As consumers look for more holistically healthy options in 2021, they’re turning towards nature. But that doesn’t mean food and beverage brands are limited to bland items. Instead, the focus on Natural Goodness extends into areas like sweeteners and botanicals, which can add exciting bursts of flavor to everything from desserts to main courses to alcoholic beverages.
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By turning away from processed ingredients and more toward natural ones, food and beverage brands can appeal to more consumers in 2021, without sacrificing taste. In fact, many of the trending ingredients for 2021 can enhance flavor. These Natural Goodness-inspired trends include:
NEW NATURAL SWEETENERS
Underscoring how consumers’ emphasis on health isn’t limited to low-calorie items, many people now want their food and drinks to include natural sweeteners. Chefs, mixologists and others can experiment with different types of sugars and syrups that come from plants, some of which can even add new, interesting flavors to dishes and drinks. Trending natural sweeteners include:
● Yacón: This sweetener comes from a daisy from South America, with the plant’s potato-looking roots being used to create a sweet syrup. With a molasses-like consistency and somewhat of a caramel taste, yacón can be drizzled onto sweet dishes or incorporated into items for a naturally sweet kick. The company Rowdy Bars, for example, uses yacón syrup to sweeten its nutritional bars.
● Jaggery: Traditional sugar is still a natural sweetener in some sense, as it comes from the sugarcane plant. With jaggery, however, more of the sugarcane plant is used, as the molasses and crystals that occur in sugar production are not removed. This natural sweetener is often used in Asia and Africa, but it’s also now becoming more popular in North America. At Bombay Velvet, a fine dining Indian restaurant in Northern Virginia, they serve a dark rum cocktail with coconut water, jaggery, pineapple and cumin.
● Palm Sap Sugar: Another type of natural sweetener is palm sap sugar, which comes from palm tree flower buds. With somewhat of a butterscotch taste, this sugar offers a unique, natural way to flavor food and drinks. At Kalaya, a Thai restaurant in Philadelphia, they serve Southern-style fried chicken drumsticks that have a sweet glaze composed of palm sugar, fish sauce, and black and white pepper.
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Botanicals not only act as natural, plant-based ingredients. This wide category also includes so many possibilities for adding unique, complex flavors to all types of food and drinks. As consumers turn more toward natural flavor enhancers, look for the following types of botanicals to blossom in 2021:
● Hyssop: Part of the mint family, hyssop can provide a nice floral, minty taste to brighten dishes and drinks. At Santacafé, a fine dining restaurant in Santa Fe, New Mexico, they have served a halibut dish that includes a garnish of anise hyssop (similar to regular hyssop), as the Santa Fe Reporter notes.
● Scots Pine: Another botanical that can add intriguing flavor is Scots Pine, part of the pine tree family. Scots Pine buds are full of pollen, and it can be a great ingredient to add flavor to beer and other alcoholic drinks.
● Chickweed: This plant provides somewhat of a grassy, sweet taste, which makes it a great garnish. Ammatoli, a Mediterranean restaurant in Long Beach, CA, serves beet-labne toast garnished with chickweed, among other ingredients, as the Long Beach Post reports.
MEXICAN POWER HERBS
Many herbs that are typically used in Mexico are increasingly making their way into U.S. restaurants and beyond. Like the broader category of botanicals, Mexican herbs provide chefs, mixologists and others with unique ways to naturally flavor food and drink. Some of the Mexican herbs likely to be popular in 2021 include:
● Pipicha: This Mexican herb provides flavors similar to cilantro combined with mint. In Atlanta, the restaurant Gato serves an Oaxacan dish, tlayuda, that has a red corn crispy tortilla topped with ingredients like mushroom, summer vegetables, Oaxacan rope cheese, pipicha and more.
● Hoja Santa: This herb, which translates to “sacred leaf,” has flavor notes such as anise and eucalyptus, making it a great addition to savory dishes and cocktails. In Dallas, Jalisco Norte has served an hoja santa margarita, as the Dallas Observer reports.
● Mexican Mint Marigold: Don’t be fooled by the name. This herb provides more of a licorice flavor, which can be used for many different types of desserts and drinks. A San Antonio distillery, Maverick Whiskey, makes a dry gin that gets its flavors from Mexican mint marigold, among other herbs and ingredients like rosemary, pecans, juniper berries, and more.
Nature provides an abundance of flavors that can align with consumers’ desire for wholesome, healthy ingredients. At the same time, leaning into these flavor trends can provide restaurants and other food and beverage brands with opportunities to create unique dishes and drinks.
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