When assessing flavors, there are many different levels of ‘local’. For example, although there is significant segmentation of Mediterranean and European flavors within Europe, further afield, more generic flavor descriptors are enough to add value. On the global stage, the top taste in this category is Italian, while Mediterranean is ranked third, Spanish fourth and Greek fifth. As an example of these generic tastes in use, the Impossible plant-based range in the US has seen the addition of several sausage varieties this year, including a variant described simply as ‘Italian’.
In complete contrast, other local cuisines are far more specific to narrower environs. In the US many states have their own distinct barbecue flavors, and these specific tastes are being more widely promoted overseas. For example, in the UK, Tesco’s Fire Pit range of barbecue foods saw the launch of a Memphis Inspired BBQ Sweet & Smoky rub and glaze kit for this summer.
Asian cuisine is an area that is in constant diversification as new concepts spread to the international market, but uptake can vary widely from country to country, so there is even localization in the breaking of borders. For example, the UK appears to be driving demand for katsu flavors outside Japan, with launch growth in this single country standing at 71% CAGR between 2017-2018 and 2021-2022 (12-month periods ending Q1). This flavor’s impact has been so great that it has started to extend beyond traditional ethnic foods and into the wider food and drinks market. Kerry Foods’ Fridge Raiders range of chilled snacks welcomed new Meat-Free Katsu Tasty Bites earlier this year.
In a similar vein, Japanese cherry blossom (or sakura) flavor has spread its wings into China in recent years. That country now accounts for 60% of all sakura NPD outside its native market and, as with katsu in the UK, it has reached more mainstream applications. For example, Mars’ Dove brand launched new Silky Milk Chocolate Wafer Rolls with sakura and strawberry flavor in the spring of 2022.
Another clear example of more localized border crossing lies in Middle Eastern and African flavors, which are most likely to be found in West Europe (59% of all launches outside the MEA region in the year to Q1 2022) and particularly in the UK (24%). British retailer Waitrose made a significant launch in 2021 with its The Levantine Table collection of foods inspired by the Levant region of the Middle East, including the cuisines of Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Turkey and Cyprus. This is a significant range of more than 100 products and demonstrates the retailer’s confidence in its customers’ willingness to experiment with international foods.
There are many factors at play in generating demand for global tastes: from travel, tourism and immigration through to media (and social media) coverage and foodservice trends. The rise of street food in certain parts of the world is also expanding consumers’ horizons and creating trends that are then transferred to the home, while some international tastes are expanding on the back of healthy credentials, e.g. fermented foods such as kombucha, kimchi, miso, etc. All of these factors ensure continued demand for international concepts going forward and, when it comes to the flavors we eat, the world is becoming a smaller and smaller place.