Flavours to watch in 2014

November 11 2013

The year is drawing to an end and before we know it we will be in 2014. As always, the Canadian restaurant industry will be looking to improve its performance and attract more people to eat out. But what flavours could be playing a prominent part on menus next year? Read on to find out.

Spicy foods have always divided diners, with people tending to either love or hate hot dishes. However, research has suggested a growing number of consumers are enjoying spicy meals and this could have an impact on menus in the new year. 

In a survey of North American consumers by Technomic, 54 per cent said they like hot and spicy foods. This is the first time the majority of people have been in favour of this flavour, as when the same study was carried out in 2011 and 2009, only 48 per cent and 46 per cent of respondents said they find spicy meals appealing respectively.

One new innovation that could find its way on to menus is tingling spices. Earlier this year, it was suggested at the Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting and Food Expo that introducing this type of spice to hot dishes could help to make spicy meals more accessible to North American diners.

The growing popularity of spicy foods is likely linked to the fact Canadians now have access to more food from different countries and cultures than ever before. Globalisation has seen immigrants from all over the world come to live in Canada and these groups have brought their native cuisine with them.

For example, Toronto has a large Filipino population and popular restaurant chains from the Asian nation have opened in the city to serve both the migrant community and Canadians from other ethnic backgrounds. Some of the other most popular international foods in Canada include the ever-popular Italian, as well as Chinese, Thai, Japanese and Greek.

While Canadian diners are certainly getting more adventurous when it comes to eating out, there's still plenty of demand for savoury dishes as well. A recent survey by Technomic revealed this is the most popular flavour among North American consumers, with 67 per cent saying it is either appealing or very appealing. 

Another flavour trend that is growing in popularity and is definitely one to watch for 2014 is fusion foods. This essentially refers to meals where a combination of flavours - which often wouldn't be associated with another - are blended. 

According to Technomic, this approach is becoming increasingly appealing to North American diners, with tomato-basil the most popular mixture. Honey-ginger is also well liked, with 40 per cent of consumers finding the combination appealing, up from just 28 per cent in 2009. Other popular mixtures are mango-habanero, chipotle-lime and rosemary-orange. 

Darren Tristano, Technomic executive vice-president, stated: "Flavour blends that combine sweet fruits with herbs or spices hold strong potential for application not just in sauces, salsas and other toppings but also in original non-alcohol beverages."

Consumers' preference for interesting and unusual foods doesn't stop with flavour fusions however, as so-called hipster food is also establishing a prominent presence on the Canadian eating-out scene. It's hard to give this type of dish an exact definition, as hipster meals tend to be interesting and unusual concepts that stand out from the food types that usually appear on menus. 

A good example of this can be found in the US, where in New York a snack called the cronut burst onto the scene out of nowhere. The cronut is essentially a cross between a croissant and a donut and it is this quirky combination that helped to make it so popular. This won't have gone unnoticed by the food industry and many restaurants may be trying to develop their own hipster dishes to cash in on the demand for innovative creations.

Diners are certainly willing to try new things more often these days, as research from Technomic has shown three quarters of people would return to a restaurant where they tried and liked an innovative dish.