Post Categories: May 2014

Trending Tastes: Everything Old is New Again—Fermentation Bubbles Back

If you’ve been out to eat at a trendy restaurant lately, you may have noticed some interesting new flavors on the menu. From kimchi to sriracha (a new flavor of Lay’s potato chips) to kombucha, chefs are turning to the age-old practice of fermentation to add funky new flavors to favorite dishes. Though they might not seem like they would have broad retail appeal, market research firm The Hartman Group says fermented foods are a prime target for the 47 percent of consumers who say they enjoy anything new and different and seek out new types of ethnic cuisine. Campbell’s Culinary & Baking Institute agrees, having listed fermented foods as one of the top flavor trends to watch for in 2014.

Fermentation is a process that is said to have originated in China around 220 B.C., where food is exposed to bacteria and yeasts, either via inoculation or naturally through the air. The bacteria and yeasts then feed on the sugar and starch in the foods, creating lactic acid. This process preserves the food, and creates beneficial enzymes, B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids and various strains of probiotics. As your gut is home to countless bacteria (both good and bad), and produces more serotonin (a neurotransmitter that has a beneficial influence on your mood) than your brain—it’s important to ingest as much of these probiotic powerhouses and digestive enzymes as possible!

Most consumers are just now getting their first introduction to fermented foods at upscale grocery stores like Whole Foods or at restaurants, and aren’t fully aware of their health benefits. Some good “starter” fermented foods are kefir milk, a thick yogurt-like drink, sauerkraut or kombucha tea. Supermarket chains are dedicating entire sections of the store to fermented foods, as some consumers are looking to manage specific health issues, while others are looking to improve overall health. The demand is especially strong from Millennials who seek new and exotic tastes, while Baby Boomers prefer the stronger flavors because of their weakened ability to taste. This move from sweet to tart and bitter reflects the flavors that are starting to dominate American cuisine.