Global flavor innovation in soups, sauces, and ready meals is on the rise, especially in flavors outside of domestic countries and regions. Ethnic flavors are prevalent in all types of soups. Sauces and seasonings, including condiments, are popular vehicles for ethnic flavors. Ready meals include a broad range of subcategories, with ethnic flavors being the most common in main dishes, ready meals, pizza, meal kits and instant/prepared noodles, pasta or rice.
Consumers Seek World Flavors
Consumers are traveling more, as well as being exposed to population shifts in their community and region, learning about new flavors from restaurants and social media, and showing desire to experiment with flavors. Over half of consumers surveyed by Innova Market Insights say that they incorporate into their home cooking foods and flavors that they ate while traveling. Even more consumers are open to trying new cuisines from around the world. Consumers also are inspired to recreate international flavors that they’ve tried in restaurants. They learn about world flavors and get inspiration from friends and family, followed by social media. Consumers, especially younger consumers, enjoy familiar flavors most but one-third say they also are influenced by new or different tastes.
Asian Flavors and European Flavors are Desirable
Consumer trends surveys show that nearly half of global consumers report looking for cuisines from other countries. Consumers who are most interested in global cuisines are from India, Brazil, and France. The most popular cuisines for meal inspiration are Asian, followed by European. Interest in global flavors varies by region, with Asian tastes most popular among North Americans and Europeans and European flavors most popular among Latin Americans and Asians. Asians also enjoy local flavors. Internationally, Italian cuisine and Chinese cuisine are the most popular.
Asian Flavors Drive Growth of Soups, Sauces, and Ready Meals
Between 2018 and 2023, launches of soups, sauces and ready meals with ethnic flavors show modest growth, with the highest growth in sauces and average growth in ethnic-flavored meals and soups. New product launches of Asian flavors, led by tastes from East Asia, are strong and growing rapidly. They are followed by flavors from South Asia and the Mediterranean region. Use of flavors varies by region. European launches use diverse ethnic flavors and no flavor stands out.
Different global flavors are more widely used in different categories. Latin flavors and South Asian flavors stand out in sauces, Mediterranean flavors are noticeable in ready meals, and European and African flavors are popular in soups. Within the strongly performing East Asian flavors, launches of Chinese and Japanese soups, sauces, and meals outpace the average and launches of products with Korean flavors are way up. Sweet and sour, Szechuan, and hot and sour are the most popular Chinese flavors. Teriyaki and miso are prominent Japanese flavors and kimchi drives Korean flavors. tastes are niche.
Italian Flavors Remain Popular
Italian soups, sauces and ready meals flavors are popular, especially in the US and UK. Flavors described as Italian appear most often, followed by lasagna. In broader European flavors, Mediterranean tastes lead, ahead of Greek, Spanish and French flavors.
The Popularity of Mexican Flavors
Mexican flavors are dominant in Latin American cuisine, although launch growth is slowly declining. In North America, the most important market for Mexican flavors, taco and enchilada flavors stand out. and Europe to fajita tastes. Other Latin American NPD is also in decline (-4% CAGR over five years). Chimichurri is the top regional flavor outside Mexico and is especially popular in Brazil.
European Consumers Enjoy American, Middle Eastern, and African Flavors
Soup, sauce, and meal launches with American flavors are growing strongly in Europe. European consumers enjoy Southern US flavors such as chili con carne and Tex Mex flavors. Generic American flavors add value to table sauces and dressings in Europe. Although growth is slow in launches with flavors from the Middle East and Africa, flavors of shawarma, ras el hanout and harissa show strong growth, especially in Europe. The UK and France are important markets because of their large migrant populations. Because vegetarian cuisines are widespread in the Middle East and Africa, flavors increasingly are being used in European launches of plant-based foods.
What’s Next? Cultural Fusion, Convenience, and Familiarity
Cultural fusion adds novelty, excitement, and adventure international foods so expect combinations of cuisines from different global regions. Watch for convenient ways to enjoy global flavors at home for consumers who want to create meals with authentic or restaurant-quality flavors. Also expect to see more soups, sauces, and meals that combine global flavors with familiar tastes since familiarity is the top driver of consumer flavor demands.
This article is based on our report, “Tastes of the World: Ethnic Flavor Trends in Soups, Sauces & Ready Meals.”
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