A wide variety of international foods

International Authentic Flavors Are Trending

In the food service, restaurant, and other related industries, one of the keys to success is tapping into what trends customers want to see. For 2023, the results are clear: consumers are looking for richly authentic flavors worldwide. For suppliers, restaurants, and more, using international flavors is no longer a niche option; instead, incorporating global taste profiles has become, if not the standard, at least a familiar possibility that consumers often expect or crave. Let’s explore more details of this trend.

A wide variety of international foods

Why Is There a Trend for Authentic Flavors From International Sources?

The food industry traditionally conducts a variety of studies at least annually to determine what consumers seek in their cuisines. For 2023, the results are overwhelmingly toward globally-inspired flavor profiles, as shown in more detail with the statistics below. While, of course, no trend is fully explainable, there are some clear reasons why this trend for authentic flavors from international sources has become so widespread at this time. In part due to the after-effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which limited travel, there has been a dramatic increase in the popularity of flavor profiles that incorporate flavors from wide-ranging sources. Instead of consumers having to travel to a foreign country to taste that nation’s food, people want to have access to the flavors in the comfort of their community. “Traveling through taste” has become the hope for people from California to Calcutta.

As DSM director of business development and innovation Gilbert Verschelling explains, “Through increased authenticity, bolder tastes or sustainability, the past few years have seen drastic shifts in food and drink trends.” Senior development chef at Kerry concurs, explaining how continued globalization has made it so “international flavors are no longer limited to specific food and beverages anymore and have inspired food and beverage innovation across categories.”

Of course, the conception of international flavors could be more specific. To Americans, a rarer Indian spice will be an exotic international choice. At the same time, the people from that area of India would consider it commonplace and instead might be amazed by the greasy proportions of a Big Mac and fries. Still, by examining this trend, companies can assess the flavors most appealing to their consumers. Let’s get into some numbers chronicling the rise in demand for global flavors.

From the Experts: The Rise in Demand for Global Flavors

According to the Datassential fall reports, MARS food services explains that “global cuisine is in demand at restaurants: more than half of consumers got their last globally influenced food away from home,” and “younger generations in particular are eating internationally-inspired meals regularly.” When stuck inside for quarantine, people got tired of their same old flavors; years later, the urge is even more robust to branch out and experience “novelty,” “adventure,” and “unexpected food pairings,” including “spices and fusions,” as explained by the marketing coordinator at Embassy Ingredients, Ritika Mehrotra, as what’s in demand for flavors in 2023.

In related data, the definitive food and beverage trend report from Japan-based flavor producer T. Hasegawa explains that consumers today are “looking for internationally inspired options.” But random inclusion of ingredients isn’t sufficient. Fully 70% of consumers think familiarity with ingredients is essential when encountering an unfamiliar food and that guidance on how to eat it is important, according to Datassential’s Global Flavors Keynote Report. Another critical feature explained by Mehrotra is that “consumers also want to know the exotic flavors they are enjoying have been produced sustainably,” so “the challenge for food manufacturers is not only driving functionality and flavor in the kitchen but also creating a positive impact in the supply chain.”

In summary, this year, people want to:

  • Try authentic global cuisines without having to travel abroad
  • Experience unusual or unique flavor combinations
  • Get traditional, sustainable, and ethically sourced ingredients

“Have it all,” which Soumya Nair, global consumer research and insights director at Kerry, defines as “reduced-sugar/sugar-free products with full flavor and mouthfeel, plant-based alternatives that taste like the real deal…low cost but full flavor…”

An Asian dish with seafood and noodles

By the Details: Some Standout Findings

In a summary from Food Beverage Insider, trending flavors were found:

  • Biggest regions: South America, Asia, and Africa
  • Biggest ingredients: sesame seeds, ginger, jerk, spicy honey, miso, tahini
  • Biggest countries as sources of flavor: Korea, South Africa, Italy, Japan, and Greece

In another critical understanding, Nair explained that, after the pandemic, “people are more in tune with their health,” with “functionally forward ingredients to flavors that subtly imply better health — such as flavors like ginger or drinks with immune health support.” Balanced nutrition is a factor that needs to be considered along with, rather than in opposition to, the trend for authentic flavors.

Application: What Does Applying this Trend Look Like?

So, we’ve established that consumers are looking for authentic flavors from around the world. How does that work? Of course, depending on the specifics of the industry, there are a wide variety of ways this trend gets applied. Regional differences and individual adaptation also need to be considered. But one of the most potent ways without overhauling entire menus or warehouses is using new spices in traditional recipes.

According to Mehrotra, spices are the key to staying on trend with authentic flavors because “they are a great way to enhance, balance and compliment any dish – both savory and sweet,” while providing the “in demand” “unexpected food pairings…and fusions….as consumers experiment with adding new twists to their tastebuds.” One more sentence of explanation.

Another implementation comes with incorporating novel international tastes into familiar, classic foods for a balance of accessibility and uniqueness. Think of dishes as “internationally inspired,” where most components are traditional, and even one can be an authentic international choice to make things exciting. Soumya Nair suggests that because “consumers want achievable adventures and playfulness with their food and beverages,” and “adding unexpected flavors to a classic menu item or even adding unconventional garnishes can play into this trend.”

A Powerful Flavor Concept: Fusion Cuisine

Defined as dishes that combine disparate influences, flavors, and sources, fusion cuisine forms a hybrid perfect for consumers hoping to enjoy international flavors uniquely. Fusion cuisine, of course, can be accomplished in simple ways that may or may not be particularly “authentic,” but when there is authenticity along with ingenuity, popularity skyrockets. For example, spaghetti is an early example of fusion cuisine; we think it is purely Italian now, but its origins are also in Chinese noodles. Putting these two flavors together makes a dish that stays relevant and familiar no matter where you are.

Today’s fusion cuisine is often experimental, with bold flavor choices related to the adventure and novelty prized in the trending authentic flavors.

Sourcing Authentic Flavors

When sourcing authentic flavors, it’s best to choose the international flavors that are best for your needs, keeping in mind considerations such as ethical and sustainable sourcing. These issues can be overwhelming, but luckily, there are experts in creating flavor profiles who can provide customized support in staying on trend with authentic flavors. If you’re interested in getting flavors from around the world, let us know, and we can help you craft the perfect flavor profile.