Canadian menus 'embrace world flavours'

December 12 2013

A growing number of international flavours are appearing on Canadian menus.

This is according to Technomic, which has carried out research into what ethnic flavours are popular with consumers. The organization focused on the sauces used with entree dishes, such as burgers, sandwiches, chicken and seafood and found there is a wide range of opportunities open to restaurant operators to experiment with ingredients from Asia, Latin America and the Mediterranean.

For example, when it comes to burgers, flavours such as teriyaki, salsa and hummus are already considered "everyday" staple options, while there are opportunities to experiment with curry and jalapeno. Meanwhile, more unusual flavours like Korean barbeque could soon be trialled. 

Technomic said there is potential for restaurants to offer sandwiches with most Asian sauces, while Caribbean jerk and pico de gallo could be also be introduced. For chicken-based dishes, Thai curry and chutney were highlighted as flavours with opportunity.

Trying something new

Restaurant operators will be able to offer this wide variety of ethnic sauces due to a growing desire among Canadian consumers to experience new flavours. Technomic found this is particularly common in younger people, with 48 per cent of those aged between 25 and 34 more willing to try something new now than they were a year ago. 

There is strong demand for spicy flavours, with 56 per cent of consumers interested in hot sauces and dips, compared to 50 per cent in 2011. 

Darren Tristano, Technomic executive vice-president, commented: "Our research finds, unsurprisingly, that restaurant operators that target younger diners likely have the most flexibility to experiment with out-of-the-mainstream flavours.

"However, diners across age groups indicate that innovative flavours can spur them to return to a particular restaurant. And as consumers broaden their global flavour horizons, operators may find that flavours considered too risky just a few years ago would attract wide interest today."

Some of the other ethnic flavour opportunities highlighted by Technomic include ginger and Thai chilli for steak dishes and plum or black bean for pork meals. Wasabi and Thai curry were cited as having potential for seafood, while the organization said romesco and ponzu could be ready for trial. 

Asian influence

Many of the new flavours highlighted by Technomic originate in Asia - Thai curry was particularly popular, being cited for chicken, pork and seafood. A common ingredient in cuisine from this part of the world is monosodium glutamate (MSG) and, according to CBC News, this may soon be appearing on more North American menus.

The news provider quoted US chef David Chang, who said: "That's why everyone is so enamoured with Asian flavours. It [MSG] has that punch that we don't find in other foods."

MSG naturally occurs in many foods such as Thai fish sauce, tomatoes, cheese, roasted meat and cashew nuts. However, it can be also be added to dishes in synthesised form and Mr Chang claimed it is this that makes chips such as Doritos "delicious".