Variety may be the spice of life, but spice has a lot more to offer than mere variety, and consumers are taking note.
Aside from the considerable advantages spices and seasonings offer when it comes to enhancing foods and delighting palates, nutritional research is recognizing their role in bolstering weight loss efforts and supporting overall health.
And besides, as millennials in particular understand, spices and seasonings are exciting.
Millennials are open to experimenting and taking risks, says Amy Jungk, executive vice president of corporate strategy for Old World Spices & Seasonings in Overland Park, Kan.
“Millennials want to be taken out of their comfort zone; they want hot, spicy, new and exotic flavors,” adds Shannon Cushen, director of marketing for Fuchs North America in Hampstead, Md.
Millennials may enter a store knowing what dish they want to prepare but will often not decide which seasoning to try until they are at the shelf, Jungk adds. As frequent take-out and fast-casual restaurant patrons, millennials “like to mimic their favorite restaurant dishes at home.”
The older, generally more economically established Gen X crowd, born roughly between 1965 and 1985, is purchasing high-end grills and smokers and tends to spend more for prime cuts of meat. They also like to buy high-quality seasonings to bring out the best in their proteins, and also like to experiment with bold flavors, Jungk notes.
In its “Flavor Forecast 2018,” Hunt Valley, Md.-based McCormick & Co. identified seasonings that are gaining popularity, including Ethiopian berbere (a mixture of paprika, allspice, coriander, cardamom, ginger, cinnamon and red pepper that goes well with chicken and other meats, lentils and vegetables) and Japanese furikake (a mixture of seaweed, sesame, dried seafood, sugar and salt that is often sprinkled on rice, noodles, vegetables and seafood).
Spices and seasonings such as cayenne pepper, ginger, turmeric, thyme and sage are coming into their own as important ingredients in liquid concoctions such as smoothies, drinkable soups and refreshing, non-alcoholic “mocktails,” McCormick notes.
TO YOUR HEALTH
Research reveals that spices and herbs have an abundance of salubrious compounds and that consuming them may confer health benefits, Monica Auslander Moreno, a consulting dietician for Major League Baseball’s Miami Marlins and founder of Miami-based Essence Nutrition LLC, says in a WebMD article written by Camille Noe Pagán.
Rich in healthful phytochemicals, herbs and spices fight inflammation in the body and reduce damage to the body’s cells, Moreno explains. And because they’re so flavorful, spices and herbs make it easier to cut back on less-healthful flavor-enhancing ingredients like salt, sugar and added fat, Adrienne Youdim, founder and medical director of the Center for Weight Loss and Nutrition in Beverly Hills, Calif., tells WebMD.
Many spices and herbs can also boost the metabolism and help the body burn fat more quickly, according to a 2016 article in Prevention Magazine.
The functional aspects of spices and seasonings have been receiving a lot of buzz, Cushen agrees. “As a result, many spices like turmeric and ginger have been thrust in the spotlight, witnessing major increases in demand,” she says. “Consumers are seeking these out, and more products featuring these spices and touting their potential health benefits will likely be popping up more in retail in the coming months.”
As consumers continue to gravitate toward cooking at home, the variety in terms of flavor in the spice and seasonings aisle will also continue to expand, Cushen says.
“Consumers — especially millennials — like to try their hand at cooking new and exotic dishes at home,” she says. “Many of the trends that we will see next year in the spice and seasoning aisle, like most other aisles, are therefore driven by millennials.”
While consumers want to cook authentic ethnic dishes or sophisticated foodservice-inspired meals, they also want convenience, so seasoning packets and spice blends that offer exciting meal solutions will continue to experience growth, Cushen asserts.
Sea salt has become a kitchen staple, and smoked sea salts are the natural progression of this trend, Jungk says. “Gourmet food offerings have been introducing this trend, and the natural progression seems to be to private brands,” she adds. “And not just smoked sea salts alone, but incorporated into seasonings that include bold flavors like citrus, Sriracha and specialty chilis, to become the flavor trends of the future.”
Retailers are looking for ways to make their private brand offerings stand out to consumers, Jungk notes. They seek unique flavors that are still familiar, but with a twist.
Rather than be fast followers of the national brands, private brands are starting to take the lead in innovation, Jungk points out.
“Private brands are using high-quality ingredients while maintaining competitive pricing,” she says.
Private brands can be successful when they focus on the current trends in foodservice and gourmet foods, then bring those trends to consumers in a more accessible, affordable manner for home use, Jungk believes.
Successful private brands can set themselves apart in a large, mature category by exhibiting the flexibility and responsiveness to consumer desires that larger brands can’t pull off as quickly, Jungk adds.