TRENDS IN MEAT
The pandemic has changed the way Americans are eating, cooking, and making food and beverage decisions while eating out and purchasing from stores. Across all categories, there is a growing emphasis on health and wellness with consumers seeking out ingredients to support their healthy lifestyle, while still leaving room for exploration, experimentation, and indulgence. Trends within the processed meat category reflect this sentiment as well as show opportunities to incorporate exciting, healthy, and delicious into existing dishes and ingredients. Below are the key trends in processed meat aligned with our 2021 Top Flavor Trends Report.
Consumers are increasingly looking to improve their health through the foods and beverages they choose and seeking ingredients that are health-promoting, with a specific interest in immunity boosting ingredients like vitamin C rich citrus fruits. Brands and restaurants are responding by developing recipes with hero immunity boosting ingredients.
One way to incorporate trending and healthy ingredients in the meat category is with toppers and glazes, one concept being an elderberry maple glaze. With the increase in demand for immunity boosting ingredients, elderberry is finding its way into more savory meat dishes. Elderberry is the dark purple berry from the European elder tree packed with antioxidants and vitamins that help boost the immunity system. Elderberries are not overly sweet, but they have a super bright flavor and the perfect earthy and tart balance that especially pairs well with a sweet ingredient like honey or maple.
Another avenue consumers seeking out foods and beverages that promote their overall health with the idea of food as medicine is reviving a renewed interest in Ayurvedic, a form of holistic practice focused on promoting balance between the body and mind. Chefs are finding new ways to incorporate ayurvedic ingredients, like fenugreek, into their food and beverage menus. Fenugreek is an herb similar to clover that is native to the Mediterranean region, southern Europe, and western Asia that gives food a sweet, nutty flavor. The fenugreek seeds used in cooking smell and taste somewhat like maple syrup and burnt sugar. It is highly valued pharmaceutically as it is a rich source of phytonutrients - properties that can help support a healthy human body.
One menu concept using fenugreek front and center is creating a fenugreek tandoori marinade which can be used for a variety of meat dishes, although it is most popular and traditionally paired with chicken. Fenugreek is most commonly found in Indian foods but it’s recently expanded into American foods, like fried chicken. DC restaurant, Service Bar, offers the flavorful Top That Burger made with buttermilk fried chicken seasoned with cayenne and fenugreek, bacon, and maple chicken jus on yeast doughnut buns topped with buttered pecans.
Going hand-in-hand with the search for healthy ingredients is an emphasis on natural better-for-you foods. Consumers are gravitating towards seasonings and spices that add the delicious balance of health benefits and flavor to their meat dishes. Mexican herbs, known for their complex, unique, and robust flavor profiles are finding their way into more and more menu items for their flavor punch and versatility in cooking.
Pipicha is an herbaceous plant native to Mexico, especially Oaxaca, that tastes like a cross between cilantro and mint, with hints of lemon and anise, and is increasingly being used to flavor savory dishes and meats. For example, Atlanta restaurant, Gato, offers tlayuda, a traditional Oaxacan cuisine, with house-made red corn crispy tortilla topped with mushroom and summer vegetables, Oaxaca rope cheese, bean puree, avocado, salsa amarillo verde, and pipicha. Also, Oxomoco, a Mexican restaurant in Brooklyn, offers lamb barbacoa flavored and topped with squash blossom, watercress, and a pipicha salsa.
Authentic Southern and Lowcountry flavors, ingredients, and recipes are finding their place in everyday cuisine, with an Asian fusion flavor twist combining meat dishes packed with warm and soothing flavors with distinctly Asian spices and flavor combinations to make something unique. For example, Eem restaurant in Portland has a pulled pork dish smothered in Thai red curry sauce.
But one iconic dish, Nashville hot chicken, has been getting the remix treatment all over the country with new takes including Mexican spices and Taiwanese flavors like Tianjin chili. Rojo’s Hot Chicken in Anaheim offers a Mexican Hot Chicken featuring charred nopal in the batter and a strong blend of Mexican spices. Also, Atlanta restaurant, Fred’s Meat & Bread, offers Korean fried chicken made with spicy cucumber, kimchi, cilantro, doenjang aioli. New York City’s Pecking House serves Taiwanese Chili Hot Chicken with buttermilk-brined, country-fried chicken finished with Tianjin chilis and Szechuan peppercorn.
Fried chicken and Southern cuisine feeds into consumers’ need for comfort and after an unpredictable year like 2020, people are looking to the familiar to bring them joy in their food. Chefs are experimenting with making common meat dishes and ingredients elevated, different, and surprising, yet still taste nostalgic and known, by revamping expensive and exquisite ingredients into comfort foods. One concept of this idea of bringing fancy to the familiar is with porchetta turkey deli meat, which elevates the typical sliced turkey sandwich to new heights with richer, more seasoned flavor for a more premium indulgence.
Another big industry hit by the pandemic is travel, leaving people to get creative and seek out exotic flavors at home. Consumers are traveling with their taste buds and seeking out global, bold, and unique flavors in their meat dishes. One of these bold and unique flavor profiles chefs are beginning to leverage more is fermented umami flavors, with one concept being the juicy and tangy kimchi chicken sausage. Another is embracing Middle Eastern heat with complex spices, chiles, and peppers with bold, unique flavor profiles. Baharat is a popular seasoning for lamb, chicken, beef, and fish, as well as soups and rice, and does not contain any salt. The reddish-colored powder has a deep, mildly sweet taste with a touch of smokiness – making it perfect pairing for pork and menu a concept like baharat pork sausage. Miss Ada in Brooklyn, NY features a kofta kebab on their appetizer take-out menu during the Covid-19 lockdown that included baharat, harissa and pine nuts.
There is also the search for comfort in global flavors, so chefs are bringing a sophisticated twist of different spices and flavors to popular profiles and dishes people know and love. Shichimi is a common Japanese spice mixture typically containing seven ingredients: ground red chili pepper, ground sanshō, roasted orange peel, sesame seed, hemp seed, ginger, and nori that’s increasingly showing up as a creamy complement to hearty and indulgent meat dishes. A menu concept like grilled shichimi togarashi chicken wings would be the perfect dish to highlight its zesty fruit flavor and warm spiciness.