9 Jan 2024
Our latest survey reveals that 66% of global consumers crave exotic tastes from around the world. Adventurous eaters who have embarked on the global flavor journey are especially captivated by the vivid colors and bold tastes of Latin American cuisines. Dive in and discover why you too should join this flavor fiesta!
What comes from afar is tasty. The number of consumers who are exploring global flavors and cuisines is on the rise: from 60% in 2021 to 66% now. Dishes, flavorings and traditional treats from South and Central America are benefiting from this worldwide flavor curiosity, they are seen as muy caliente all around the globe. According to ResearchandMarkets, the Latin American flavors market is projected to reach $3,746.5 million by 2027.
That journey is taking consumers to Latin American countries such as Brazil, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Colombia. Subtlety is taking a back seat in 2024, as consumers gravitate towards foods in vivid colors and bold flavors that evoke a sense of adventure and excitement. Latin America offers a plethora of aromatic raw materials, ranging from fruits to flowers and spices.
"Latin American flavors are making a significant impact on the global food industry, particularly in the chocolate sector, where we're witnessing a notable rise in consumer interest and new product launches from food producers featuring these flavors.”, says Nanno Palte, Marketing Intelligence Manager at Puratos. "Fueled by the 'fusion flavors' trend, this shift appeals not only to the sizable Hispanic or Latino community, representing around 7.7% of the world's population, but also to diverse consumers globally. As we look ahead to 2024, we expect the momentum to continue, with an increasing trend in cross-cultural food fusions, inspired by successes like the French-Korean patisserie trend of 2023."
A sweet taste of Brazil? The traditional Brazilian brigadeiros are a handy bite-sized snack with an intense chocolate flavor. Condensed milk, butter and cocoa powder are combined to shape fudgy balls, which are then covered in chocolate sprinkles. Trader Joe’s has released a box of nine frozen brigadeiros, which are easy for consumers to always have on hand as a quick treat.
Do we have to explain what churros are? This fried dough pastry – often topped with cinnamon sugar – has become a popular treat all around the world quite a while ago. No wonder it's this particular Latin American snack that first gets the fusion-treatment. Tons of snack brands and food outlets are developing their own churros mash-ups. Think of churro pops, KitKat churro and the Churro Pop Cone that KFC featured in a limited-time South African menu. The waffle cone filled with churro pieces and chocolate sauce has caused a stir among American KFC fans who were desperate to try the snack themselves.
This must be one of the most – if not the most – versatile South American flavor there is. The sweet and caramel-like sauce is made with condensed milk. It can be spread on bread or toast, used as a filling for pastries and cakes, drizzled over ice cream, or simply enjoyed by the spoonful. Even for consumers outside Latin America, this is not necessarily a new flavor. But dulce the leche is getting more and more innovative applications across the food industry. There is dulce de leche breakfast cereal, dulce de leche cheesecake and Churro Dulce de Leche bundt cake with a gooey caramel center.
Another manifestation of the popularity of South and Central American flavors is the trend of incorporating tropical fruits into desserts. Think of the Guava Cake Cookie by Crumbl. A warm vanilla bean cookie topped with a swirl of both tangy guava cream cheese and vanilla frosting. The guava offers a unique and refreshing taste experience, transporting consumers to tropical and sunny South America. That can also be achieved by using for instance papaya, pineapple and dragon fruit.
The botanical flavors trends + the popularity of Latin American tastes = huge opportunity for hibiscus. Hibiscus has a fantastic vibrant deep pink hue and a distinctive sour and floral aroma. The taste is especially popular in the non-alcoholic beverages category, with products such as ready-made tea, bottled juice and kombucha. In the blogosphere, recipe creators are already beginning to experiment with hibiscus pastry. Think of lemon jasmine tea cake with hibiscus meringue frosting and a strawberry, hibiscus, yogurt and white chocolate dessert. No wonder we’ll see industry examples of hibiscus in sweet treats soon too.
A dessert topped with chili powder? That doesn’t surprise us anymore since we’ve seen swicy emerge as a trendy flavor in patisserie and chocolate. This Mexican dessert consists of mango sorbet and chamoy, finished with a sprinkling of fierce chili powder. Mangonada was included in Datassential’s Trends To Watch in 2023, and indeed we’ve already seen the mango-chili combination appear in for instance macarons and puff pastry treats. No doubt there are tons of new applications yet to come.
Mexican hot chocolate is very comforting, just like the hot chocolate you know. But the authentic recipe has some important differences: it is very rich and less sweet due to the 100% bittersweet cocoa powder and the addition of spices like cinnamon and chili. While it is traditionally a drink, Mexican hot chocolate is now also being used as a flavor. UNiTE has released a Mexican Hot Chocolate protein bar for instance. The brand also taps into the newstalgia trend, stating the snack “will remind you of your abuelita's Mexican Hot Chocolate”.
All across Mexico, Central America and parts of South America, people enjoy tamales. It is one of the oldest and most popular dishes in this region. Tamales are made of masa, a dough made from corn, which gets a savory or sweet filling and is wrapped in a corn husk, and then steamed or boiled. In America, Fillo’s launched Walking Tamales as an alternative to energy bars. Consumers can find the shelf stable, clean-label, ready-to-eat tamales in supermarkets and food retail for on-the-go consumption. Flavors range from savory like Bean Salsa Verde and Bean Salsa Roja to sweet such as Strawberry Coconut and Peanut Butter Piloncillo.
The most hyped Latin American flavor must be Tajin. This spice blend combining chili peppers, lime, and salt views has raked together 3 billion views on TikTok under the #tajin. Users are combining the spice mix with everything from grapes and mango to frozen cubes of pickle juice. Tajin has also found its way into the realm of desserts and pastries, adding an unexpected twist to chocolate-based treats, caramels and sweet treats, creating a sweet and spicy sensation that captivates the modern palate. Besides being embraced by pastry chefs and home bakers, the Tajin brand has also done interesting collaborations with large food producers such as Snak Club. Together they developed gummies with the spicy seasoning which are available at Costco. They quickly caught on to the TikTok trend of combining gummy bears and Tajin and developed a highly discussed snack.
The beloved Latin American dessert tres leches cake has transcended its cultural origins to become a globally cherished treat. The classic sponge cake is soaked in a mixture of three different kinds of milk – evaporated milk, condensed milk, and heavy cream. The cake is often topped with a layer of whipped cream or meringue. The moist and rich texture is the most distinctive feature of the cake, making it a staple on dessert menus worldwide.
If these examples sound tasty and you wish to develop your own Latin-American-inspired bakery, patisserie desserts and creations, here are a few tips:
Introduce a limited edition collection featuring several classic Latin American flavors, such as a three-piece cookie range with a Mexican Hot Chocolate, tres leches and mango chili flavor. This approach creates a sense of exclusivity and encourages exploration.
Collaborate with local Latin American chefs or bakeries, not just for the traditional expertise and unique flavor combinations, but also to infuse authenticity into your products.
Experiment with fusion desserts that combine Latin American flavors with local or global ingredients. How about a peanut butter hibiscus donut?
Invest in visually appealing packaging. You want eye-catching designs that reflect the vibrancy and warmth associated with Latin American cultures to the overall appeal of your products.
Align the release of your Mexican or Brazilian-inspired products with relevant cultural events or seasons, for instance, Día de Muertos or the carnival, to tap into heightened consumer interest.
Develop healthier alternatives with Latin American flavors to cater to the growing demand for mindful indulgence. Consider vegan, gluten-free, or low-sugar options.
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