Grilled, Roasted Flavors in Demand
By Sandy Parlin
Savvy processors incorporating more of these flavors to meat and poultry products.
As Americans continue to seek out healthful, convenient foods to accommodate their fast-paced lifestyle, a growing number of processors are recognizing that grilled and roasted flavors add enjoyment to their grab-and-go products. Whether precooked or oven-ready, pre-seasoned meat and poultry — especially with complex and spicy flavors — are gaining approval from a larger number of shoppers.
There is high demand for meats with grilled or roasted flavors from consumers, retailers, and foodservice operators, says Mike Veal Sr., business marketing manager of Savory Flavors, Kraft Food Ingredients Corp., Memphis, TN.
“Consumer demand continues to be driven by [the need for more] convenience, but now lifestyle diets are also a factor,” he observes. "Consumers are using high-quality, flavored, fully cooked, portioned meats to prepare quick meals that support a healthier lifestyle. These grilled or roasted flavored lean meats are placed in wraps, used to top salads, or eaten from the package as a snack."
As always, retailers are interested in increasing the profitability of their meat departments. Case-ready meats have helped them to remove costs from that department, and now value-added flavored meats are producing top-line growth, Veal relays. Retailers and their meat suppliers know that grilling and roasting are two of the most popular meat preparation methods today. They also know that grilling and roasting are not very quick or convenient propositions for the consumer. As a result, more retailers are now adding fully-cooked, high-value, family-size portions of grilled or roasted pork, beef, chicken, and turkey to their meat case. And processors use Kraft Food Ingredients Grill Flavor® and Roast Flavor to add or enhance these cooked notes, Veal says.
Foodservice demand for grilled and roasted flavored meats is being driven by consumer lifestyle diets and the operator’s need to control cost and quality. Salads are an important part of lifestyle diets, and grilled or roasted flavored meats add value and variety to these offerings. Processors can incorporate flavors, for example, that deliver a char-roasted or mesquite-grilled character. In an effort to control quality and cost, many foodservice operators bring in fully cooked meats with grilled and roasted profiles for center-of-the-plate or even sandwich applications. Roast beef, barbeque pork, and grilled hamburger patties are among the fully cooked meats that are further prepared at restaurants.  Processors add grilled or roasted ingredients to insure that the important ‘cooked flavor’ character is consistent.
The newest Kraft Food Ingredients Grill Flavor® and Roast Flavors for retail meats address the desire for processors to reduce trans fats or remove hydrogenated oil from their products. New foodservice flavors for meats address the demand for more authentic flavors like a Backyard Grill Flavor® profile and a Roast Flavor that will not add the common dark tint to white meat.
“Grilled and roasted flavors for meats used in ethnic food preparations are addressed based on the specific application,” Veal explains. A Korean hibachi cooked flavor can be achieved with CharGrill, while a light roasted Italian application would use ClassicRoast™.
Veal cautions that with some grilled flavors, the key concern is aftertaste. In meats, a grilled profile should not detract from the clean, savory finish of the meat.  Kraft Food Ingredients CharGrill Flavor and Backyard Grill Flavor® provides a very clean finish and a more subtle grilled character, Veal says. Roast flavor considerations include the type of dark or light roast character needed. The cooking method is another consideration. Cook-in-bag products will require additional cooked notes including pan-drippings flavor, he adds.
Fine restaurants are great predictors of future mass-market dining trends, Veal says. Such restaurants continue to highlight grilled and roasted meats on their menus. What’s new is the added variety and overall flavor complexity.
"We see increased demand for Chipotle flavor to add both the smoke/grill flavor and the spice kick," says David Nance, vice president business development, Advanced Food Systems Inc., Somerset, NJ. Asian products such as stir-fry seasoning, Thai Sweet Chili Sauce, and Korean BBQ seem to be in demand. Consumers are demanding more flavor, in general. Grill and roast flavors will continue to help meet that demand.
Grilled and roasted flavor profiles are well accepted by the consumer, says Jerry Hull, chief executive officer of Excalibur Seasoning Co., Pekin, IL.
“The trend is leaner, tastier, and preferably precooked as this gives longer shelf life plus satisfies bacteria controls,” he observes. "Chilies have really gained in their market share as our Hispanic and Latino numbers increase, and most consumers are accepting these flavors very well. Mojo is a great Hispanic flavor, especially with roasted undertones. The grilled flavored products are accepted as consumers love charcoaled products.”
Seasoning costs on these items is higher than normal, but that should not deter any processor from adding these items since seasoning costs are the least expensive costs they have.
“I firmly believe the meat and poultry industry is in one of the greatest times it has ever experienced,” Hull says. “The consumer wants tasty products that are healthy, have good nutritional value, and can be easily and quickly prepared. These fairly new flavors are just the tip of the iceberg.”
Grilled food is perceived as being healthier than fried food, says William Ritter, Sr., director – chief creative flavorist, Culinary Flavor Creation, WILD Flavors, Erlanger KY. Retailers and foodservice also want to meet the demand for the taste of ‘slow roasted’ comfort foods like pot roast and pork tenderloin. BBQ has expanded to include ethnic spice blends such as Caribbean or Mexican. Pepper flavors like Chipotle and Ancho also are included in grilled flavor profiles.
“Grilled and roasted flavor notes are typically surface flavors caused by high-heat charring the surface of the meat or roasting temperatures drying or ‘crisping’ the surface,” Ritter explains. “When flavors are added, they can typically be applied with marinade systems either injected or vacuum tumbled into the meat. Rather than being most intense at the surface, these flavors appear throughout the meat creating a very different perception from a traditionally grilled or roasted meat product,” he says.
The flavor you get when you grill something is due to fat dripping into the fire, says Robert E. Rust, Professor Emeritus, Iowa State University, and president and chief executive officer of Rust Associates, Ames, IA. Processors try to mimic the flavor of the fat, the browning of the fat and meat proteins — plus added condiments.
“Today’s younger generation is probably more attuned to the grill flavors,” he notes. “Grills didn’t become popular until the 1950s. We’re in a barbecue era with much interest in grill flavors.”
Masking undesirable flavors
There is a need to mask undesirable flavors, such as lactates and diacetates, that are used in precooked products to keep them moist. Grilled and roasted flavors mask them well. New products are being introduced that are tailored to specific tastes such as pairing grilled flavor with mesquite smoke for a southwest flavor. Other new flavors include Cajun, jerky, and cherrywood smoke and grill flavor. But there can be too much of a good thing.
“Don’t overdo it,” Rust cautions. As with any flavoring, it should be complementary to the product — not overpowering. As with any product, if you’re making changes, approach it logically, and make sure you test it to verify it is acceptable to the consumer, Rust advises.
“Just because the company chief executive officer likes it doesn’t mean it’s going to fly. Does this improve your product?” he adds.
Two reasons for the increasing demand of grilled and roasted flavors are the perception of them being featured in ‘good-for-you’ food, as well as home-style, traditional, comfort foods, says Melissa Ventura, CEC, corporate research chef for Red Arrow Products Company LLC, Manitowoc, WI.. Foodservice operators are trying to capture the slow, home-style roasted taste, but without spending the hours it takes to prepare it.
One major trend in grilled flavors is distinguishing the type of grill being used and regionally targeting consumers. Poultry processors targeting the Hispanic market, for example, could use Red Arrow’s Grillin’® 2055, which provides a charcoal flavor — the style of grill used predominantly in that segment of the population. On the gourmet side, one major trend in the meat and poultry industry has been labeling specialty woods and methods. And then on the foodservice side, grilled and roasted flavors are being used not only on the protein itself, but also in the ingredients added to the protein through glazes and marinades. A retail or foodservice product like a Vietnamese-style steak could be sold in strips, ready to be used in salads or soups — and they could have an ashy-grill taste common in Vietnam, Ventura explains.
“One of the foods consumed the most at fairs and amusement parks is the barbecued turkey drumstick, and now you’re seeing it in the supermarket,” reports Sherry Rosenblatt, senior director of marketing and communications for Washington, D.C.-based National Turkey Federation. She adds that turkey is now available smoked and deep fried forms.
Intensity is crucial in the fine balance of imparting a grilled or roasted flavor to enhance the overall flavor, relays Stefan H. Strehler, senior development chef at Givaudan Flavors Corp., Cincinnati, OH. If the use levels are too high, however, other more delicate flavors will vanish.
Evolving tastes
One significant trend in both retail and foodservice markets is the ‘upscaling’ of products, says Susan Ismail, director of applications, Flavor Creation & Applications at McCormick & Co. Inc., Hunt Valley, MD. “Grilled and roasted flavors convey an upscale, gourmet perception for consumers. For instance, an ordinary pizza becomes a culinary masterpiece when topped with roasted chicken,” she says.
One of the strong positives of using flavor systems is the ability to impart a flavor nuance with a unique culinary flair, adds Gregory L. Yep, director, Flavor Creation, Flavor Creation & Applications at McCormick. This is becoming more popular in terms of ethnic profiles, for example — the ability to differentiate a Satay profile from a Tandoori profile.  
“The two biggest mistakes made when applying flavors to any system are not matching the application method to the proposed use, and the improper use level of the flavor. Proper execution on both issues is critical to successful flavor system use,” Yep advises.
Flavors are application-specific, and a processor’s best approach is to work closely with the supplier’s development team to identify the most appropriate flavor system for the product and processing requirements.
Yep forecasts there will be more selection of pre-marinated meats in an increasing variety of flavors. Overall, expect improved grill characters: less kerosene notes with a more natural-grill profile. Sweet-grill products, such as teriyaki grill, are also becoming popular. In general, the trend toward more ethnic styles in marinades and rubs, such as Asian and Hispanic profiles, will continue to influence both retail and foodservice industries, he predicts. NP
Sandy Parlin is a freelance journalist based in the Chicago area.

Ingredient suppliers participating in this feature include:
• Advanced Food Systems Inc., phone (732) 873-6776, e-mail, or visit
• Excalibur Seasoning Co. Ltd.,  phone (309)347-1221, or (888)367-3985, e-mail, or visit
• Givaudan Flavors Corp., phone (513)948-3576, e-mail, or  visit
• Kraft Food Ingredients Corp., phone (901) 381-6500 or (800) 323-1092, or visit
• McCormick & Co. Inc.,  fax (410) 527-8071, e-mail, or
• Red Arrow Products Company LLC, phone (920)769-1100, e-mail, or visit
• WILD Flavors, phone (859) 342-3600 or (800) 677-2722, or visit