In a world where imitations, counterfeiting and fakes are commonplace, authenticity is becoming both highly sought after and, in cases, hard to identify – not just in terms of fashion and entertainment, but in food too.
Spotting emerging ingredient and flavour trends can be difficult work, and if food manufacturers get it wrong , it can do more than leave a bad taste in consumers’ mouths.
McCormick this month launched its annual Flavour Forecast report, which aims to select culinary trends several years ahead of the curve.
Taking into account both macro and micro trends in the political, demographical and economical spheres, McCormick has put ingredients and food into a global context.
In its thirteenth year, the worldwide report brings together chefs, sensory scientists, dieticians, and marketing professionals to research and provide insight into up-and-coming ingredient trends.
In a statement, McCormick said its global exploration process has revealed the search for authentic ingredients is the common thread connecting food cultures around the world.
In the past the company has been credited with elevating once relatively unknown ingredients like chiplote, which really started making it mark in the ingredients industry in 2003.
In 2008, McCormick also included cocktail-inspired flavours in the Flavour Forecast. Since then about 3,000 new grocery products have hit the shelves with flavours like whiskey, ale, bourbon and brandy.
With this in mind the company has pinpointed five flavour predictions it believes will drive new product development and provide inspiration for menus across the country.
“Around the world we’re seeing a fascinating collision of tradition and innovation. Authentic, real ingredients are still at the core – though now they’re being enjoyed in unique updated ways that reflect a much more personalised approach to cooking and eating,” McCormick executive chef, Kevan Vetter, said.
1. Global my way
As travel becomes less expensive and we become a globalised, ‘borderless’ world, flavours are merging and evolving.
People are discovering ‘ethnic’ ingredients and finding ways to incorporate them beyond their traditional uses.
“Don’t be surprised if in the next few years Japanese Katsu, a tangy cross between BBQ and steak sauce, and Cajeta, a Mexican caramel, gain the broad appeal that once-regional tastes like Asian hot chilli sauce has achieved,” Vetter said.
Discovery is what is driving this trend. With infinite flavour possibilities available, McCormick have paired Katsu sauce with traditional and widely-used oregano; and star anise with Cajeta, a sweet and rich combination.
2. No apologies necessary
With so much uncertainty around in terms of economic instability, climate change, and political unrest, it is natural for people to look for gratification and escape. The food industry is seeing this trend through the development of sumptuous and rich flavours.
The ever-increasing demands of the modern world and a fear of being disconnected has sparked a “rational rebellion”, in food lovers and food professionals alike.
The rebellion is epitomised in an unapologetic escape from technological and enterprise demands as one makes a concerted effort to savour the detail of the eating experience.
This trend is all about giving into guilty pleasure and cravings in a bid to regain balance.
McCormick has highlighted a decadent dark chocolate, sweet basil and passionfruit combination as well as a mix of black rum, charred orange and allspice to lead this movement.
3. Personally handcrafted
A DIY approach to food can be incredibly healthy, soul cleansing, and often economically friendly.
As such, society has witnessed the emergence of the home-cook – a concept that has been captured (and created by) television series like My Kitchen Rules, Masterchef and The Cook and The Chef , not to mention the plethora food blogs popping up left, right, and centre on the world wide web.
This trend has fed people’s interest in authentic ingredients and true flavours.
McCormick’s research pinpoints the rustic and comforting ingredients of cider, sage and molasses as centrepieces of this grouping.
But what is exciting is the combination of smokey, sweet and spicy flavours, which McCormick presented in the form of smoked tomato, rosemary, chillies and sweet onion. The versatile and complex amalgamation energises sauces, jams, and marinades alike.
4. Empowered eating
People are becoming highly educated about health, wellness and the affects different foods have on the body.
This shifting relationship with food and ingredients has spiked a trend of clean and empowered eating.
Achieving “food zen” through a highly personalised and sustainable food harmony is at the heart of McCormick’s fourth tip for 2013.
The core ingredients which round off empowered eating includes the ancient faro grain, blackberry and clove mixture.
A play on textures promotes fresh eating with the coarse Middle Eastern inspired Dukkah – a blend of cumin, coriander, sesame seeds and nuts like macadamias or cashews. Added to this, unusually, is the bright crunch of market-bought broccoli.
5. Hidden potential
In a time where the world is pulling the purse strings, a waste not mentality is being enshrined in chefs’ kitchens, utilising previously discarded or less familiar cuts of meat or stalks of vegetables and subsequently unlocking the hidden potential of such ingredients.
Coaxing the full flavour out of every ingredient, McCormick has formulated a new take on meat and potatoes, transforming the connotation with hearty meat cuts, plantain and fragrant cinnamon quills.
This year’s Flavour Forecast flips what food professionals thought they knew about traditional ingredients and reinvigorates age-old favourites, like the fusion of ornamental artichokes, smoky paprika, and smooth hazelnuts.
A year of food excitement
Saving the world from boring food, McMcormick’s 2013 Flavour Forecast is in some cases surprising but in all cases exciting.
Zeroing in on trends is the easy part, McCormick chef Mark Garcia explained. It’s coming up with the recipes to match that’s tricky.
“One of the worst things we could do is just come up with a recipe where the ingredients don’t make sense but we thought they sounded cool together,” Garcia told Smithsonian.com.
“We clearly have to bring some techniques as well as some artistry to the process so that we create combinations that are both relevant but also make sense from a culinary standpoint.”
The front runner this year is expected to be Dukkah, simply because of its versatility, ability to add depth to a dish, and the fact that it is easily accessible.
Garcia said Dukkah is “one of those ingredients where literally the term ‘all-purpose’ comes to mind.”
Acceptance is another measure that needs to be considered when developing the yearly forecasts, a job that rests with McCormick’s senior scientist, Ami Whelan.
Whelan painstakingly conducts a sensory analysis of people’s responses to food, in an effort to reveal the likelihood of consumer acceptance.
“The senses help us make decisions about the foods we eat. For instance, the appearance of a strawberry helps us make a decision on whether the fruit is ripe,” Whelan said.
“The chefs and culinarians on the team have an extensive intrinsic knowledge of the basic sensory properties of foods and flavours and innately know, even prior to tasting, what might work well together and what likely does not,” she said.
“All of us on the team are foodies by nature, meaning that food and flavour is not just our job, but also our hobby and favourite past-time.”