How Can Formulation Development Deliver Traditional Ethnic Foods to Hungry Consumers?

traditional ethnic foods dumplings
How can firms capitalize on the consumer demand for the flavors and spices found in traditional ethnic foods?
Image source: Flickr CC user SteFou!

Move over kale and quinoa. Consumer demand for so-called superfoods has given way to another trend this year: authentic, traditional ethnic foods and flavors. Experts say that 2016 will be characterized by a growing interest in international cuisines, condiments and spices.1 There are a couple of factors that contribute to this trend. One is the sustained popularity of flavors like sriracha, the now-ubiquitous hot sauce from Thailand. As sriracha becomes a staple in households and even non-Asian restaurants across the US, food companies have begun searching for the next hot flavor trend, hoping to replicate its success.

The other factor is consumers’ increasingly active and on-the-go lifestyles. Rather than spend hours to prepare a sit-down meal, more people are relying on prepared, portable foods. As a result, the street foods of various international cuisines are finding a new audience. For example, just look at how common Asian dumplings are becoming.2

To make the most of this trend in food formulation development, food companies first need to address today’s consumer desires to enjoy international cuisine (but without necessarily having to travel to the far reaches of the world for it). Convenient, easily accessible traditional ethnic foods are one of the best ways to do that.

The Demand for Authentic Traditional Ethnic Foods Reflects a Changing Consumer Base

Thanks to the internet, the world has grown smaller, exposing people to cultures—and cuisines—they otherwise never would have heard of. This blog has previously discussed how social media has made buyers more adventurous in the flavors they seek out. But in addition to increased awareness about the existence of traditional ethnic foods, people also know what those cuisines should look and taste like. They seek authenticity of experience: long gone are the days when busy consumers would be satisfied with microwaveable ramen in a Styrofoam cup.

Indeed, people want more. They don’t want to sprinkle a packet of powdered flavor seasoning over their food. Most of the time, it’s difficult to tell what’s in those artificial mixes. Consumers want the complete experience: traditional cooking methods and authentic herbs and spices, particularly if the flavors reminiscent of a mother’s or grandmother’s kitchen.3 And as the United States grows more multicultural, that demand will only increase.

Formulating Traditional Ethnic Foods for Eaters that Prize Variety and Convenience

For many people, this quest for ethnic authenticity clashes with ease of preparation. Consumers want the convenience of being able to enjoy traditional ethnic foods within their own homes and on the go, but they don’t necessarily want to deal with the hassle of sourcing exotic ingredients and learning unfamiliar cooking techniques. (Speaking from personal experience, I’ve had to accompany more than one intimidated friend to the Asian grocery store, so I can sympathize with this sentiment.)

But in addition to pre-packaged foods that save on time and stress, today’s buyers also want variety in format. Sometimes they want food to simply heat and eat, perfect for workday lunches. Other times, they’re looking for marinated meats ready to cook for that increasingly rare sit-down family dinner at home.

As with all trends, the burgeoning interest in traditional ethnic foods focuses on some regions more than others. Like the ever-popular sriracha, flavors and spices from Southeast Asian countries are becoming more trendy such as Indonesia’s own hot sauce, sambal. In fact, condiments that deliver flavorful heat are increasingly sought after. Food companies interested in this area can incorporate spices such as gochujang from Korea or ghost pepper from India. Other regions that firms can look toward for inspiration are the Middle East, Africa and Cuba.4

The current trend for traditional ethnic foods is only certain to grow as the world becomes more interconnected and multicultural. Food companies can capitalize on the demand by creating new and exciting formulations that tap into desire, making use of authentic flavors and spices and injecting them into familiar or convenient formats. But since consumer interests shift quickly, organizations will need to respond efficiently in order to capitalize on these opportunities to their best advantage.

BIOVIA offers digital solutions to food organizations seeking to deliver innovative flavors and formats. Our digital solution for Formulations in Consumer Packaged Goods Industries is a proven system for firms who want to create convenient, traditional ethnic foods for consumers who otherwise don’t have the time or inclination to cook for themselves. It helps laboratories streamline workflows, increase productivity and reduce costs with tools that eliminate inefficient paper solutions and boost collaboration between researchers. For an example of how a digital solution can streamline innovation and support collaboration, then please request our case study webinar or contact us to learn more about the Formulations in Consumer Packaged Good Industries digital solution.

  1. “Chefs predict hot food trends for 2016,” November 12, 2015, http://nrn.com/food-trends/chefs-predict-hot-food-trends-2016
  2. “How 10 Food Trends for 2016 Will Transform Restaurants,” October 28, 2015, http://www.forbes.com/sites/darrentristano/2015/10/28/how-10-food-trends-for-2016-will-transform-restaurants/#46ecf0ba5a35
  3. “Flavor trends venture all over the map,” February 16, 2016, http://bit.ly/1Mszhrz
  4. “2016 Flavor Trends for Food and Beverage,” January 6, 2016, http://www.nutritionaloutlook.com/food-beverage/2016-flavor-trends-food-and-beverage