Passport To Taste
By Jennifer Zegler, contributing editor
Marinades and rubs provide an answer for time-crunched consumers who are more interested in exotic flavors.
The flavors used in marinated or rubbed meat and poultry cover huge tracts of land. They can include ‘southern style’ chicken or ‘western style’ steaks. Or spice it up with globe-spanning Jamaican jerk, Italian style or teriyaki flavors. Consumers’ palates have diversified as well, and they clamor for these tastes in their protein products. Yet, consumers also have become more time-crunched, and marinades and rubs are providing the answers.
“Meat and poultry are more flavorful, tender and juicy when marinated, especially when lesser cuts of meat are used,” Sandra Burt, senior food technologist at McCormick & Co., Hunt Valley, MD, says. “Rubs provide that ‘wow’ factor that helps consumers think that they will like a product before they’ve tasted it. When consumers see lemon peel, whole herbs or crushed red chili flakes, they expect that the meat or poultry will have great flavor, or ‘taste as good as it looks.’”
Marinades and rubs are similar, yet their roles are quite different. Marinades help to enhance moisture in meat or poultry, and rubs add eye-appeal. Yet, neither one is short on adding that much-needed flavor boost.
“Marinades provide consistent flavor throughout a cut of meat or poultry,” Burt says. “They also function to keep meat moist, which is better for the consumer and essential for the processor as the yield from the animal is optimized.
“In addition, the marinade may provide an antimicrobial effect and extend the shelf-life of fresh or thawed protein.”
The characteristic visible flavor flakes in rubs helps to whet appetites. “Rubs function as a catalyst to deliver more excitement into the eating experience,” says Zachery Sanders, senior flavor scientist at Kraft Food Ingredients, Memphis, TN. “Not only do they provide flavor but also improve appearance.”
Companies are working to make their products more flavorful and more helpful to the average consumer. “Marinades and rubs take all of the prep work out of preparing dinner,” Sanders says. “The consumer can have a juicy, flavorful piece of protein in minutes that would normally take an hour or two of marinating and rubbing. Again, the consumer is always looking for something different and flavorful.”
Worldly Appeal
Classic flavor profiles, such as roasting, grilling, and rotisserie, remain in the fold, but more consumers are willing to experiment with flavored-protein options.
“Classics are still the mainstay, but much bolder flavors (are in),” says Dianne Pallanich, industrial sales specialist with Williams Ingredients, Lenexa, KS.
Williams Ingredients is seeing a drive in savory and fruit-sweet-hot flavors for customers. Their trendy flavors include South American, Island cuisine and Gypsy, which Pallanich describes as “rustic, peasant-style foods.” The profiles of these trendy flavors are even more complex.
“There is more emphasis on spicy — not just heat, but more complex flavor combinations such as Jerk and Chimichurri,” she says. “Unique smoked chilies will emerge. So will citrus fruits, pods, and seeds previously untasted by the American consumer as in tamarind and sour orange. Also, chefs will begin to utilize spices from the Middle East, such as cardamom, tumeric and cassia, in non-traditional applications.”
At French’s Flavor Ingredients, of Springfield, MO,  Hispanic flavors are attracting attention in proteins. According to Kent Caplinger, director of ingredients business for the company, the products also must appeal to second- and third-generation Hispanics seeking convenience, in the form of ready-to-use sauces, fresh meat products, or frozen meat products.
“Hispanic is still a great flavor [profile], but it needs to be tempered to America’s lifestyle for mainstream opportunities, both flavor and convenience,” Caplinger says. “Products are available in both retail and foodservice — particularly the precooked pork, beef, and poultry products that can be used for entrees, sandwiches, luncheon meats, and appetizers.”
Kraft Food Ingredients also is experiencing the globalization of flavors, explains Sanders. “We are observing increasing trends in ethnic profiles,” he says. “Today’s consumer is always looking for something different than just salt, pepper, garlic, and onion. Mexican, Thai, Mojo, and Mediterranean profiles are becoming more common.”
In fact, Kraft Food Ingredients helped foster the globalization when it created a French-inspired flavor in 2005. “One of our most intriguing flavors of 2005 would have to be the Mirepoix flavor,” Sanders says. “The term ‘Mirepoix’ was derived from a small town in France near Toulouse. This flavor consists of a tri-medley of onion, carrot, and celery with a unique cooked note. This flavor does wonders for soups, sauces, and bases, but it can also provide a creative spin to poultry products.”
Keeping it Healthy
As their taste buds have gotten more adventurous, consumers have kept an eye on health. One issue for marinade suppliers today is sodium content. The industry is debating how sodium might be removed from marinades without removing the flavor.
“A topic of discussion in the industry today is sodium levels, as people continue to focus on health and wellness,” Burt explains. “In the past years, we have developed some outstanding marinades with low sodium content that fit the needs of health-conscious, yet flavor-starved, consumers.”
As some companies maintain a specialized focus on lowering sodium, Kraft Food Ingredients takes a look at all areas of health concerns, Sanders explains. “Requests for consumer products have been more geared toward health and wellness, which is one of our priorities,” he says. “Low-sodium, non-trans fat, natural, allergen-free products are in demand.”
For its part, Kraft Food Ingredients will continue to keep an eye on health, says Craig Rich, business manager at the company. “Meat and poultry companies will continue to develop more value-added products,” he explains. “Kraft Food Ingredients continues to see high demand for health and wellness products. As companies continue to introduce lower-fat products, they will require more flavor to compensate for the reduction in fat. Products such as our sautéed, lard, fried, and butter flavors can assist in bridging this gap.”
Whether focused on health-consciousness or not, the future of flavors is bold — either via further globalization and cultural specialization, more exotic flavors, or better focus on delivering excellent taste and waistline-safe options. That future, however, does put some onus on the imagination of those who develop flavors.
McCormick’s Burt, for instance, sees plenty of interest in the intermingling of flavors, “Across the food industry, the combination of fruit flavors with savory is becoming more popular, and this is the case with flavor profiles for meat and poultry as well,” Burt says. “I expect to see more fruit and savory twists for rubs and marinades.”
There certainly exists a bounty of ethnic and exotic flavors that the adventurous American consumer palate has available to sample in the future — flavors like coffee, chocolate and chilies that Williams Ingredients’ Pallanich predicts will be big.
“Unusual chiles, fruit and heat, and exotic spices and herbs will be used in rubs and marinades in pronounced or layered flavor applications,” she explains.
New marinated and rubbed proteins will continue to influence consumers who are adventurous in flavors, but still health-minded. It’s certain that flavors will continue to get bolder over time.
After all, the area for expansion is as large as the globe. NP