Global Flavors Are Capturing Imaginations And Driving Sales

Authentic spices are the key as even the most mainstream food companies try out bold new ethnic offerings.

By Dave Fusaro, Editor in Chief

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"Global, bold, gourmet," is how Campbell Soup Co. describes several new lines of its namesake product. From the Coconut Curry in the new Go! pouches to Jammin' Jerk Chicken with Rice & Beans in the Chunky line to Sweet Potato Tomatillo and Thai Tomato Coconut in the Gourmet Bisques portfolio, authentic flavors from around the world are driving new product development at this and other mainstream food companies.

"Campbell is reframing what soup means with a variety of new choices that tempt the taste buds and fit the lifestyle of the millennial generation and beyond," says Mark Alexander, president of Campbell North America. While stodgy old baby boomers are pretty set in their ways, millennials are just coming into their own as a purchasing powerhouse, and anything that can attract them will serve a company well in the coming decades.

"This is the new face and flavor of Campbell Soup Co.," Alexander said.

Campbell arguably needed a new face. After putting most of its eggs in the low-sodium basket a few years ago, the R&D lab in Camden, N.J., churned out such exciting new products (in early 2006) as chicken noodle with 25 percent less sodium and Healthy Request cream of mushroom with up to 45 percent less sodium than regular varieties. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but sales sagged.

Now, as we climb out of that nasty recession, food processors are looking to take back ground lost to private label by differentiating their higher-priced products. Whether you've been to foreign countries or just wish you were there, flavors from around the globe are capturing imaginations and driving sales.

Just try to find Moroccan-style Chicken with Chickpeas (another Campbell Go! Soup) in a store brand.

It's becoming increasingly important for food processors to find ingredients with both the authenticity to satisfy immigrants coming into the U.S. and the excitement to tempt the worldly and sophisticated American palate. Often those are fresh herbs, spices and botanicals or otherwise fragile ingredients, so a trusted source is a great find.

Flavors can be developed

While the influx of Hispanics into the U.S. may be slowing (see our September story, The New American Majority), their culinary culture remains the biggest current ethnic influence. They account for 16.7 percent of our population, and more American vacationers have tasted Mexico and Spanish-speaking parts of the Caribbean than have been to Thailand.

"The growth of the Hispanic population in the United States is driving the need for both traditional and innovative Hispanic flavors," says Phil Sprovieri, vice president of sales and marketing at Flavorchem Corp., Downers Grove, Ill. "These flavors have not been readily available on an industrial scale -- not only in the U.S., but throughout the Americas."

"Roadside vendors offering beverages such as horchata or those flavored with tamarindo (tamarind) and limosa (lime) have resulted in development of new flavors for Flavorchem," he says. "The company has also spotted flavors such as guava, mango, pina colada and chocolate with cinnamon in a wide range of dairy products at shopping centers. The firsthand accounts documented by [our] representatives are coupled with market research – often supported by Mintel -- to determine which Hispanic flavors will be developed."

Quite literally, research followed by development has resulted in such Flavorchem flavors as Horchata (a traditional Mexican beverage made with milk, rice, vanilla extract and cinnamon), Mamey (an earthy and creamy exotic fruit, similar to a combination of sweet potato and pumpkin) and Tamarind (with a unique dried sweet-tart raisin character). Plus a half-dozen others.

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