Exotic international food ingredients, 'foraged' foods and free-from and organic are all areas set for a surge in demand in 2014, according to EHL Ingredients, an importer, blender and packer of food ingredients from around the world.
The company also predicts that provenance and traceability will be areas of increased importance as food manufacturers and consumers take a stronger interest in where foods are from, where they have been and what exactly is in them.
Tasneem Backhouse, sales director at EHL Ingredients, offers the following insights and predictions on the food ingredient sector for 2014.
EHL predicts that two ingredients are set to be hot on the lips of consumers and food manufacturers in 2014: asafoetida and fenugreek. The Brazilian World Cup is also set to bring some new dishes and flavour combinations to the UK marketplace.
"We are starting to see an increase in demand for asafoetida and fenugreek, and it looks as though it's set to continue," said Backhouse. "These ingredients have been around for a long time, but British consumers are always on the lookout for the next flavour trend and these two are definitely ones to watch next year.
Asafoetida powder, derived from a fennel-like plant, imparts a very strong, onion-like flavour and only needs to be used in small quantities. Used in Indian and Middle Eastern dishes, asafoetida has a bitter, acrid taste and a pungent smell, but once cooked, it adds a distinctive flavour to meat, fish, grain and legume dishes, as well as pickles and chutneys.
Fenugreek seeds, leaves and powder can be used in curry powders, especially in hot varieties such as Vindaloo and in Ski Lankan cuisine. It also works well in chutneys and sauces.
With the 2014 World Cup taking place in Brazil in summer, EHL anticipates that ingredients and dishes from the region will experience a boost in popularity in the UK, within out-of-home dining and at-home cooking. Traditional Brazilian foods incorporating beans, cashews, peanuts, chillies, as well as meat marinades, are sure to hit menus, dining outlets and supermarket shelves in time for the tournament.
Dishes such as Feijoada (a black bean and meat stew), Moqueca (fish stew), Vatapa (spicy, creamy fish dish cooked in peanut sauce), Empadão (hearty meat and vegetable pie) foods using cassava, and desserts incorporating cinnamon, coconut and berries are all expected to become popular choices this summer, so food manufacturers looking to develop dishes such as these should invest in a quality selection of herbs and spices to ensure successful end products that consumers will love.
EHL Ingredients also has plans to develop a Brazilian blend of herbs and spices for 2014.
While South American food in general has been increasing in popularity in the UK, 2014 is set to really put Brazilian food on the map.
Market reports suggest that 'foraged' ingredients are an emerging trend, with an expectation that manufacturers will increasingly be looking to incorporate foraged, hyper-local ingredients into accessible formats such as ready meals, soups and sauces.
Backhouse said: "Foraged foods typically include ingredients that can be found or gathered in the wild, such as berries, nuts, seeds and mushrooms, and with TV programmes such as River Cottage encouraging home cooks to buy local, more food manufacturers are striving to meet this demand from shoppers.
"We've witnessed this first-hand, as sales of our almonds and walnuts saw a rise of 20% in 2013, while seeds such as golden linseed and poppy seeds rose by over 300%. We predict that sales of nuts, seeds, dried berries, fruits and mushrooms will continue to rise as consumers opt to eat foods in their natural form to reap the health benefits and to tie in with weight loss, health and well-being trends."
Free-from and organic
The horse meat scandal of early 2013 has been linked to rising sales of organic and free-from foods, with discerning shoppers making more selective choices and opting for healthier, more natural alternatives. In addition, food allergies are on the rise and manufacturers need to ensure they offer quality alternatives to give sufferers tasty, wholesome foods without compromising on flavour or texture.
Free-from foods have been a continued area of growth for EHL, with the company reporting sales increases in mustard- and celery-free curry powder, sesame-free Italian seasoning and arrowroot powder, a gluten-free alternative to cornstarch, during 2013.
Backhouse said: "We expect this demand to continue in 2014. However, while our arrowroot has seen a boost in sales (thanks to its application as a gluten-free thickening agent), we expect a number of alternatives to emerge as well. For example, cassava flour, which is made from ground and cleaned cassava roots, as opposed to the starch powder that is extracted from the roots to create arrowroot, can be used as an effective alternative to wheat flour, so we would expect to see a boom in demand from food manufacturers for other options.
"The organic market showed strong growth last year and we expect the sector to experience further success in 2014, especially in the run-up to 'Organic September'. From our point of view, we will be looking to source additional organic food ingredients and developing organic herb and spice blends for food manufacturers and retailers to create organic dishes and desserts for supermarket shelves and restaurant menus."
Ingredients for success in 2014
Market reports show that over the five years up until 2012 to 2013, revenue within the UK seasonings market grew by 2.4% a year, hitting a market value of £1.26bn. UK seasoning processors produce approximately 100,000 tonnes per year, as food manufacturers look to cater to a growing consumer demand for seasonings, mixes and blends that enable them to replicate restaurant cuisine in their own home.
EHL predicts that the popularity of bold and exotic flavours will continue well into the new year and beyond: "Increased publicity about the health benefits of certain spices, and a heightened demand for quality, convenience and value for money, means more and more people are eager to recreate restaurant dishes in their own kitchen," said Backhouse. "Our sales have shown that UK food manufacturers are keen to keep up with the trend, responding to the needs of consumers by ensuring new and exciting flavours and dishes are always available on-shelf and on menus.
"Provenance is also a key factor, and as such we always go the extra mile to ensure that our ingredients are sourced from quality suppliers with full traceability to the country of origin, so our customers can rest assured that the product they are getting is 100% authentic."
Source: EHL Ingredients