It is common to view the flavor landscape through the lens of a single emerging cuisine. Yet often lost in such a singular focus is the explosion of various ethnic flavors currently hitting the food and beverage market.

A report from the market research company Technomic, Chicago, shows how the trend is impacting the market for salad dressings. Avocado, jalapeño, acai, ginger and miso are some of the dressing flavors operators are purchasing to spotlight on restaurant menus, according to data from Technomic’s Volumix Salad Dressings Report.

The incorporation of such flavors as jalapeño, acai and miso into salad dressings underscores how the flavor landscape is transitioning from a focus on taste to a dual focus on taste and experience. Earlier this month the Starbucks Coffee Co., Seattle, debuted its Mercato lunch menu in Chicago. The menu features such items as a za’atar chicken and lemon tahini salad that features such ingredients as herbed chicken with za’atar spice blend, ancient grains, chunky cucumber tzatziki, marinated carrots, chopped romaine and lemon tahini dressing; a cauliflower tabbouleh salad with chopped parsley, mint, cucumber, tomato and riced cauliflower with fresh lemon juice on arugula; and a smoked pork Cubano sandwich with smoked pork loin, pulled pork, Swiss cheese, jalapeño whole grain dijonaise and dill pickle on flatbread.


“A marketplace describes variety, and we wanted to create an experience for our customers that allows them to assemble a lunch that they will really enjoy,” said Jane Hernandez, Starbucks chef. “When developing the Mercato menu, we put quality, taste and freshness at the core of recipe development, with the goal to offer satisfying meals and snacks for our customers.”

Starbucks isn’t the only restaurant chain inviting customers to travel with their taste buds by offering menu items featuring flavors from around the world. Such mainstream chains as Applebee’s and Subway are offering tastes of Italy. Subway is introducing an Italian hero sub sandwich that features spicy capicola, mortadella and genoa salami. Applebee’s, which is owned by DineEquity, Inc., is paying homage to Capri, Italy, with its Caprese Mozzarella Burger and Caprese Mozzarella Chicken, featuring balsamic aioli and glaze.

The Wingstop chain has chosen to focus a limited time offering on Brazil. The chain’s Brazilian Citrus Pepper Wings feature a dry rub featuring citrus and piri piri peppers.

New products introduced for this spring from McCormick & Co., Sparks, Md., highlight how quickly the ethnic flavor trend is evolving and reaching beyond food service and into the kitchens of consumers. Under its Grill Mates brand, McCormick has added such flavors as bacon chipotle and Brazilian steakhouse seasonings and a Korean barbecue marinade. The Korean barbecue marinade includes roasted garlic, sesame seed and soy sauce among its ingredients. Under its Stubb’s brand, the company has added an ancho chili and garlic marinade mix, and a chili, lime and ginger variety. 

“Beyond spicy or tangy, consumers want to experience the authentic flavors of places like Hawaii, New Orleans and Brazil,” said Virginia Jordan, vice-president of marketing at McCormick. “Our new products make it easy to enjoy these tastes at home, whether adding a splash of Cajun Hot Sauce to fried chicken or marinating steak in our Korean barbecue marinade.”

A challenge for McCormick & Co. is getting consumers to try its new flavor varieties. Consumers have proven less inclined to purchase a new flavor they may not use more than once. To overcome this behavior, later this year McCormick will introduce Organic Minis.

The new item will be available in a smaller package that reduces the barrier to consumers trying a new flavor, said Brendan Foley, president of McCormick’s global consumer business and North America. Flavors available in the line include Japanese seven spice and a garam masala blend. Mr. Foley added that the company is test marketing a similar concept for McCormick’s herbs and spices products.