“Folks are looking for flavor excitement and heat provides that,” said Carrie Welt, senior chef at Camden-based Campbell Soup Company, whose job includes predicting global food trends for the Fortune 500 firm.
Welt told a crowd at a New Jersey Food Processors Association conference this week that we can expect to taste a deeper selection of Mexican peppers in 2015, as well as Korean chilis and African piri piri peppers. Peppers are so on-trend, she said, that food companies are taking pains to identify the peppers or chili sauces in their products. Next time you’re thinking of buying Kraft Jalapeno String Cheese, a McDonald’s Chipotle Snack Wrap or a Taco Bell Sriracha Quesarito, ask yourself if you’re succumbing to the flavor profile of the pepper advertised in the product’s name.
The same thing is happening in barbeque. “Barbecue has grown so commonplace,” said Welt, “that, in keeping with a national interest in culinary specificity, transparency and regionalism, food marketers occupy space on shelves and in minds with a diverse and detailed array. “ To wit: Lay’s BBQ potato chip portfolio includes Sweet Southern Heat, KC Masterpiece, Memphis, Tangy Carolina, BBQ Rib, Hot ‘n Spicy, Honey, Hickory, Mesquite, and Applewood Smoked.
There is one consumer group to thank for leading the trend: young men. “They’re going for extreme flavors,” said Welt.
But the young male population doesn’t determine everything we eat. Encouraged by some familiar foodie TV stars, some consumers are looking for a return to comfort and simplicity (think casseroles).
“It’s an anti-trend to the urban food movement, part of a desire for the authentic,” said Welt.
But authenticity also counts in urban areas, where an artisanal bread movement is rising. Flax-seed bagels; gourmet toast; dense, dark loaves and grains like rye and spelt inspire this year’s bakers.
Food producers are also scouring the earth for seed- and grain-based superfoods and packing packaged snack foods with as many anti-oxidant “super ingredients” as possible. Anyone interested in a super-dark chocolate bar with coconut ash, spirulina, matcha green tea and reishi mushroom made in Chicago by Vosges? Anyone?