Creating Contemporary Flavors
By Shonda Dudlicek
Marinades and rubs help processors to stay on top of the latest flavor trends.
Consumers crave variety. One night they might want a bourbon-flavored pot roast, the next night they want to try Thai, followed by Jamaican jerk-style chicken.
However, consumers often lack the knowledge and experience in preparing meats with different flavors, paving the way to a significant opportunity for meat processors — incorporating marinades and rubs. Using marinades and rubs as both a tenderizer and flavor enhancer — and as a component of value-added meat products will continue to flourish in the future, industry gurus predict.
Marinades improve meat’s flavor and texture through increased moisture and tenderness by adding water through injection or vacuum tumbling, says Larry Russell, senior applications scientist in Meat & Poultry at Kerry Americas, Waukesha, WI.
“This is particularly beneficial in light of the popularity of high-heat cooking methods, such as grilling,” he says.
Tenderization can be accomplished through mechanical means or by adding fungal protease tenderizers or plant protease tenderizers. But, Russell cautions, “tenderizeration via proteases must be carefully controlled to avoid over-tenderization and off-flavors.”
Adding spices, vegetable flavors, and savory notes from autolyzed yeast products and hydrolyzed vegetable proteins can improve flavor, Russell says. “Yeasts and HVPs accentuate the meaty flavors and can also provide a mouth-watering character associated with quality cuts of meat, without the addition of MSG,” he adds.  
Many companies have moved from tenderization through tumbling to injection and dry rubbing, says Jay Hall, president of Excalibur Seasonings, Pekin, IL. One method involves injecting a sizable amount of a seasoning to spread the flavor throughout the meat, then cover the outside with an aesthetic for eye appeal, Hall says. Others cook the entrée and market the product in a cooking bag.
“You just put it in an oven-ready tray and put a sleeve around it and you’ve got a case-ready entrée with a three-month shelf life. Right now that’s huge,” Hall says. He points to Smithfield as a leader in this area.
Hall says he’s seen the resurgence of back-room marination among small grocers, hoping to carve a niche to differentiate themselves from large supermarkets. “The point-of-purchase marinade is the best because the customer knows they’re getting a fresh cut, a prime cut of meat that they can visually see is not distressed or old. They can see the marination process going on at the time they buy it. It marinates on the way home and then they know they’re getting a fresh cut of meat,” he says.
Meat processors need to offer value-added proteins to consumers, says John Bauman, vice president of the Culinary Business Unit at Wild Flavors, Erlanger, KY. “There is also a great need for flavor enhancement, particularly in precooked meats sold directly to the consumer or used in further-processed meals,” Bauman says. “The need to keep costs in line is directly related to cooked meat yields. To increase yield, many meats are cooked using steam ovens. This process tends to wash out the flavor of the meat and does not allow for the development of flavors typically associated with cooking. Flavors can enhance and bring value to these products by adding roasted, grilled, braised and other flavor notes.”
A properly formulated marinade should provide tender, juicy meat with high-cooked yield and good texture and flavor, and rubs further enhance cooked yield and flavor, especially in fried products, says Chris Kelly, technical service manager at Advanced Food Systems Inc., Somerset, NJ.
Kelly says the demand will be great for ingredients that provide not only flavor, but also desirable texture for meat and poultry products. “More eating-out, fast food, prepared foods for home creates the demand for meat and poultry products that have good eating texture and flavor,” Kelly adds.
Rubs have evolved beyond coating and flavoring on the outside, says Zachery Sanders, senior research scientist at Kraft Food Ingredients Corp., Memphis, TN. Ideally, a rub is applied to a meat, then cooked in a bag, creating a sauce or gravy, Sanders says.
Complex flavor systems such as added smoke, heat and color are a new trend in red meat and poultry, says Marcy Epstein of First Spice Mixing Co. Inc., Long Island City, NY. “Good quality, excellent shelf life, and bold flavors should flourish. Red meat and poultry are important nutritional staples in our diet that also taste good. Marinades help them stay fresh figuratively and literally, so expect more convenience, great new flavors – from a chef's perspective – and high quality to continue,” says Epstein, a certified nutrition scientist and certified dietitian-nutritionist.
Marinades and rubs comprise about half of the business at Pittsburg, TX-based Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., the country’s second-largest chicken producer. Dan Emery, the company’s vice president of marketing, says there are many well-established seasoning flavors, such as Italian, lemon pepper, teriyaki and barbecue, although barbecue presents a challenge due to regional preferences. Up-and-coming flavors include Jamaican jerk, Bahamian and other Caribbean flavors, Mediterranean flavors, and Asian fusion, such as Thai.
“Then there are neutral flavors like a homestyle marinade we make for one of our foodservice customers,” Emery says. “It’s a caramel flavor that helps brown and get a good appearance. It’s not a particular spice profile.”
Because many consumers strive to eat better and smarter, processors can make healthier marinades and rubs by reducing trans fat and salt in the flavor components. But as always, the food has to taste good.  
Craving ethnic flavors
Flavor trends point in an ethnic direction, with Asian — particularly Thai — and Hispanic flavors garnering the most attention. In Asian fare, spices like white pepper, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, anise, and allspice are combined with savory components such as soy sauce and wine flavors.
“Mild citrus flavors may also be incorporated to add some brightness to the overall profile,” Russell adds.
Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine have prompted a boost in flavorings such as ginger, coriander, cumin, cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, and black pepper, Russell says.
“These components, in a variety of combinations, are generally found in a standard seasoning blend called garam masala,” he adds. “These spices impart a character of warmth and depth to the flavor profile of meat and poultry. Yogurt-type flavors can also be incorporated to introduce a bit of acidity to balance the warmth and mild heat of the spices.”
However, many can’t resist the taste of a home-cooked meal just like Mom used to make. “Comfort foods such as pot roast and Swiss Steak-type products are also popular,” Bauman says.
Kraft has created more flavor profiles best described as “home-style” and “upscale,” such as pork, beef, turkey, and chicken pan drippings flavors, along with mirepoix and seared beef flavors, Sanders says.
Customized ingredients
Because the same ingredients might not taste the same in pork, beef, and chicken, marination ingredients have become customized due to the kind of meat, says Rick Hull, marination technologist, vice president and general manager of World Technology Ingredients Inc., Jefferson, GA.
“It’s not all about flavor,” Hull says. “Marinade is an ingredient delivery process, and it is also a process evolution. There has been a rise in more specialty houses doing customization in functionality, using a different process for marinades. Some might tumble, inject or soak the meat. What’s new are meats being made with a neutral marinade and the included in the package is a seasoning packet that customers can put on themselves due to personal preferences.”
The use of marinades and rubs will continue as consumers experiment with different cuisines. “I would venture to say that we will see an increase in popularity in both retail and foodservice,” Bauman says. “With consumers having less time to prepare meals and the need for variety retail sales will continue to grow.” NP
Suppliers included in this feature:
• Advanced Food Systems Inc., phone (732) 873-6776, or fax (732) 873-4177
• Excalibur Seasonings, phone (309) 347-1221, or fax (309) 347-9086
• First Spice Mixing Co. Inc., phone (800) 221-1105, or fax (718) 361-2515
• Kerry Americas, phone (800) 334-4788
• Kraft Food Ingredients Corp., phone (901) 381-6555, or fax (901) 381-6524
• WILD Flavors Inc., phone (800) 677-2722, or fax (859) 342-3610
Shonda Dudlicek is a freelance journalist based in the Chicago area.