Yes, it’s true that people eat with their eyes, and smell is the sense most closely tied to memory. But let’s face it: If a product doesn’t taste good, it’s lost forever in the mind — and mouth — of the consumer. And while Americans’ sense of culinary adventure seems to be at an all-time high, the desire for the familiar remains.
In kitchens across America, it really is a small world after all. Citing Mintel data, flavor expert Azeem Mateen noted that 74% of U.S. households have either prepared or cooked ethnic foods at home and 59% eat ethnic foods because they like to try new flavors.
The biggest names in food are committing to clean label these days. In February, Nestlé USA announced that it will banish artificial colors and flavors from its chocolate candies and Nesquik powdered drink mixes. Hershey soon thereafter said it aims to reformulate all its candies to contain “ingredients that are simple and easy to understand.” Then Kraft committed itself to replacing synthetic colorants in its flagship Macaroni and Cheese with colors derived from spices like paprika, annatto, and turmeric. PepsiCo got into the act by pledging to swap out aspartame, the artificial sweetener in its Diet Pepsi, with the equally artificial, but apparently more acceptable, sucralose. Even quick-service giant McDonald’s announced that it will no longer serve chicken treated with human antibiotics, while more obviously progressive foodservice brands Chipotle Mexican Grill and Panera Bread made headlines by, in the former’s case, banning genetically modified (GMO) ingredients from its menus and, in the latter’s, releasing a “No-No List” of ingredients that the chain will phase out of its kitchens by the end of 2016.
Few ingredients can highlight a food like the wide range of flavor and heat profiles found in varietal chili peppers, according to Michael Swenson, director of business development at Sensient Natural Ingredients, Turlock, CA. “From spicy to bitter to sweet to savory, chili peppers span the flavor wheel.”
Sustainability today is just good business. “Sustainability is one key aspect that can directly affect the survival of a business in the long-term, because sustainability is important to consumers,” says Jean Shieh, Marketing Manager, Sensient Natural Ingredients, Turlock, CA, crediting the development of information technology to consumers’ growing interest.