A new report from market analysis experts Datamonitor, Future Food Flavours, unravels the implications of health food, new cuisine and changing consumer tastes on ingredients and flavours, identifying the cuisine that will be popular in the future. While curry still dominates the British tastebud, Middle Eastern, Fusion and Cajun cuisine are all set to increase in popularity.

Polarisation of savoury flavours: the exotic and the familiar
Conducting interviews with chefs and major players in the food industry across Europe and the US, Datamonitor found that a polarisation of tastes is occurring within savoury flavours as consumers are attracted to both exotic and traditional tastes. The variety of ethnic ready meals and cooking sauces is expanding at a rapid rate across Europe and the US as consumers become comfortable with diverse flavours. Cajun and fusion food are increasing in popularity as consumers desire foods that excite taste buds and offer a real flavours explosion. At the same time as ethnic foods and ingredients capture a large share of the savoury foods market, a trend towards a 'back to basics' approach to food is evident. Described as 'Cuisine Terroir', the trend reflects the desire amongst consumers to experience regional or national dishes using traditional cooking techniques and ingredients. Restaurants in the UK have been quick to identify this trend, with traditional English fare appearing on many restaurant menus.

Regional tastes to become the next big flavours craze
The increased popularity of ethnic food is seeing consumers demand more as they crave dishes that are truly authentic rather than meals with a 'manufactured spin'. Ready meals and cooking sauces are now emphasising perceived authenticity in order to satisfy consumer demands. Cont…
Furthermore, regional dishes are becoming popular as consumers look for reinforced authenticity of flavours. As consumers return from exotic holiday locations, their desire to recreate specific flavours is satisfied by regional offerings.

Combination flavours set to rock the sweet flavours world
The yoghurt, sweet confectionery and cakes and biscuits markets have all begun to incorporate combination flavours into their offerings as manufacturers look to increase product variety. Exotic flavours including mango, papaya and passion fruit have proved particularly popular as consumers look for sweet flavours that are less predictable and more innovative. The availability of exotic fruits in leading supermarkets provides a good indication of the popularity of exotic flavours.

Food is fashionable
As meal preparation becomes increasingly simple and individualised so consumers have been less willing to experiment in the kitchen with new recipes and exotic ingredients. The trend towards convenience cooking has resulted in a loss of consumer culinary skills as ready meals serve as the dominant way of providing a meal for many families. However, the media has had a profound impact on the consumers' taste buds over the past few years. TV Chefs, travel programmes, cookery books and the Internet have all encouraged the consumer to take a more adventurous approach to eating. However, the impact of the media on consumer taste buds has not been universal. The USA and the UK have thus far been the pioneers of the TV chef and subsequent development of a cult of personality, with the effect of making cooking a fashionable pastime. Both these countries have also been quick to capitalise on the cult of the TV chef and publish cookery books on the wave of this increased popularity.

Delia Dominates
The Delia Smith phenomenon has taken the UK by storm. Her 'Back to Basics' approach to cooking, whilst antagonising more dynamic chefs, has struck a chord with the British consumer desiring traditional foods and recognisable ingredients. The nation appears to be split between those preferring traditional flavours and recipes and those in search of new and exotic tastes and dining experiences. What appears to unite these two factions however, is a growing desire to use ingredients effectively with the minimum of fuss.

Further-flung travel is helping tastes develop
The globally exposed taste bud was enjoyed and known to few. Today however, the proportion of the population that regularly travels overseas is increasing. This has seen the evolution of a more cosmopolitan way of thinking as a greater number of consumers gain first hand experience of foreign cultures and cuisine. What is significant however, is the fact that not only are increased proportions of the population travelling but a notable diversification in the location of tourism destinations has taken place. Asia, North Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean are the key emerging destinations.

UK outbound visits by region, millions, 1990-1998

Africa 0.7 1.2 71.4%
Middle East 0.2 0.4 100.0%
Asia 0.8 1.6 100.0%
Source: International Passenger Survey (CAGR= Compound Annual Growth Rate)

The travel statistics are already being reflected in the type of food available in supermarkets, especially within the ready meals sector. Food from Asia Pacific, in particular Thai, is currently experiencing mass popularity due to the attractiveness of the region among young backpackers. With this travel trend set to continue, consumers will continue to indulge in these Asian flavours as they become increasingly familiar with the cuisine.

Indian cuisine dominates London foodservice
London is regarded as the capital of European ethnic food and the popularity of Indian cuisine in the London foodservice sector is indicative of the great strength of the cuisine in the UK. In all cases except London, Chinese is the best established of the ethnic cuisine in the foodservice sector. This can be attributed to the fact that Chinese food is the longest established ethnic cuisine across the continent, therefore meeting with only limited distrust. That London dominates the Indian foodservice sector to such an extent supports the theory that a strong link exists between the size of the local ethnic population base and the popularity of its associated cuisine. Approximately 12% of all restaurants in London serve Indian food. This is perhaps most striking when viewed against the fact that only 13% of restaurants in London are classified as serving traditional English fare.

Cooking by components proving popular
Sarah Nunny, Datamonitor food industry analyst and author of the report comments:
"The media attention given to food and cooking points to an obsession with all things gastronomic. With restaurants and supermarkets offering the exotic alongside the traditional, there is something for everyone. The media has played a large part in making food fashionable, and many consumers are attempting to learn culinary skills. Even for those consumers who don't want to cook from scratch, there is now a natural progression from trying cuisine in a restaurant, to then having the same food at home in ready meal format to then re-creating it by assembling it from ready-made components. A return to at-home cooking is leading to something of a rekindling in dinner party culture, as consumers want to entertain when experimenting with new recipes. While cooking has become a major pastime, consumers are increasingly health conscious and many are attempting to have a healthier diet. More consumers are incorporating vegetables into their diets as supermarkets offer a wider variety of vegetarian dishes in their prepared meal ranges. Although this does not imply that increasing numbers of people are turning vegetarian, it does imply that a more health aware consumer is looking for flavour without having to compromise on taste. Products and cuisines that can satisfy consumer demands on health, flavour and convenience are ideally positioned. Middle Eastern cuisine successfully spans all three of these demands and is a potentially popular flavour for the future."

*'Future Food Flavours 2000', £2995. Datamonitor Sales 020 7675 7261.