2006 Flavor Trends Forecast

Here, too, health exerts its influence: How about spices that fight cancer, chocolate for heart-health and sweet-hot combos that improve satiety?

By Frances Katz, Senior Technical Editor

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While fresh herbs and spices are favored for their flavor, plant personnel may want to talk to formulators about the use of extractives if methods of reducing bacterial content are needed. New methods of stabilizing spices and herbs are being introduced, so purchasing may look at all of the options to guard against introduction of bacterial load.

Dried forms of these two fruits, as well as infused products, add to their ease of use, and some of the new cherry and cranberry flavors are excellent.

Other exotic fruits, many of which are first introduced to Americans through energy drinks, include cupuaçu (rich in vitamins, minerals, fats and fatty acids) and guarana (a small red fruit of an Amazon shrub, believed to be more potent than caffeine).

Spices that fight cancer

A few years ago, Daniel Y.T. Fung, a researcher from Kansas State University, began publishing about the antimicrobial characteristics of certain spices. Now, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has taken up the research on spices and herbs, finding that many of them have anti-cancer activities. These include anise, caraway, coriander, cumin, fennel, oregano, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme and turmeric.

McCormick and Co. for a number of years has published a flavor forecast for the coming year (see McCormick’s Flavor Forecast for 2006, below). Much of the McCormick list echoes the list from the NCI. McCormick says of anise: “the cooling note of licorice balances the heat in many Asian main dishes, plus other flavor notes.” Caraway’s slightly sweet, faintly sharp flavor is useful in whole grain products.

Although not on the NCI list, paprika, especially smoked paprika, adds flavor to Spanish and Portuguese dishes, which are poised to be this year’s hot ethnic foods, according to the Culinary Institute of America (www.cia.org).

The CIA meeting, held in early November, was called Spain and the World Food Table, and featured Spanish regional cuisines. If the CIA’s impact on chefs is any indication, look for flavors that enhance jambon (Spanish ham), various cheeses that can be smoked and shellfish, including oysters, scallops, mussels and clams. Also likely to have increased importance is olive products, including the flavor of olive in tapenade, the Spanish savory sauce.



PROBING THE SCIENCE OF FLAVOR

Gaining a scientific understanding of how flavor is generated and perceived has evolved. One of the leaders in the field is a relatively small firm called Senomyx Inc. (www.senomyx.com) According to spokesperson Gwen Rosenberg, the LaJolla, Calif., company is the owner or exclusive licensee of 29 U.S. patents and 18 foreign patents as well as more than 80 pending U.S. patent applications and some 90 pending foreign patent applications covering proprietary taste and olfactory receptors technology and related assays.

Senomyx’s work focuses on specific receptors, including the human savory receptor, composed of two proteins called hT1R1 and hT1R3. The T1R proteins are members of the G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) family and are expressed on the surface of certain taste bud cells. The human sweet receptor is composed of two proteins called hT1R2 and hT1R3. The hT1R3 protein is shared in common with the savory receptor. Like the savory receptor, the sweet receptor is also a member of the GPCR family and is expressed on the surface of certain taste bud cells.

A novel family of GPCRs termed T2Rs mediates the response to bitter compounds. Analysis of the human genome reveals the hT2R family is composed of about 25 receptors, each one recognizing a different class of bitter compound.

Senomyx recently reported the identification of two novel ligand-receptor pairs: hT2R61, which is activated by 6-nitrosaccharin, a bitter derivative of saccharin; and hT2R44, which is activated by denatonium (one of the most bitter tasting compounds known to man) and 6-nitrosaccharin. These discoveries, and the identification of additional T2R receptor-ligand pairs, are part of the company’s ongoing program to identify mediators of bitter taste.

Senomyx has established working relationships with several companies, most recently with Cadbury Schweppes, to develop flavor systems that interact with specific receptors, producing unusual flavors that are particularly high in impact. Ultimately, that could lead to the development of flavors that reduce the need for sugar, salt and monosodium glutamate.



McCormick’s Flavor Forecast for 2006

McCormick & Co. for several years has been publishing an annual Flavor Forecast. The Hunt Valley, Md., company (www.mccormick.com) bills it as “a look at the flavors and trends that will shape the way we eat in years to come.”

The forecast is compiled from comments from about 15 chefs, television personalities and cookbook authors from across the country. Following are highlights of this year’s forecast.

Anise, the licorice-like flavor that is prevalent in Mediterranean dishes, Indian, European, Latin American and African cuisine, is projected to be an element of flavor with coffee, chocolate and orange flavors.

The flavor Americans now know — and love — as "chai" originated as a blend of spices used in Indian tea. Photo courtesy of Yogi Tea.


Caraway is a little sweet, a little sharp, and tastes something like a blend of dill and anise. Long used in rye bread, caraway is finding its way into whole grain dishes, but is very nice with apples, pork, sausage, cabbage, cheese and supports garlic and cumin.

Chai is a blend of spices including cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and white pepper. Most folks know it as a tea-like drink. But it’s escaping Starbucks and moving to desserts, snack bars, organic foods and natural foods.

Marjoram is very Mediterranean, but pairs well with Middle Eastern food and American Southwest flavors.

Paprika, especially smoked paprika is a key component of Spanish, Portuguese, European and Southwestern dishes. Especially good with shellfish, chorizo and tomato dishes, it supports garlic, basil and oregano.

Saffron also is a keystone of foods from Spain — which McCormick calls "the new France" as a hotbed for trendy food. Used both in savory dishes (such as paella) and sweet dishes (flan, for starters), the bright yellow spice (really the stamens of a crocus) is expensive, but only a pinch is used.

Sesame has gone beyond the bun and is used as a flavor adjunct in chocolate, chicken, meats and tuna and supports garlic, orange and ginger.

Supporting flavor: Pomegranate is “widely touted for its antioxidants and perceived health benefits.” New methods of processing the pesky fruit and its seeds have suddenly made it very popular, especially used with warm spices.


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