Across the world, eating habits have changed during COVID to include a lot more home cooking and convenient delivery of foods from once-packed restaurants when the home-cooked meals just won’t cut it every night. As more North Americans seek out the delicious restaurant-quality food they miss and the sweet treats that used to brighten up their days, Asian food, snacks, and beverages are trending at the top of attempts by home chefs to recreate or seek out when looking for convenience, indulgence, and preventative health in their diets.
Home Cooking with an Asian Twist
With COVID came an increase in home cooking from necessity and entertainment, a trend seen happening worldwide including in Asia and North America. This increase also came with a newfound or increase in curiosity to try new recipes in the kitchen to add a little excitement to their meals, yet at the same time, convenience and simplicity were still at the forefront of people’s minds. One way North Americans can still get that flavor from the take out they love and miss is by incorporating Asian-style marinades and seasonings into their meals, with flavors like spice and salted egg yolk sprinkled on or mixed in with veggies and meat to mimic popular dishes but with quick and simple preparation.
What people love about restaurant-made Asian cuisine that often gets missed while recreating at home is the complex umami tastes that are hard to replicate. To achieve this, home chefs are looking out more for seasoning sauces with culinary notes like onion and roasted or smoked flavors to give their meals layers of that umami edge.
Hand in hand with the pandemic changing people’s eating habits comes the need to choose healthier foods to aid in immunity boosting and prevention. There are more consumers turning their interests to alternative meat after the COVID outbreak raised concerns over food safety and health. Plant-based meats have been seeing high sales in Asia and has been seen as a growing trend in North America as well. Because of this need, there are alternatives now for everything from beef or chicken that can be easily switched out in all of their favorite meat-based dishes by home chefs turning more towards a plant-based lifestyle in the wake of coronavirus.
Soup has always been the go-to winter comfort dinner, but plain old “chicken noodle” has gotten an upgrade over the years especially with the popularity of ramen. At-home chefs missing the flavor-packed bowls of soup are looking towards buying higher-quality, Asian-style noodles, as well as fish, vegetables – like cabbage and seaweed, and immunity-boosting ingredients like ginger and garlic, to amp up their own soups while also looking for low-sodium, low-fat broth to increase nutrition. They’re interested in the healthier ingredients they recognize in their restaurant-quality bowls of ramen and want to bring that home in order to stay healthy while also indulging in a heartier, more flavorful noodle than what might come out of a can.
DIY Sweet Snacking
The act of stopping for a quick treat at a sweet shop to inject a little fun and happiness to a day out running errands is a foreign concept in a COVID world. Consumers are instead trying to recreate their favorite desserts at home, especially sweet Asian treats. Recipes for DIY mochi, brown sugar boba, waffle taiyaki, and other Asian desserts have gone viral on Tik Tok with younger Americans aspiring to recreate the adventure of trying these treats at an Asian night market. Exotic foods are helping consumers experience “mental vacations” and feel less like they’re trapped inside. They are also searching out more boxed delivery services that deliver a variety of snacks to their door, speaking to the more adventurous and experimental with global flavors trend that’s been increasing over the years with consumers.
There is also room for health when it comes to seeking out sweet snacks. People are more cautious these days about what they are putting into their bodies, but they also want the freedom to indulge. Many Asian flavors give snacks and desserts a decadent edge while still providing health and immunity association. Ingredients like honey and yuzu in ice cream are a good source of vitamin C, antioxidants, and antibacterial properties that help improve the digestive system and boost immunity. So because consumers recognize the health benefits, they feel better about indulging in something decadent yet comforting.
Beverages for Health and Gamers
When thinking of how to boost health, many consumers turn first to beverages that boast their healthy ingredients and benefits boldly on their labels, with anything from “lower in sugar” to fruits and botanicals to alternative proteins. Many Asian flavors are becoming the forefront ingredients on these beverages in things like black tea and smoothies but also in new ways that are getting the attention of the North American consumer. Consumers recognize citrus, ginger, and honey as natural remedies for hydration, cleansing, and wellness, and are now seeing the introduction of these flavors in things like golden milk and drinking yoghurt which may not be as familiar but are drawn to because of the well-known association with the ingredients. Consumers tend to buy what they know from brands they trust but are also adventurous enough to try something new when associated with the familiar.
While health is at the forefront of pandemic eating habits, there is also the need for convenience and quick relief, especially in the subsection of consumers that spend hours playing video games and can’t afford to be away from their keyboards for long.
The gamer culture in Asia is strong and has perfected keeping gamers hydrated, full, and alert to stay at peak performance. This gaming trend is growing exponentially in North America due to lockdowns and boredom inside, which has also increased the need for convenient energy. Energy drinks are on the rise with interesting twists from Asia that go beyond the sugary sweetness often associated with them. Flavors like sparking cold brew coffee with citrus or sticky rice and dark chocolate cereal drinks delivered in pouches give busy gamers and anyone in need of a convenient energy solution the quick boost to get through their day.