Savory snacking has spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic given the ubiquitous lockdown measures. In trending themes, industry’s flavor houses note a prominent demand for exciting international tastes that provide consumers with a way to “travel the world from home.” FoodIngredientsFirst speaks to suppliers active in the salty foods segment to examine how fermentation, synergistic spices and the emergent “kokumi” trend can assist in creating a winning snacking experience.
“In the savory food space, we’re seeing the trend for globally inspired flavors move a step further towards tastes of certain key regions. Research shows that 68 percent of UK consumers have chosen well-known cuisines such as Chinese or Taiwanese as their takeout of choice in the last three months, and we are also seeing more niche regional cuisines grow in popularity,” says Bastian Hörmann, Director of Food Product Management at ADM.
“For example, South East Asian flavor profile blurring, found in the cuisine of the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam, is traveling westwards, and producers are discovering the novel appeal of combining sweet, spicy and sour tastes to create exciting new savory offerings. The trend for street food-inspired offerings shows no signs of slowing and is instead becoming more diverse and locally focused.”
Hörmann further outlines that the demand for regional tastes has also found a foothold in the flourishing barbeque flavor market, with producers looking to cater to more adventurous consumers by incorporating specific regional taste profiles from across North America and beyond.
ADM’s SpiceShots have been innovated to help manufacturers appeal to the 55 percent of the company’s surveyed European consumers who said they paid closer attention to exciting and novel flavors during lockdown as a means to “travel the world from home.” With variations including Calabrian, Levantine/Moroccan, Southern Hot ‘n’ Smokey, Yellow Curry and Korean, these oil-based condiments can be added at the end of cooking to help chefs transform their dishes. The rich, regional flavors are suitable for meat and plant-based applications, as well as a clean label positioning.
In addition, the flavorist’s Emerging Cuisines range encompasses a wide variety of customizable marinades that deliver tastes of the Middle East, Mexico, Greece, and the Caribbean alongside chutneys, relishes and antipasti products. The range offers producers highly versatile solutions for a wide range of products, from meat seasonings to novel side dishes.
Agneta Hoffmann, outlines that authentic and regional spice-varieties such as pepper from Nepal or Bengal will be spicing up the category in the years to come and can be underlined by using their natural extracts. “At the same time, bold flavor varieties based on umami notes or various herbs are seeing high potential, as well as the use of hemp flavors and extracts that provide a unique sensory appeal to a myriad of product categories such as sauces, snacks and many more.”
A range of aromatic taste varieties for savory applications inspired by global and regional culinary trends was launched. “From classic herbs and spices, to leaves, roots or superfoods and even mega trends such as hemp, our range of botanicals can be used in a variety of savory segments and applications. At the same time, extracts and blends made of organically cultivated raw materials also form part of our strategy, becoming even more evident with the start of the new EU regulations for organic food products in 2021,” comments Hoffman.
“We continue to see international cuisines as a key driver behind flavor,” echoes Orfhlaith Nagle. “Thai flavors deliver authentic taste experiences, and others such as kimchi and jackfruit are growing in familiarity and frequency as consumers continue to travel further and further. There has also been an emerging focus on algae and seaweed such as Kelp, Carrageenan, Konbu, Wakame and Nori which shows health as a key driver.”
Salty snacking spikes during COVID-19
A three-phase study to understand and anticipate the short and longer- term consumer implications of the COVID-19 pandemic was done. “We are seeing several important trends, some of which are temporary and others we believe will have longer-term implications,” Laith Wahbi tells FoodIngredientsFirst.
“In the near term, there has been a marked increase in the consumption of salty snacks due to their convenience and role as a comfort food. In an interesting dichotomy, we’re simultaneously seeing demand for healthier foods both to counter the recent enforced sedentary behavior due to lockdown as well as the desire for preventative nutrition to boost immune health.”
“For most, ‘comfort food’ is an item that takes them back to a certain place, time, person or group of people, which in turn, evokes particular feelings,” echoes Nagle. “Savory foods can tick this box.”
“One of the most significant impacts of this pandemic has been on the online grocery business,” adds Hoffman. “Being able to order fresh food and daily groceries from home and have it delivered the next day was highly important for many consumer groups. Snacking at home has become part of the ‘new normal,’ with comfort foods and classic flavors also rising in popularity.”
Salt reduction with kokumi and fermentation
Although concerns about high sodium levels rose to prominence over 20 years ago, it continues to be an industry challenge that is no longer only relevant for developed markets and premium products, highlights Wahbi at Firmenich. “We are working with customers globally, especially in emerging markets where cost is crucial.”
Hörmann remarks, “When it comes to salt reduction, the savory food space is moving away from salt replacements and is instead utilizing traditional ingredients and processes in new and innovative ways. One technique that is helping producers achieve salt reduction success is fermentation.”
“This long-established process naturally enhances savory flavors without the use of artificial additives, helping to keep labels clean, and regulates acidity levels within products to delay spoilage. What’s more, with connections to improved digestive health and immunity, fermented ingredients allow manufacturers to improve the nutritional profile of their savory products outside of simple salt reduction.”
In the fermentation space, Lallemand offers yeast-based ingredients for reducing sodium levels. Toravita 028 and 029 SD are low-sodium yeast ingredients to add “salty” flavor without adding substantial sodium. The co-processed combination of ammonium (028 SD) and potassium chloride (029 SD), common sodium replacers, with Torula yeast is marketed as significantly reducing the bitterness of the alternative salts.
“From the Toravita range of products, the recently launched Toravita 054 is an ally to reach a satisfactory flavor development in low-sodium preparations, thanks to the natural content of nucleotides and the contribution to long-lasting taste perceptions. For liquid preparations, such as bouillons or clear soups, Lyfe yeast extracts would support developers’ works. The High-Lyfe range, thanks to its contribution to the umami taste, represents an optimal solution to overcome the taste impairment in sodium-reduced formulations,” details Silvia Soragni, Global Savory Product Manager at Lallemand Bio-Ingredients.
Umami, a prevalent taste experience in fermented foods, is a common pathway for elevating, enriching and improving succulence in savory applications. To the same end, kokumi – another Japanese concept known as the “sixth taste” denoting “heartiness” or “mouthfullness” – brings depth, fullness of the mouth and richness. “Pair them together successfully, and you will make a memorable and magical food experience,” says Nagle .
“Brands delivering products in the savory category can win consumer preference by striking the balance and synergy between umami and kokumi. To do so, the attributes and intricacies of the umami and kokumi combinations must be understood at a molecular level and applied through cooking techniques and ingredient selection.
By Benjamin Ferrer