The Ingredient Hot List: Culinary

August 8, 2016
Flavor Ingredients Trends Savory
This report is so jam-packed, we couldn't fit it all on our blog! Download the full report here for the complete details!

“If you can stand the heat, get in the kitchen.”

This is the mantra of our INGREDIENT HOT LIST, which has been cooked up just for you, to inspire creative product development. These are the ingredients worth savoring, studying and experimenting with. Some are new and some are old favorites being used in new ways. This week, we’re zeroing in on culinary. Let’s look at hot ingredients in packaged food that look play off of what is happening in the culinary world.

One glance at the annual “What’s Hot” list by the National Restaurant Association clearly shows ethnic cuisines like African, Middle Eastern, and Asian duking it out for dinner plate real estate. Our own list covers the gamut and each brings its own “hotness” to applications. From spicy, sour, sweet and ethnic these ingredients are flavor-packed and taste bud challenging. These are the ingredients that satisfy adventure-seeking consumers.


One of the trend-worthy African flavors expected to roll off and tantalize the consumer’s tongue in 2016 is berbere. This spice blend typically starts with chili peppers, fenugreek seeds, and ginger but varies depending on personal taste or family recipe.13 Hot, spicy and fragrant, berbere is a cornerstone of African cuisine but could corner the market on some consumers’ taste buds.

One story reflects the possible whitespace for an ingredient like berbere. London restaurant Eritrean Blue went from an obscure sandwich shop to the top restaurant in London on TripAdvisor as soon as they started selling injera, the African fried sourdough flatbread.14

Seen & Spotted

• Famed chef Marcus Samuelsson says he can’t live without berbere. This top chef master is a trend-setter not to be ignored.15

• Buffalo-based Theas restaurant refused to serve the city’s namesake bar food in the traditional way. Instead, they pumped it up with a housemade berbere blend that takes buffalo wings to a global level.16

Products of Note

• CousMos Couscous “Berbère” (“Berber” Couscous) (Canada) is inspired by a recipe passed from mother to daughter for thousands of years.

• Frontier Co-op Organic Berbere Seasoning has been relaunched with a new brand name and newly designed 2.30-oz. pack, featuring a recipe for lentils.

There are so many more details in the full report! Click for more hot ingredients, like Cacio E Pepe!


Drinking Vinegars

Whether called drinking vinegars or “shrubs,” you can probably find them on a bar menu near you. Originally created to deal with the harvested excess fruit at the end of summer, shrubs helped early American settlers get Vitamin C in the winter. Today, drinking vinegars are often used as base for mixologists’ handcrafted cocktails and sodas.17

Seen & Spotted

• Fun fact: the official cocktail for the 2016 Golden Globes, the Moet Ruby Red, featured a tarragon, raspberry and citrus shrub. It was created in homage to Dorothy’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz.18

Products of Note

• Shrub Drinks Artisanal Drinking Vinegars Texas Ruby Red Grapefruit Concentrate is described as thoroughly modern shrub drink made in the traditional artisan way completely by hand offering a 100% natural and seasonal fruit-based concentrate.

• The Shrubbery Apricot Cardamom is made in the Seattle gastropub. The pub’s Facebook page says the shrub is a little taste of exotic sunshine to lift the spirit.

Don’t miss the rest of our ingredient hot list. Click here for details on algae oil and tamarind!



The number of vegetarian menu options increased 98% between 2014 and 2015.19 This is most likely attributed to the fact that consumers are seeking alternatives to animal proteins for health reasons as well as the popularity of the Flexitarian/Meatless Monday movement. Chefs have embraced vegetables like never before, finding new ways to prepare and transform them into meaty, satisfying dishes. The recent popularity of Brussels sprouts is evident on menus nationwide. This newfound popularity mirrors another vegetable starting to pick up steam: eggplant.

Seen & Spotted

• It has taken over 100 years but a new eggplant variety called “Meatball” is sweetening the vegetable’s bitter reputation. Burpee has introduced Meatball, promising that “not since Burpee’s introduction of ‘Black Beauty’ in 1904 has eggplant been so transformed,” said George Ball, CEO and Chairman of W. Atlee Burpee & Company.20

• The goal is for Meatball to convert the unconverted, and make healthy home cooking easier for America’s gardeners. With the potential to be a new protein substitute or even a carb stand-in for a favorite burger bun, Meatball just might change the way consumers think about eggplant.

Products of Note

• Gringo Jack’s Curried Eggplant & Garbanzo Salsa is now available. The kosher certified and all-natural product comprises fresh ripe tomatoes, eggplant, onions, jalapeno, garbanzo beans and a curried twist.

• Mandia Ciboitaliano Eggplant and Buffalo Ricotta Pizza comes with a pepperoncini oil sachet. The all-natural imported stone baked Italian pizza is handmade.

• SMT Fire Fire Roasted Crushed Tomatoes with Eggplant, Kale & Beet Puree is said to be made with only the finest tomatoes that have been roasted at their peak of freshness, and eggplant, kale and beet puree added to for extra nutrition and flavor.

Mead is making a splash! Find out more in our full report. Click here!


Preserved Citrus

Certainly the trend and love for African flavors sustains, and the flavors of preserved citrus definitely relate. Moroccan flavors rely on preserved citrus and its sweet, complex, bright flavors. Traditionally lemons are the hallmark of preservation but consumers, growers and chefs are experimenting with other citrus varietals like yuzu, blood oranges, and kumquats to squeeze out bountiful flavor.

Seen & Spotted

• Morris Kitchen Preserved Lemon Syrup is perfect for cocktails, sauces and dressings.

• Lemon Bird preserves yuzu with chiles for a special jam with spicy flavors to add to hot soups or dressings.

Don’t miss out — we’re spotting heirloom ingredients as well. Click here for the full report!



Like the popular brocco-flower before them, the new hybrids are coming to consumers’ plates and gardens like never before. Whether fruits or vegetable, hybrids fascinate with their blended color, texture and flavor. Sometimes, hybrids result in kinder, gentler versions of the parents that appeal more to consumers than they would on their own. Farmers’ markets and specialty grocers especially celebrate the uniqueness of the hybrid fruit or vegetable while distinguishing them from big box stores.

Seen & Spotted

• Cucamelon – it looks like a cross between a cucumber and a watermelon, and it tastes like a lime. This small, grape-sized fruit that is irresistible. DIY-ers can order cucamelon seeds for gardens online from Amazon.

• Mandarinquats – a U.S. hybrid of a mandarin orange and a kumquat, the result is slightly larger than a kumquat, super sweet with a peel that can be consumed.

• Lemon Bird Preserves Indian Spiced Pickled Mandarinquats or a beautiful Mandarinquat and Noto Almond Jam (noto almonds are from the Noto region of Sicily and have a thicker hull that produces a more fragrant, flavorful nut). Pineberry – a hybrid of a pineapple and a strawberry. Pineberrys have the texture of a strawberry with pineapple flavor, and they were saved from extinction by Dutch Farmers.

Product of Note

• Watt Fehér Eper és Guava Ízü Energiaital (Pineberry and Guava Flavoured Energy Drink)

The full report was so huge, we couldn't fit it all on our blog. Click here for the rest of our ingredient hotlist! 



In the hot seat to create a trendworthy concept? FONA can help take your idea from bench top to supermarket shelves. Our technical team speaks “hot off the shelf” fluently. Let’s talk!

Contact FONA at 630.578.8600 to request a flavor sample or visit

Sources: Mintel GNPD, Trendfire, Mintel Reports,,,,, Baum+Whiteman, BBC,,,,,,,,,,