By Marlo Mastalerz

Food scientists in the protein industry are always exploring flavors and raw materials to determine what best complements fresh and smoked sausage, gourmet patties, meatloaf, poultry, seafood and more.

It’s important for us to recognize diversified tastes in order to better partner with a customer and discover the next niche market. From there, an effective R&D team can create new formulas to satisfy a menu or application need and work with ingredient suppliers to forecast available raw materials.

In today’s marketplace, there is constant adjustment as new flavor profiles are introduced to satisfy the ever-changing consumer appetite. The internet, social media and television cooking channels like the Food Network are a direct influence. This is why it’s critical for culinary teams to be well-versed on current and emerging food trends, especially as they relate to popular ethnic cuisines.

Thanks to mass media and the immediacy provided by the Internet, consumer tastes can now circulate the globe from the comfort of home. Their appetites are expanding to include more flavors and international ingredients.

The tastes of North Africa, Portugal and the Far East are trends leading the protein industry right now. The following flavors are already popular and growing demand for these blends is expected well into 2019.

Harissa – It’s a signature flavor for stews and soups, couscous, goat and lamb, especially when coupled with chili, coriander and cumin. Harissa is influenced by a spice in North Africa, which is a staple ingredient in a variety of dishes in the Middle East.

Piri Piri – Originating in Portugal, Piri Piri is a chili-based sauce containing citrus peel, onion, garlic, paprika, pimiento and tarragon. It provides a bit of spice and fire to enhance proteins, and pairs especially well with chicken.

Gochujang – A red chili paste that’s a combination of chili peppers, sticky rice, fermented soybeans and salt, Gochujang offers a truly unique flavor. While sweet to the palate at first, it allows the senses to change and leaves a definite lingering heat.

Szechwan – Known for its intense spiciness and bold flavor, Szechwan’s flavor profile includes garlic and chili peppers, for a mild to medium heat. It is best paired with meats such as beef and pork.

In addition, today’s popular flavors are influenced by regional spices and powders such as cocoa, turmeric and matcha. They are considered super powders and attractive not only for their taste, but for their health benefits. There’s even a push for beneficial options such as mushroom and other umami profiles – foods rich in glutamates and other amino acids.

At a time when more consumers are demanding healthy food options be available to them anytime and anywhere, culinary experts in the meat and seafood industry must continue experimenting with flavorful alternatives and unique ingredients to keep their taste buds satisfied.

Marlo Mastalerz is a research & development chef and R &D director at Excalibur Seasoning headquartered in Pekin, Illinois. For more, visit