East And West Cuisine: Driven By Taste And Flavour

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018

With exotic flavours such as curries in the limelight, the vegetarian juggernaut thunders on—according to seasoning experts, RAPS GmbH. 

In 2016, almost every fifth person in the Asia-Pacific region was vegetarian, with India topping the bill according to Statista Germany in 2016. By contrast, only six percent and five percent of the population in North America and Europe respectively, have opted to refrain from eating meat. In these regions, frequent meat consumption is almost fundamental and, as such, giving up animal products is often associated with a longing for the authentic taste that former meat lovers associate with their childhood.

In countries such as Germany, for example, an exciting meat substitute market is emerging, with several sausage and meat producers dedicating themselves to this trend and expanding their vegetarian and vegan product offerings. At the same time, demand for healthy and home-cooked food is on the rise—and not just limited to vegetarians and vegans.

A potential issue is the fact that certain vegetable-based raw materials—such as soy, wheat or peas—have quite distinctive taste profiles. Consumers are selective. They want their food to be both natural and great tasting, which is allowing some interesting alternative sources—including rice flakes, for example—to enter the market. A pioneer in the development of authentic-tasting meat alternatives, German ingredient specialist RAPS offers a free-form base product based on rice flakes as a meat substitute.

The company combines more than 90 years of taste experience with a profound working knowledge of spices and the ability to deliver both bespoke recipes and a complete application service for customers wishing to develop vegetarian products. The company’s Veggie Line, for example, includes a comprehensive range of vegetarian and vegan ingredients, compounds and recipes for convenience foods, snacks and meat replacements, complemented with dairy product alternatives.

At first glance, East and West cuisine may seem to be poles apart. Yet, both are driven by taste and flavour—owing to a burgeoning desire for more exotic and Asian-oriented dining experiences. Curry is still the king and, despite its long history, continues to gain traction in the flavour market. In Europe, according to Innova Market Insights, the Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) for curry-themed product launches was higher than in Asia during the last few years.

What’s more, curry scores in a number of market sub-categories, including vegetarian meat substitutes (33.4 percent), fish and seafood (44.6 percent) and other dishes (53.6 percent), as well as dominating the Thai green and red curry sector. According to forecasts, curry blends from the kitchens of Sri Lanka and Cambodia will soon become more popular because of their complex flavours.

The global use of spices is also influencing new product introductions. However, given that many manufacturers do not actually list these ingredients on the label, it is difficult to assess their full scope of use. However, one ingredient that is clearly identifiable is chilli. Occurring in 10.5 percent of end-products in 2017, it was more commonly used than pepper, curry and salt. Hot on its heels, though, is ginger. With its health-promoting effects and multi-functionality, the use of this tuber has grown by 28 percent during 2012–2016.

Driven by the increasing awareness and desire for ethnic tastes, the global menu is forecast to become ever more exotic in the future. As a result, more and more Asian-inspired convenience meals are on the rise. Those which are popular include Pho, Oyakodon and Laksa, or the blend of Japanese and Peruvian cuisine—Nikkei.

So, what’s the best way to track these trends and how do we know what’s coming next? By dipping a finger into the pots and pans of the world’s leading chefs and restaurants, and watching how the effects of new culinary experimentation finds its way into the data analyses of trend researchers.