For many, the past 18 months have seen appreciation and enjoyment for cooking at home grow.

Products such as components (e.g. tortillas, seasoning mixes, tacos) and accompaniments (e.g. salsas & toppings) can serve as a shortcut into personalising and enhancing a lunch or dinner, without having to buy into a full meal solution.

Component shoppers are more likely to be scratch cookers or fans of eating out, they have entered World Foods to try new and different foods in a convenient way for them, recreating that restaurant-quality they enjoy. Kits shoppers tend to be less confident cooks and use the kits to assist their cooking and grow confidence.

“Consumers have been opting for Oriental food,” comments Jose Alves, Senior Brand Manager, Old El Paso. “We’ve seen it officially overtake Italian, which is seeing a decline, possibly because Italian food is largely considered a carb heavy meal offering.”

Oriental and Mexican grew the most over the last year and this is likely to be because we are seeing growth come through foods that are light and flavoursome and either naturally implement an abundance of vegetables or can incorporate them easily and conveniently.

Lockdown certainly had an impact on the types of food people were eating. Both nostalgia and the desire to travel will have influenced shopping lists. This, plus the resurgence of home cooking, saw consumers both replicating dishes they have eaten abroad on their travels and experimenting with World Food inspired dishes from the comfort of their own home in customisable ways.

Food and flavour remain among the biggest reasons for travel, and cuisines that deliver in these areas will have seen increased sales. With all of the recent restrictions, people are seeking new solutions to expand their usual repertoire. A recent survey says 39% of shoppers are cooking new and different meals more frequently, with world foods fuelling these new skills and behaviours (IGD).

“The category is set to continue to inspire and drive excitement in the next year, and Old El Paso is particularly well placed to capitalise on this trend,” adds Alves.

The brand recently extended its category leading Old El Paso Tortilla Pockets range with a new Smoky BBQ variant. The new product combines the innovative first-to-market sealed bottom wraps with its classic and best-selling smoky BBQ flavour profile, the number one in Mexican (Nielsen), and aims to build on the outstanding success of Old El Paso Tortilla Pockets to date.

Since launching last summer, the platform has been 64% incremental to the category, driving +13% of all value growth in Mexican over the last year (Dunhumby).

The flagship Old El Paso Tortilla Pockets Mild Kit is the number one NPD in World Foods (Nielsen) and is now worth £2.3m (Nielsen). Together with the Old El Paso Tortilla Pockets carrier eight-pack, it has contributed 24% NPD value to the category (Nielsen). Both products also rank in the top two NPDs in World Foods, with the new Smoky BBQ kit set to grow this success.

“Shoppers want to see more fresh and modern cues, similar to what they are experiencing out of home, which is why we launched the Fajita Melt Kit and our new Pulled Meat seasoning mix, to replicate familiar out of home flavours of a traditional Mexican recipe but offering convenience by reducing the cooking time with that same flavour offering. Both have received high concept liking (>80%) and purchase intent (>73%),” says Alves.

Consumers love that with Mexican you can build the meal around personal preference by customising your sides, topping and even choice of protein. Old El Paso’s Sweet Chilli Black beans is a good option for a quick protein dense meal, as a side to easily ‘bulk’ a meal with protein and is a great vegetarian/vegan protein option. They are microwaveable, quick and easy to prepare, and the pots are 100% recyclable.

In general, one third of older shoppers and half of younger shoppers intend to live healthier lives after lockdown. Just over 40% of shoppers intend to eat more healthily and exercise more once lockdown has been lifted rising to more than half of 18- to 34-year-olds saying they would (IGD).

This insight, combined with demand for bigger and more substantial portions of Mexican meal centres like burritos for gluten intolerant consumers, fuelled the thinking behind launching Gluten-free XL Wraps. For the most part across World Foods, we are seeing the continued growth of existing trends over new emerging trends.

There is massive headroom for growth where Mexican penetration is at 59% in the UK with the potential to grow further as 94% of UK shoppers are open to buying into the category. Old El Paso, the most salient brand for consumers within the entire World Food category, is currently at 32% penetration and aiming to grow on this.

This creates a wealth of opportunity for its core range where the brand will continue to focus on opening this portfolio to increase penetration and help drive the total World Food category forwards.

“Being instantly recognisable on shelf works as a strong and easy navigation point into the category for shoppers, people will buy from what they know,” adds Alves. “Out of home suppliers and manufacturers such as Wagamama’s, Wahaca and Nando’s are particularly seeing growth as they steadily make their way into stores.”

Like with Old El Paso, which gained over 2m new shoppers throughout COVID, there is a pre-existing level of trust which shoppers respond well to, so brands are leveraging their reputations and rapport among shoppers to drive growth.

Mexican, including Old El Paso, already has a strong appeal with meat reducers and avoiders due to the number of vegetables in its meals. The brand is catering to healthier eating patterns across its activations and NPD. Its vegan and veggie kits were specifically designed with seasoning mixes to complement vegetables and foster healthier eating within families.

“HFSS regulations will influence consumer purchasing as they become savvier about impacted brands and food types,” Alves continues. “Channel relevancy will be a big driver across the world food category. We know ecommerce is growing exponentially and that convenience stores again have a place in the top up shop, this is as high as main shop mission in supermarkets.”

Helen Hyde, Trade Sector Controller at Creative Foods, comments: “Asian and far-Eastern dishes continue to grow in popularity and, as this happens, we see consumer understanding of these cuisines becoming more and more in-depth. For example, there is now further segmentation and distinction between different types of chillies – think Ghost, Naga and Scorpion – and this is providing operators with the opportunity to ‘transport’ their customers around the world by offering them dishes with a variety of flavour profiles and heat levels, from mild to wild. This is something we anticipated and it’s why we developed Tabasco Scorpion sauce, the hottest sauce in our range yet.”

It is perfect for operators who want to create challenge dishes such as ‘How hot can you go?’, which now feature on many menus. These dishes, which traditionally feature items such as chicken wings and pork ribs, are also increasingly popular when it comes to vegan and vegetarian menu items such as vegan cauliflower steaks which can be smothered in a tasty Tabasco infused sauce or dressing.

Perhaps the most successful of new flavours to hit the market in recent years has been Sriracha. It has grown rapidly over the last few years and is now a staple ingredient across a wide variety of different dishes and cuisines. Again, Creative Foods have tapped into this trend with the launch of Tabasco Brand Sriracha sauce which captures the essence of the iconic Tabasco sauce flavours in a Sriracha sauce. Conveniently packed in plastic squeezy bottles it is ideal for use both front and back of house.

“But it’s not all about Asian cuisine!” adds Hyde. “Pizzas is another category where we are seeing heat added, either in the form of herbs and spices, or with a sauce, in order to provide a satisfying, warming kick. The ‘American Hot’ is a popular choice amongst consumers and operators can take theirs to the next level either by adding Tabasco Original Red Pepper sauce to the passata base or by using it as a marinade for the pepperoni slices on top. We have even seen our Tabasco dry powder incorporated into the pizza dough itself for the ultimate American Hot.”

Many operators are also using spices and herbs to fire up their condiments and create classics with a twist.

Mayonnaise, ketchup, and BBQ sauce can all be easily transformed by adding a couple of drops of one of the Tabasco Brand sauces, either to add a kick or give them a smoky taste.

Dips also continue to grow in importance because they are an easy way to add variety, flavour, and on-the-go options to a menu. A few drops of Tabasco Scorpion or red sauce, will add a bit of fire to mayo dips, whilst Tabasco Chipotle will add extra smokiness to a BBQ dip.

Ian Nottage, Head of Food Development at Fresh Direct, comments: “Since the end of lockdown many operators have been running reduced menus and are therefore placing even greater emphasis on doing their core dishes really well, regardless of the style of cuisine.”

This often involves introducing an element of premiumisation, irrespective of whether they are serving traditional British dishes or dishes from around the world.

For example, it is not unusual to see the provenance of the steak in a steak and ale pie called out on the menu, and we are also seeing chillies, such as aji morado and roccoto being used, and named, instead of generic varieties.

“There doesn’t really appear to be a “next big thing” in world cuisine right now, although that said I have thought for some time now that Peruvian food such as ceviché – along with dishes using Andean root-based ingredients such as ulloco and oca de Peru – remains very much untapped,” adds Nottage. “And the Asian influence is very much still present when it comes to streetfood with ramen and dim sum remaining hugely popular.”

Although it’s ultimately about what works for the operator, and the type of customer they are catering for, there is still room for operators to introduce a more exotic element to their menu.

For example, a pub is likely to base its core menu around a solid burger, pie, and fish and chips, but that doesn’t mean to say it couldn’t also include a really good curry with some fantastic hero ingredients.

New to the table from Funnybones Foodservice as part of the Irie Eats range of authentic Caribbean cuisine, is a trio of Chicken Wings, each with its own unique flavour.

“Want your wings like Grandma made them, then Original Jerk flavour is for you. Feeling a little adventurous? Then the Spicy Jerk will be right up your street. And for those with less tolerance for spice, there’s a sticky Honey Jerk flavour which adds a delicious sweetness to a gentle Jerk spiciness,” says Tom Styman-Heighton, Development Chef for Funnybones Foodservice.

Made for the foodservice market, the ready marinated wings need only 12 minutes to cook in the oven from frozen to bring them up to perfection for serving. There are 25-30 wings in each 1kg pack and they can be served in a variety of ways.

These wings are an ideal street food dish, and also make a perfect standalone starter. As a main meal they can be paired simply with chips and slaw, or served alongside a side dish such as macaroni cheese or sweet potato mash.

“Our Irie Eats collection showcases all the flavours of the Caribbean and features authentic recipes, spices and ingredients,” adds Styman-Heighton. “Wings are a staple across the region and these are not the standard American-style BBQ wings. Ours are flavoured with a Jerk sauce made with traditional spices and Scotch Bonnet chilli peppers which give a warmth and heat without being overpowering. Although the Spicy Jerk Wings do have quite a kick!”

There are many recipes for Jerk seasoning but most include chillies, onions, thyme and garlic with a mixture of spices such as cinnamon, ginger, allspice and cloves. Originating in Jamaica hundreds of years ago, the spicy marinade, rub and flavouring is now popular throughout the Caribbean and has become perhaps the most instantly recognisable dish from the region worldwide.

“Jerk Chicken Wings are a classic Caribbean dish and our new options will please all as we have made three versions each with a different level of spiciness,” comments Styman-Heighton. “While the wings are delicious on their own, operators can create an authentic Caribbean sharing feast by combining them with other Irie Eats dishes. Our Irie Eats range allows chefs to pick and mix from a selection of regional favourites such as Rice and Peas, Callaloo Stew and Curried Mutton.”


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