BELOIT, WIS. — Taste and nutrition specialist Kerry has revealed its top global taste trend in 2021: barbecue.

“Barbecue—in all the many variations that can arise when cooking with fire—is electrifying consumer appetites and elevating expectations for new and interesting flavors,” according to Kerry. “This includes in snacks, meats, plant-based meat alternatives, vegetables, sauces, dips, marinades, and seasonings.”

A total of 26 barbecue, smoke and grill tastes were identified across Kerry’s Taste Charts in Europe, APMEA, North America and the Latin American region. A dozen of these were considered “emerging”, while another five made the “up and coming” category. 

Meanwhile, Innova reports that one in every seven new products developed around the world is barbecue-focused, while in Europe 43% of new food and beverage launches in 2021 featured barbecue as a component. Asia has the most potential, with new product launches up almost one-third (to 21%) in the last five years. 

In addition, more than 33% of all sauces and seasoning products launched during 2016–20 call out barbecue on the front of package, along with 30% of new snack products. Barbecue is now ranked number three on the list of top snack flavors globally, and fifth in meat flavors (“smoked” is number one). 

Due largely to the COVID-19 pandemic, global backyard cooking is at an all-time high. Furthermore, since every global region has extensive variations and traditions in barbecue, many of these are now  migrating between and cross-pollinating markets and regions. In short, consumers all over the world are seeking out new taste variations on the world’s oldest cooking method—fire.

“Barbecue might just be the world’s new favorite taste, and the global-leading barbecue trend our analysts are seeing right now shows that consumers everywhere are looking for new and ethnic-inspired specific tastes—such as Korean, Texas or Brazilian—in various meat and snack products,” said Kerry’s Soumya Nair, Global Director, Consumer Research and Insights. “Consumers love the balance of sweetness, salt, spices and smoke that seems to enhance virtually any application, and we regularly witness new barbecue-flavored items showing up on menus and in stores in foods such as snacks, meats and meat alternatives.” 

Kerry has identified 39 main global variations and traditions from around the world—ranging from Memphis and Texas in North America to kebab in the Middle East, yakitori, char sui and tandoori in Asia, khorovats from Armenia, to jerk in Latin America. Barbecue has also begun to enter the mash-up trend, with curry, sweet chili and beer-inspired barbecue flavors emerging globally.