to have tried a wide range of ethnic cuisines, as well.
“Consumers have demanded bolder flavors, gravitating towards adventurous foods that take them on a tour of the world,” says Mike Ryan, vice president of sales and marketing at Tandoor Chef, based in Union, N.J. “Millennials, the generation driving most food trends today, take risks when it comes to trying new and exciting flavors.”
In addition, households with an income of $100,000 or more are most likely to have tried a wide range of ethnic sauces, marinades and spices. Perhaps these consumers are more likely to have tried interesting and sophisticated foods while traveling and dining out.
Moving on from chipotle and curry
General is bad; authentic is good. The next five years should prove to be an exciting time for marinades, spices and seasonings. Stephen Gerike, director of foodservice marketing and innovation at the National Pork Board, shares what could be coming next:
- Togarashi — Common Japanese spice mixture containing seven ingredients (red chili pepper, sanshō, orange peel, black sesame seed, white sesame seed, hemp seed, ginger, nori). This is used as the all-purpose seasoning of Yakitori.
- Piri Piri — African bird’s eye chili used in spice rubs.
- Porchetta (as a seasoning) — The traditional spice blend (with salt, garlic, anchovy, olive oil, rosemary and fennel) that is used to season the rolled, tied and roasted pork dish will be used as a brine application for pork chops.
- Gochujang — A Korean paste in which the chili peppers are balanced with the fermented sweetness of glutinous rice, which is similar to Sriracha, but offering more complexity. We predict it will become a permanent staple in kitchens around the country.
- Sichuan peppercorns — This space adds a unique aroma and flavor that is not hot or pungent like black, white or chili peppers. Instead, it has slight lemony overtones and creates a tingly numbness in the mouth.
- Southeast Asian combination of fish sauce and palm sugar— The salty, sweet and umami-filled flavor is gaining more and more devotees every day.