Marination Madness!
By Shonda Dudlicek
A wide range of marinades are helping to create more moist and flavorful value-added meat and poultry products.
With the explosion of ethnic cuisines, the future looks bright for marinated meat and poultry products. Any piece of meat can be enhanced and flavored with marinades to create a value-added product, both in terms of flavor and convenience. What’s more, marinades can be forgiving to an overcooked piece of meat, as well.
Since meat and poultry processors are always looking for ways to improve the selling price for their products and consumers will forever want great-tasting products, marinades can be a win-win for processors and consumers alike.
Traditionally, pork has been the leader in this segment, says Karen Boillot, director of retail marketing at the National Pork Board, Des Moines, IA.
Pork was the leader among meats in value-added products, relays a 2004 National Meat Case Study that examined 104 retail stores in 43 key metro markets across 29 states. Twelve percent of pork packages are value added, compared to 8 percent for turkey, 6 percent for chicken, 4 percent for beef, 1 percent for ground beef, and statistically none for veal and lamb. The meat case study was sponsored by America’s Beef Producers through the Beef Checkoff program, the National Pork Board, and Cryovac/Sealed Air Corp.
Pork is making the best use of marinades for one reason, says Bruce Armstrong, research and development manager of meat and poultry at Kerry Savory in Waukesha, WI. “As consumers, we overcook pork. By marinating pork, we have created products which are moist and tasty even when overcooked,” he says.
More products are marinated for both retail and foodservice because marinades are the classic “win-win situation,” Armstrong says. “The processor is able to add moisture to the protein product. This allows processors to charge a more economical price for their product.”
Marination also offers many options for different flavors. “Something as simple as a savory flavor to bring out the natural flavor of the protein or a flavor as complex as a sub-Asian flavor incorporating many spices and flavors,” Armstrong says.
The top value-added pork flavors identified in the pre-mentioned study were teriyaki, peppercorn, and barbecue. Garlic was often paired with onion, lemon, or rosemary.
The versatility of beef makes this protein a good companion for marinades, says Randy Irion, director, retail marketing at Chicago-based National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. “A lot of trends in marinated beef really take their cue from ethnic cuisine, with more Asian marinades and more Mexican flavors,” Irion says.
He notes that Kraft Foods has introduced an A-1 marinade in the condiments aisle, and the beef association will run free-standing inserts for the September tailgating season offering consumers $1 coupons for beef if purchased with A-1 steak sauce or marinade.
Southwestern and “authentic Mexican” flavor profiles like carnitas and Mexican chorizo are garnering interest as a marinade, says Susan A.S. Parker, research scientist at Memphis, Tenn.-based Kraft Food Ingredients, a division of Kraft Foods. “Comforting, ‘homestyle’ flavors like meat or poultry pan drippings flavor continue to be popular,” Parker adds.
Lemon is a good choice for chicken, relays Richard Lobb, director of communications for the Washington, D.C.-based National Chicken Council, so a lemon herb marinade is a popular choice for poultry, as are Italian flavors. Asian-inspired flavors also blend well with turkey, says Sherrie Rosenblatt, public relations director of the Washington, D.C.-based National Turkey Federation.
Because taste is what sells, traditional marinade flavors rule, says Marcy Epstein, M.P.H., C.N.S., C.D.-N., director of research and development at First Spice Mixing Co. Inc., Long Island City, NY. “However, many additional ingredients have been incorporated to compliment regional taste preferences including smoke, chilies, citrus, and wine flavors,” she says.
Hot ‘n spicy flavors
Hot and spicy flavors are all the rage in marinades. “Our palates are becoming more accustomed to a variety of flavors due to the changing ethnic population in the United States,” says Susan Worwa, public relations manager for Gold’n Plump Poultry, St. Cloud, MN. “Consumers will start to see more regionalized flavors from throughout Asia and Latin America, especially.”
Buffalo wing and regional barbecue flavors are popular, as well. “Hot flavors using chipotle pepper as a flavor base are generating excitement. This flavor incorporates both the hot and smoky flavors,” Armstrong says.
More processors are offering marinated products, either by injection or vacuum tumbling, involving less preparation time.
Marination not only improves the product, but makes it more competitive with other center-of-the-plate products, Lobb says. “People are willing to pay more for a product that offers them more in terms of flavor, convenience, or ease of preparation.”
But Dan Emery of Pilgrim’s Pride disagrees. The vice president of marketing at the Pittsburg, TX-based poultry processor says that while consumers may not prepare the entire meal, they often prefer to apply flavored marinade to meat themselves. He compares it to the reason that a cake mix requires the user to add an egg. “If you mix it up yourself, you feel like you at least made some of the meal yourself. If they add their own flavor to the meat, they feel like they’ve prepared dinner,” Emery says.
He says some consumers are put off by the idea of product enhancement, but in a blind taste test, 80 percent of consumers tested preferred an enhanced product over one that has not been enhanced.
“People like the convenience of flavored marinade, but it’s not the big-volume driver it could be,” Emery says. “Enhanced products, on the other hand, have taken the market by storm. It can take consumers seven to eight years to change their eating habits.”
Turkey consumption has extended beyond the holidays, and part of the reason for that is the innovation in making turkey options that are easy to get to the table and use in everyday meals. “Today if you walk into the store, you see ready-to-heat, ready-to-eat, and ready-to-grill, stir-fry, or put it in the oven,” Rosenblatt says. “Any time you’re looking at ways to get turkey on the table, you’ll see more in the way of marinades.”
Worwa agrees that marinades hasten dinner to the table. “Our consumers are telling us that they want healthy, nutritious meals for their families, but they don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen – especially during the busy work week. Another added benefit of marination is that it ensures the product remains moist throughout cooking.”
This added benefit is why marination is popular in foodservice, Armstrong says.
“The foodservice operator gains from marination because of the forgiving value of marinades,” he adds.
The flavor in meat and other protein products is in the fat and moisture portion, and once the product loses moisture the flavor value drops drastically.
“The kitchen staff may be able to control the cooking to optimize the flavor of the product. More often there is a delay in the cooking time. Thus, the meat, fish, or other product is over-cooked and most often dry,” Armstrong says. “Marinades incorporate extra moisture and ingredients to retain the extra moisture. Thus, the entrée presented to the consumer is moist, tender, and tasty.”
Miami-based Pollo Tropical restaurants serve fresh, marinated chicken dishes, marinating the chicken in tropical juices and herbs for 24 hours, says Christine Michaels, public relations manager. “The marination is a secret, proprietary recipe, but some known ingredients are orange juice and lime juice,” Michaels says. A roast pork dish, based on a traditional Caribbean recipe, is marinated in a mojo sauce, she says.
Achieving consistency
The most consistent marination is achieved through tumbling due to the fluctuation and speed, says Jay Hall, president of Pekin, Ill.-based Excalibur Ingredients. Even more popular is a liquid point-of-purchase marination, which Hall says is utilized in full-service grocery chains.
“Liquid marinade is so popular because consumers like to see the meat marinated --- and because it’s consistent. With injection, you’re not getting the proper amount. Liquid marinade works well for meat, poultry and seafood, across the board,” Hall says.
Hall says over the last five years, he’s seen an influx of marinated products. “I think we’ve seen the tip of the iceberg. Now there are lots of value-added products on the market,” he adds.
Pilgrim’s Pride, which enhances both by injection and tumbler, rolled out an enhanced fresh chicken line in early 2003. Emery points to the success of companies like Perdue, Smithfield, Swift, Tyson, Gold Kist, and Foster Farms for chicken and Tyson for pork.
Marination has brought attention to underutilized cuts of beef as processors look for ways to mask or improve the flavors of these highly flavored cuts, Parker says. “While marinated whole muscle pork, especially tenderloins and roasts, have been quite popular in retail, beef processors seem to have lagged behind in the trend of marinating meat cuts,” she says.
Packages of marinated beef are not as readily available as are other proteins. Round or chuck cuts would benefit most from marination. And veal isn’t a prime candidate for marination because the protein is naturally tender. “There are fewer options for the consumer to use,” Irion says. “But there are lots of opportunities with a great bottle of marinade. It gives the category new excitement.”
Boillot says pork tenderloin has traditionally been the most widely-flavored item, but she’s seen pork loin, as well as shoulder roasts, enter the category.
Chicken generally doesn’t need to be tenderized by a marinade, Lobb says. “Marination adds flavors and improves the consistency of the product.”
Epstein says portion control is also an added benefit for marinated products because portion sizes can be customized for single or multiple servings. “In addition, by using marinades, meat products have the added benefit of flavor consistency, increased water and moisture retention, and a longer shelf life,” she says.
The goal of modern marinades is to add and retain moisture. Soaking a protein in an acidic sauce worked well on older meat animals with tough connective tissue, Armstrong says, but today’s proteins are derived from young animals that yield tender, leaner meat. “The worst ingredient we can add to this type of uncooked meat or protein is an acid-based product such as barbecue sauce. The pH of the meat is lowered and, thus, the meat is less able to hold moisture. The resulting prepared product is dry and, thus, is perceived as tough,” Armstrong says. “The modern marinade is a water-based solution, which includes salt and phosphate.”
Sometimes dextrose is added to the mixture to help moisten meat. Marinades attempting to maximize the amount of moisture retention will include starches, soy proteins, and other water-binding, non-meat ingredients.
The wave of the future
New flavor combinations and taste preferences will help grow the marination category across all meats, Armstrong believes. “It is one of the truly great processes in the meat and protein product industry. Marination provides improved texture, perceived improved tenderness, and a platform for future flavors.” NP
Shonda Dudlicek is a freelance journalist based in the Chicago area.
Ingredient suppliers participating in this article include:
• Excalibur Seasonings, phone (309) 347-1221, fax (309) 347-9086
• First Spice Mixing Co. Inc., phone (800) 221-1105, fax (718) 361-2515
• Kerry Americas, phone (800) 334-4788
• Kraft Food Ingredients Corp., phone (901) 381-6555, fax (901) 381-6524