Post Categories: November 2015

Trending Tastes: Chefs Go Bold with Bitter


If you’ve eaten at a trendy restaurant recently, you probably noticed several dishes featuring kale, arugula, Brussels sprouts or other dark greens. If you made it to dessert, there’s a good chance dark chocolate also made an appearance on the menu. It’s not just chefs trying to help you stay healthy. They’re also trying to capitalize on a growing flavor trend: the boldness of bitter.

Experts say one of the main drivers behind this move to the bitter side is consumers’ desire to be challenged by new flavors. Spicy foods and sweet-and-salty combinations have become commonplace. Diners want something different. Enter bitter greens, charred root vegetables, coffee-encrusted meats and hoppy craft beers.

Bitter flavors are now starting to catch the attention of retail food manufacturers—not only for their popularity in the food service scene, but also for their ability to make low-sodium foods more palatable. As part of an overall trend toward eating healthier, many consumers are looking to lower their sodium (salt) intake. However, reducing sodium also often means reducing flavor—a trade-off many consumers aren’t willing to make. Bitter flavors may provide the ideal alternative by delivering bold flavor that stands up to lower sodium levels.

Though not yet completely mainstream, some bitter-focused products have started to make their way to retail shelves. Some popular options include chips made from root vegetables and kale, dark chocolates with 85 to 100 percent cocoa and matcha green tea. In the near future, market intelligence firm Mintel predicts more snacks will feature things like bitter gourd, bitter melon or herbs and spices that impart a bitter flavor. Over time, bitter could even come to eclipse salty as the flavor of choice in some categories, says Mintel.