Eating Regional Tops Trends in Barbecue

August 18, 2015

CHICAGO—America’s national food could be considered barbecue. Popular across the country, its appeal is tied to regional taste and flavor preferences. In the August issue of Food Technology magazine published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), associate editor Melanie Bartelme looks at the current barbecue trends popular amongst today’s consumers. In an accompanying video, IFT Spokesperson and America’s Test Kitchen science editor Guy Crosby, PhD, CFS talks about the chemistry of barbecue.

Eating regionally is one of the hottest trends in barbecue, and consumers are interested in the distinct differences in flavors each region offers. For example, in the Carolinas, vinegar based sauces are paired with yellow mustard. In Memphis, they are mixed with molasses and brown sugar. Meats and sauces also reflect what’s available in specific regions. Beef is often used in Texas barbecue whereas Hawaiian barbecue styles focus on kalua pork. Florida sauces incorporate tropical fruits.

The barbecue sauce market is huge and growing; according to IRI Infoscan data for the 52-week period ending May 17, 2015 sales measured $677 million. Alcohol-infused barbecue sauces have increased in popularity in recent years. Bourbon-infused barbecue appears on 32 percent more restaurant menus than it did four years ago (Datassential). In barbecue sauces, sweet flavors derived from fruits appear alongside alcohol for balance or are paired with peppers to cut or complement the heat. Combinations like pineapple jalapeno, raspberry chipotle, roasted mango, and cherry barbeque sauce are just a few example of the “sweet heat” trend.  

When it comes to global barbecue, peppers are the driving force. A study conducted by Kalsec, a flavor company, showed that jalapeno, cayenne and chipotle are preferred peppers in America; whereas habanero, poblano and peri peri are growing in popularity in Europe. Additionally, age demographics also influence peppers in barbecue, especially in baby boomers. Baby boomers have a changing palate which requires hotter and hotter foods as they age and their taste buds dull (Holman). According to Mintel, consumers are still getting to know different regional peppers, and 33 percent of Americans would like menu items to call out the specific peppers being used in dishes (Mintel 2014a).

Going clean-label and making homemade sauces is also an increasing trend. Nearly 40 percent of consumers who use barbecue sauces and marinades were steered by claims of no additives/preservatives in order to choose one brand over another. In addition, sauce purchases motivated by low-allergen and gluten-free claims have risen over the last four years (Mintel, 2014).

Read the full Food Technology article here.

In an accompanying video, IFT Spokesperson and America’s Test Kitchen science editor Guy Crosby, PhD, CFS talks about the chemistry of barbecue.

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