Epazote? Spotting Next-Wave Latino Foods

latin food Given Americans' growing taste for authentic Latino foods and flavors, food manufacturers as well as restaurants are now continually on the prowl for emerging variations to add zest to their offerings.

So what's just hitting the radar? Epazote, Seville oranges, aji amarillo chiles and sofritos, according to a new Culinary Trend Report on next-wave Latino foods from Packaged Facts and the Center for Culinary Development (CCD).

Epazote (shown above) is a Mexican culinary herb that smells like "grassy turpentine" in its raw state, but when simmered in a pot of black beans, "mellows to a rich, grounding presence that more and more chefs are finding addictive," report CCD's trend-spotters. They expect the herb to move beyond upscale Mexican restaurants to become a common ingredient in canned and CPG products.



Seville oranges are becoming increasingly popular ingredients in sophisticated contemporary Latin restaurant fare, and CCD predicts that CPGs will soon be using the oranges' somewhat bitter citrus flavor to add "Caribbean tang" to a variety of products.

Aji amarillo chiles, the most popular variety in Peru, offer a distinctively fruity flavor while retaining chile bite. The combination adds up to crossover appeal similar to that previously shown by now-ubiquitous chipotles, making aji chiles prime candidates for inclusion in "everything from spicy wings at QSRs to jarred salsas," reports CCD.

Sofritos--flavorful Caribbean "simmer sauces"--have long been used in that region as the building blocks for a variety of dishes, including paella. Now, they are being incorporated in menu offerings in nuevo Latino fusion and contemporary Cuban and Puerto Rican restaurants, and show promise for broader adoption.

Other trends of note:

  • Rotisserie chicken flavored with authentic, regionally inspired flavors from Latin America. CCD believes this trend is destined for wide adoption by food manufacturers and restaurants because it offers the familiar comfort food roast chicken with a novel twist, as well as built-in nutritious, wholesome positioning.
  • U.S.-made versions of Mexican cheese varieties are in demand by Latinos and non-Latinos alike, and marketers are gradually catching on. Wisconsin's Hispanic cheese production has doubled since 1997, and big national brands like Sargento and Tillamook have added Mexican cheeses and shredded jack-and-cheddar quesadilla blends, notes CCD.
  • Bland tableside guacamoles are being reinvented as consumers look for fresh, healthy ways to snack. Freshly made, hand-mashed, chunky varieties that can be customized to taste with more/less onions, chiles and other seasonings are hot--and CCD stresses that marketers should look to apply the same lessons to many other types of food offerings.
  • Soft-corn tortilla tacos--which offer both health and flavor advantages over the crunchy variety--are popping up in QSR's and casual dining restaurants, and becoming more available in supermarkets as well.
  • Mojito isn't over. While mojito cocktails may seem old-hat to some, seemingly endless variations on the basic tart lime/mint flavor are now finding their way into soft drinks, marinades, chocolates and even chewing gum. Far from reaching saturation, this Cuban flavor profile "will go on inspiring CPG manufacturers across a broad spectrum of products," predicts CCD.
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