December 18, 2017
How these popular ethnic cuisines could open the door to a wealth of snack options.
Three years ago in this very space, when we last discussed snacking, I talked about the “globalization” of snacks—the increasing tendency of consumer packaged goods (cpg) companies, in particular, to appropriate and redeploy different ethnic flavor profiles in their snack foods.
Three years is practically a lifetime in the snacking world, where consumer behaviors and preferences are in a constant flux. And yet, based on all available evidence, the global-snacking trend continues to gather steam. Credit goes to those ever-adventurous millennials and their younger Gen-Z counterparts, whose restless palates are constantly yearning for new, different, and memorable flavors.
Three cuisines in particular—Moroccan, Ethiopian, and South American (not actually one cuisine, but many)—appear to be ripe for discovery and reinvention. I’ll take each in turn.
Moroccan • Can you imagine pulling up to your preferred fast-food drive-thru window and ordering food in which the flavor profile skews North African? Perhaps not today, but based on the buzz surrounding Moroccan cuisine these days, the prospect doesn’t seem that outlandish or far-fetched. Indeed, at this past summer’s Fancy Food Show, Moroccan food was billed as one of the top 10 food trends.
Moroccans have historically favored fruits and vegetables, unrefined olive oil, rice, and couscous, along with a potent, flavorful mix of sweet and savory spices that includes saffron, cinnamon, fennel, anise, and cloves. Among the local delicacies are chebakia—strips of fried dough coated in a honey-rosewater syrup and topped with sesame seeds—and bastilla, which is a pastry-covered ground meat entrée that could be reconceived as a handheld snack suitable for any daypart. With a liberal dose of cinnamon contributing to the sweet-savory taste profile, bastilla—with a distinctly Western twist—could be a winner for the chain or concept that elects to develop interesting variations on the theme.
Beyond meat and pastry, Moroccans also enjoy savory vegetables with interesting flavor profiles that can be turned into dips and spreads, like cauliflower with harissa or smoked eggplant sweetened with date sugar or date syrup. It’s not hard to envision a health-conscious chain offering snacks such as fried cauliflower florets with dipping sauces; baked or fried legume chips; or almond, cashew, and other nut butters on a pita.