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Global Trends on Texture & Taste

Anh Nguy, Project Leader, Culinology, Ingredion Inc.

Anh Nguy, project leader of culinology at Ingredion Inc., addressed the attendees of the NAFFS 99th Annual Convention by talking about trends around the globe in texture and taste. “At Ingredion we use the Baum & Whiteman International Food & Restaurant Consultants from New York because they are known worldwide for trends information,” said Nguy. “Their 2016 report for the restaurant industry covers everything from Uber and drones as sources of delivering food – think of a drive-up window without leaving home – to white tablecloth restaurants. Today I will focus on just the savory side and base my presentation on texture trends.”

Nguy said the hottest trends in 2016 for food and beverages include simple ingredients. “Everyone is looking to remove any chemical-sounding names from their menus and offer ‘clean’ menus. They want to convey simple ingredients because that’s what consumers want,” said Nguy. Citing McDonald’s as an example, Nguy noted last year McDonald’s removed margarine from its chain and switched to butter because butter is considered “cleaner” and recognized as more “natural.” She cited Panera Bread, which is looking to remove 150 additives, preservatives and flavorings from its system by year end. “They, like many other companies, are pushing for simple ingredients in their products fueled by consumer demand. ‘Big Food’ companies are getting rid of ingredient ‘weirdness.’ Why? Because bloggers are calling them out for any unusual words in their ingredient label.”

Other trends, she said, may seem more surprising. Pasta, Nguy said, is considered an endangered species. Pasta sales are down globally as more people cut or shun carbs and turn their focus to protein and vegetables. “Believe it or not, in Italy the consumption of pasta over the past five years has gone down 24 percent,” said Nguy. “And pasta consumption has gone down 8 percent in Australia, 13 percent in Europe and 6 percent in the U.S. The types of diets people are going to, such as Paleo, low-carb or gluten-free, have contributed to this reduction.” Even consumers who aren’t avoiding carbs have other nutritious choices, such as quinoa and chickpeas, so that had added to pasta’s woes.

Nguy said 2016 saw vegetables begin taking over the plate. The popularity of “local” food, combined with an increased number of flexitarians as well as consumers just looking to eat “healthier,” is driving this trend, she said, adding that McDonald’s in Japan launched a chicken patty with bits of corn, edamame and carrots which is topped with ketchup.

Nguy cited another hot trend – acai bowls. “This is fundamentally a big bowl smoothie with bits of fruit puree, crunchy toppings and lots of ice that you eat with a spoon instead of sipping through a straw.”

Ancient grains and pulses also rose in popularity in 2016, helped by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations announcing 2016 as the year of the pulses. The reason they did was to bring awareness to the health benefits of pulses and the sustainability because they are nitrogen-generating. Pulses self-sustain and don’t take a lot of water to grow, explained Nguy. They are dried seeds of legumes, such as chick peas, fava beans and peas. “And now you can get this in a dry form and use it in finished products such as snacks and even sauces,” said Nguy.

Snacking reveals clues about the future of flavors, Nguy said. “People are actually snacking four to five times a day now instead of consuming large meals, particularly Millennials. They find jerky as a go-to snack because it has protein and compound flavors, such as cranberry jalapeno, honey jalapeno bacon, buffalo chicken and Korean BBQ.” She said there’s been a shift from sweet to savory because savory is more satiating. Sugar, she added, is this year’s culinary “bad guy.” Savory yogurts are on the rise. They started out as a healthy snack and are now being considered part of a healthful plate. Many will eat this as the meal itself.

Plant-based protein is a growing trend, Nguy said, because Millennials want the goodness of wholesome ingredients. “And Millennials are getting away from eating more of the beef products because of its contribution to global warming due to the amount of water it takes to feed a cow. Millennials understand that concept so they are reducing their consumption of meat products and turning more to pulses and soy products. You’ll see them eating a lot of bean bars, lentil bars and chickpea snacks,” Nguy said.

Nguy then shifted her presentation to recent findings by Ingredion’s Global Culinology Team, which was inspired by regional texture preferences. “Around the globe the biggest trend the team noticed in terms of texture was health and wellness, followed by nutrition,” said Nguy. “By nutrition, we mean by addition of items such as pre-biotic, fiber and protein and by subtraction of things such as fat, sugar and salt.”

Another global trend on the rise is multi-texture eating experiences, Nguy said, referencing a prototype on the screen of a very popular Filipino-inspired dessert, haluhalo, which consists of sweetened condensed milk and layers of different textures of coconut, mango, jackfruit, gel and “shave” ice (not shaved ice – the ice is lighter and flakier, allowing it to absorb more syrup). They drizzle sweetened condensed milk over it and top it with purple ice cream. The dish is very colorful and fun to eat. “When you dig into the dessert with all the different layers of ingredients, it’s a whole texture experience in your mouth. You get sweet, cold, chewy, mushy and crunchy all at once. Millennials just love this dessert. When Ingredion brought this to an IFT show, it was gone by Sunday,” she said.

Nguy showed examples of North American culinology concepts. Ingredion’s team came up with a chickpea-based “Hummus Fries.” Chickpea flour was used as a base for a French Fries concept that Nguy compare to hummus. To accomplish that, they added Ingredion’s cold texturizer, N-DULGE C1, which gives an oily mouthfeel without providing a lot of fat. This fed into the healthy profile trend. Then they added the Gel’N’Melt product which helps gel it to a mold so it can be formed. They poured the hummus spread into a sheet pan and it set in the fridge. And when it set, they just cut it into the shape of French Fries so they could fry it. “The great thing about this dish is that it tastes like it’s been breaded but it’s not,” said Nguy. “It has a light, crispy texture on the outside and a creamy, smooth texture on the inside. It was a big success.”

Some other product examples from North America and other regions:

● To create something for the “flexitarian” concept, they came up with a veggie chicken patty – a 50/50 patty of chicken and pulse protein so that it offered a good amount of protein plus the healthy addition of pulses. Then they used a clean label starch to bind that together as well as keep the product succulent after it’s baked.

● Gluten-free pita bread: They replaced all the wheat flour with a gluten-free flour system and a chickpea flour to make the pita bread taste like traditional pita bread.

● Turkish Simit bread which is very popular in New York City right now. It’s a bagel-like bread but it doesn’t have the bagel texture that one might expect. It’s less chewy, more flaky and lighter. “We added a fiber starch to the dough and baked it which gave it a nice crusty and crispy outer coating to make it taste like a bagel,” said Nguy.

● A concept that included a gluten-free churros that tastes just like the traditional churros. Gluten-free is a very popular trend in South America right now, Nguy said. “The Ultra-Crisp CS was able to give it the nice crunchy texture outside while the Instant Pureflo gives it the chewy texture on the inside.”

● Guava ketchup. Providing some background on the region, Nguy noted guava is an indigenous fruit in South America and tomato solids are very expensive in South America. So in order to make a cost-reduced product, they applied guava puree to the ketchup so they could take out some of the tomato solids. They added a co-texturizer starch to it to give it a mouthfeel similar to conventional ketchup.

● Brigadeiro, a Brazilian chocolate caramel treat. “If you attend a birthday party, wedding shower or baby shower, you have to have Brigadeiro,” said Nguy. “In fact, it’s brought as a gift to the bride or the shower party.” Brigadeiros contain a lot of fat, butter and sweetened condensed milk. So when the team prepared the prototype, they took out the sweetened condensed milk and applied a low-fat sweetener that is also non-GMO. “When we took out the fat, we added N-DULGE CA1 texturizer to give it a nice mouthfeel, like caramel would do. So we were able to achieve that and create a healthier version.”

● The Asia-Pacific team developed an all-in-one braising sauce (oyster sauce regular and Sichuan flavor). To coincide with the popularity of fried chicken, the team created a green curry Thai Fried Chicken. They also developed an egg-free mayonnaise dressing made with passion fruit. They were able to take out all of the fat meeting the nutrition by reduction trend by removing the fat and the eggs. They have a system of starches and emulsifiers which they were able to put into the mayonnaise dressing to make it taste just like mayonnaise but with a healthier profile. Next they added passion fruit into the mayonnaise because passion fruit is very acceptable in Asian culture plus it grows in the region as well.

● The Australian team came up with a kale and ancient grain prototype. It’s a mix of vegetables and grain with kale and utilizes Ingredion’s instant starch to tie everything together. Nutraflora is a probiotic which is very sticky so that helps with the binding as well as adding a sweetness to the product. That team also created a Lankan Yellow Mango Curry Sauce which made use of lentil flour. This provided homestyle appeal to those looking for wholesome ingredients.

● The European culinology team developed a quinoa and chia seed falafel because falafel is very popular in Europe and even in New York City now. They used a pulse protein and chickpea flour to keep the ingredient profile wholesome. At the same time they came up with a chickpea pita chips prototype which is similar to pita bread but developed into a chip. Next they created a pomegranate yogurt dressing which is instantly made fresh by yogurt. They were able to remove some of the oils that would be added for dressing and use a cold process to create this fresh, wholesome prototype to go with salad.

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