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Multicultural wellness ingredients: culinary trend tracking series

Multicultural wellness ingredients, at the intersection of healthier eating trends and our increasingly international palate, are fueling some of the most compelling trends in the culinary landscape. This edition of CuTTS, produced by Packaged Facts companyprofiles five such ingredients that are gaining traction on restaurant menus and supermarket shelves – either foreign fare being introduced to a widening range of American consumers, or as more integrated ingredients being reintroduced in tempting new dishes and guises:

Teff Stretches Out
Familiar to some Americans through injera, the spongy Ethiopian flat bread, teff is the smallest grain in the world, but carries a hefty dose of nutrients. Teff also is high in fiber, low in fat and sodium, and ideal for wheat- and gluten-avoiding consumers. Upscale gluten-free bakeries use teff to create breads and pastries with an artisanal flair, and this diminutive grain has started popping up in grocery aisles in the form of cereal bars and chips, joining the “ancient grains” wave of novel but nutritious ingredients.

Avocado in Desserts and Drinks
While avocados are most often associated in the U.S. with savory foods such as guacamole or sandwiches, in many other cultures, from Brazil to Sri Lanka, the avocado is treated as the fruit it actually is, most often incorporated into desserts and sweet drinks. The nutritional benefits of avocados are substantial, and avocado’s mild flavor and creamy texture of make it a remarkably adaptable culinary ingredient. Bringing avocado into desserts and drinks is therefore a prime opportunity to combine tradition, innovation, nutrition, and good taste.

The Matcha Difference
Painstakingly cultivated in Japan’s Shimoyama region, matcha is identified by its vibrant color and a rich grassy flavor, and is at the heart of the Japanese tea ceremony, a tradition dating back nearly a millennium. While green tea generally is regarded as a superfood, matcha is a special case because of the extra dose of antioxidants generated by its distinctive growing method, which are then retained because the tea leaves are pulverized and blended into water rather than being steeped. Bringing tradition, special nutrition, and brilliant color under the umbrella beverage craftsmanship, matcha is the new un-soda.

Pepitas Power
Pumpkin seeds, particularly their hulled kernels, are gaining in culinary presence. Pumpkin seeds are especially associated with Mexico, and pepitas is the Spanish term. Several drivers account for pepitas power. One is nutrition: pepitas are high in various minerals and moderately high in protein and fiber. Another is their authentic Mexican food appeal and invitation to taste adventure. Finally, pepitas are versatile in that they can be used whole, ground up into foods, or as a garnish — and as garnishes, their green hues give them a visual leg up over most of their nut and seed rivals.

Lentils as Souped-Up Nutrition
The tiny seed known as a lentil was possibly the world’s first cultivated crop. Lentils now span dozens of cultures; this versatile food crop features in Indian, Middle Eastern, Ethiopian, European, and South American traditional recipes. As a pulse crop, lentils contribute to soil conditioning by fixing nitrogen into the soil, thereby mitigating the need for chemical fertilizers and providing an environmental benefit to boot. Associated in the U.S. with the health food movement of the 1960s and 70s, lentils are most commonly used in soup or paired with rice. However, commercial kitchens are now exploring the use of lentils — in whole, dissolved, and flour form — in salads, veggie-based burgers, sauces and gravies, breads and pasta, chips and other savory snacks, and even sweet baked goods and desserts. 
Culinary Trend Tracking Series (CuTTS) is the essential source for tracking culinary trends and opportunities in the restaurant, foodservice, retail prepared foods, and packaged food and beverage sectors. This new bimonthly report series empowers the menu and food manufacturing innovation of executives, strategists, chefs, and food research professionals in R&D/product development, market and consumer insights, brand management, and trade and consumer marketing. 
CuTTs provides authoritative culinary trend and opportunity analysis within the framework of today’s key sales growth drivers: health and wellness, including ingredient spotlights and ingredient avoidance trends; bold flavors and flavor adventure; food integrity and authenticity, including natural, organic, local, and food freshness; craft and artisanal; purposeful eating and sustainability.

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