Protein innovation has become “Swissy” | Food Business News

KANSAS CITY — It’s not just sweet, it’s not just spicy — it’s “sweet” — and it’s all the rage in the world of salty and savory foods, most notably in meat, poultry and alternative protein applications.

Sweet and spicy flavor pairings have been around for centuries and can be found in cuisines all over the world. One of the attractions is the sweetness (from caloric carbohydrates, not non-nutritive sweeteners) that helps tame the kick of capsaicin, the chemical compound in peppers that gives their fiery flavor. This is because sugar coats the taste buds, while capsaicin binds to them. By tempering the heat sensation with sugar, the consumer can better taste the complexities of the pepper as well as the carrier foods.

“Dessert flavors have become so popular because they represent the perfect bridge between sweet and salty,” said Jacob Sturm, chief creative officer at flavor developer Monin, Inc., Clearwater, Florida. In Asian cuisine, one of the many things it is famous for is sweet and spicy foods.

Although the descriptor swicy may not be incorporated into consumer marketing, it is a term that designers and flavorists refer to during product development. It likely came about with the popularity of Mike’s Hot Honey, specifically when drizzled on pepperoni pizza. Its delicious flavor profile is now responsible for the creation of a plethora of seasonings and marinades to help Americans suffering from cooking fatigue.

“Hybrid meals have taken over America’s kitchens, as the home-centric world continues to make room for premium purchases,” said Anne Marie Roerink, director, 210 Analytics, San Antonio, Texas. “Half of Americans say they prepare dinner using a mix of fully cooked and semi-prepared items.”

The survey Roernick referenced was conducted with 1,550 adult shoppers in May 2023. The results were presented on What’s in Store Live during the International Dairy, Delicious and Bakery Association’s annual meeting held June 4-6 in Anaheim, California.

The unique flavors and textures in spices and pickles provide an attractive twist to staple foods, Ms. Roerink said. This is an approach taken by quick service restaurant companies to attract different consumer tastes. It has also fueled innovation in the packaged goods sector, with some meat and poultry processing companies applying marinades to prepared meats. In other cases, retailers market marinades and seasonings in the meat department to provide home cooks with an easy way to serve a new version of the classic dish.

A new version of swicy is starting to appear at Chick-fil-A. It’s the company’s first-ever twist on the original chicken sandwich. The new Honey Pepper Pimento features the chain’s original chicken strips topped with pimento cheese, pickled jalapeños and a drizzle of honey, all atop a toasted bun.

Pimento cheese is made from sharp cheddar cheese, green peppers, and red bell peppers. Pickled jalapenos provide enough heat to balance sweet and salty flavors, according to the company. A drizzle of honey adds a sweet flavor to tie everything together.

Outback Steakhouse has developed a limited-time Sweet Heat Season menu that runs from July 26 to October 31 and features hot honey fried chicken among delicious appetizers, desserts and other drinks.

“The ‘Swiss’ trend is a natural fit for us and appeals to all of our guests because of the balanced flavor profile,” said Becky Boyd, director of menu innovation and strategy at Outback’s parent company, Bloomin’ Brands.

Mr. Sturm has developed several delicious recipes for Monin’s food service clients using the company’s fruit syrup. For a unique twist on delicious wings, suggest mixing dragon fruit syrup with Sriracha sauce, along with lime juice, soy sauce, minced garlic, and butter. Another concept uses the company’s mango syrup mixed with pepper sauce, red pepper flakes and butter.

Understanding heat

Here’s the deal with the heat. When consumers can control adding it to a dish, they become less afraid of it. And when it comes to less candy, the better. And this is not only at lunch and dinner. It’s breakfast and snack time too.

“We often sit down as a multi-generational family with a variety of different taste preferences and spice level affinities, so sauces help make sure everyone gets the exact experience they want,” said Jill Hook, Olam Food’s culinary director. Ingredients (OFI), Chicago. “It’s one of the easiest ways to switch up the flavor of a meal and is a really easy way for consumers to make sure their whole family loves what they’re eating.”

“Shoppers are looking for condiments that add new spices and flavors to their lives,” said Itzel Rincon, director of sales and new product innovation, Chaucer Foods, Hull, UK. “It’s a simple way to experience new taste experiences.”

Demand for spicy foods has increased in the foodservice sector, where 71% of food menus and 11% of beverage menus contain the word “spicy,” said market research firm Datassential, Chicago. In fact, during the first half of 2023, there were 270 limited-time hot offers offered by major foodservice chains.

“If you have the idea that (spicy flavors) are very polarizing, that’s not necessarily the case,” Mike Kostyo, associate director and “trend expert” at Datassential, said in a July 6 webinar. “There are a fair number of consumers who agree that the things we add to our main chain menus are things they want to buy.

“Spice is almost like a lifestyle, there are trappings that say, ‘I’m a heat person,’” Costeo said. “For a lot of people who love spice, it’s a real love of spice. It’s really part of who they are and how they eat.”

In the world of condiments, flavors like salsa macha and tagine have grown the most over the past four years across all categories, according to Datassential. Nashville Hot, Spicy Margarita and Mango Habanero flavors also saw triple-digit increases during the same period. Popular pepper ingredient additions include pickled Fresno, pickled jalapeno, ghost pepper, habanero pepper and Calabrian chili pepper. This pepper is often combined with a familiar, less intimidating flavour.

It was familiar honey with a touch of heat that fueled Mike’s Hot Honey to stardom. Other competitors are rolling out their own twists. For example, Howell’s Standard LLC, Marlboro, Md., offers Now honey mixed with pepper and a little vinegar, plus the new Hot Mango Honey.

Kelchner Food Products, a brand of Huntsinger Farms Inc., Eau Claire, Wis., now offers smoked maple chipotle marinade and sauce. It’s similar to honey with “a little sweetness, a little heat, and a ton of deliciousness,” according to the company. With its distinctive smoky flavour, it is intended for pulled pork, grilled chicken and steaks.

“Kelchner’s R&D team keeps up with the latest consumer food trends and wants to create a flavor that responds to consumers’ appreciation for smoky, sweet and spicy combinations,” said Jodi Christensen, director of R&D and Technical Services. “Our Zing Masters—a roster of professional food scientists—conducted year-long experiments to find the perfect balance.”

Another trend fueling interest in swissy is consumer interest in Asian cuisine, in particular South Korean cuisine, which relies heavily on the sweet and spicy flavor combination of yangneum sauce in chicken dishes. Korean yangneum is made by combining gochujang, soy sauce, sugar, rice wine vinegar, garlic, and ginger.

Gochujang alone Suisi. It’s a thick, reddish paste with a touch of heat from the red pepper and a touch of sweetness from the rice syrup. It serves as a base for seasoning and sauce innovation in the field of Korean BBQ. With the addition of brown sugar and tomato paste, you get a barbecue look. Add hot sauce to the buffalo wing. Any of these sauces can complement Korean-style fried chicken, which has a chunky skin that absorbs the sauce when flipped and served.

Swicy snack innovation

Korean BBQ, along with other Asian flavors, is very popular in the meat snack category. Teriyaki, pepper and spice are some of the most popular flavors, according to research conducted by using data from the U.S. Census and Simons National Consumer Survey. This is followed by smoked/mesquite, barbecue, and hickory. These are general flavor trends, with many innovators standing out by connecting to more regional flavor descriptors.

Windward Jerky Co., of Eastvale, Calif., has developed Alaka’I Island Teriyaki Beef Jerky made using Hawaiian marinade. It includes distinct notes of ginger, soy, garlic and pineapple with a hint of sweet and salty umami.

Field Trip Snacks’ newest offering is Gochujang “made the authentic way using red miso and gochugaru peppers,” according to the company. Made with grass-fed beef, the variety also includes pear puree in the marinade to add an indistinct layer of flavor that brings all the tastes together.

Swicy is also featured in the new Jack Link’s Doritos Spicy Sweet Chili Flavored Beef Jerky from Jack Link’s Protein Snacks, Minong, Wis., which partnered with PepsiCo, NY, Buy, NY, to develop this flavor combination. The joint venture also includes the introduction of Jack Link’s Flamin’ Original Beef Jerky.

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