Today’s consumer landscape is diversifying, and in turn, there’s been a shift in consumer expectations around international and regional flavors. 

Foodservice plays a strong role in flavor and cuisine discovery but younger consumers are equally likely to seek out these flavor profiles in the grocery store. While consumers have shifted their food spend primarily to retail channels, brands must preserve authenticity when innovating with international and regional flavors, in particular. 

This is not an easy task. The variety in cuisines available today—both on-premise and at retail—is greater than ever and this wide assortment is becoming the norm. Moving forward, foodservice operators and retail brand owners must engage consumers by delivering the variety, authenticity, and innovation that align with changing tastes.


Brands have room to grow through the nuances of American BBQ

Most US consumers have had some kind of an experience (usually positive) with Tex-Mex (64%), Texas BBQ (56%), and Southwestern cuisines (51%). However, when BBQ styles are broken down, the experience becomes more limited. 

When it comes to mainstream retail brands, barbecue has been a “one size fits all” sauce designed for versatility and convenience. Still, consumers are interested in exploring the different regional barbecue styles, and brands continue to increasingly highlight specific flavor profiles and ingredients native to the heritage of each style. 

Understandably, consumers may have inherent biases and preferences based on regionality when it comes to “true” barbecue. Even so, there are solid new product development opportunities to explore flavor profiles beyond the traditional experience of a meat, sauce and two sides.


Take consumers on a culinary tour of American regional flavors

US consumers already are expressing interest in “domestic travel” through their taste buds. Even though domestic US tourism has been hampered, these consumers still want authentic regional taste travel experiences. This presents an opportunity for brands and operators to help consumers discover these experiences in their own neck of the woods. Not surprisingly, strong awareness and trial ties to cuisines indigenous to their native regions. Yet, interest in new trial of some more nuanced regional cuisines, especially BBQs, increases by not-so-proximate distance.

For example, Mintel survey data suggest that consumers living in the West are most interested in trial of Alabama BBQ (43%). Those that live in the Northeast are most interested in Southwest cuisine (23%). This indicates that while opportunities still exist to grow trial, there are few geographical boundaries.


Women are equally interested in exploring regional barbecue

Any notion that barbecue appeals more to men is quickly becoming outdated. Although they have yet to fully submerse themselves into products that carry these cuisines, it’s now the case that women display nearly equal interest for the nuances of regional barbecue. 

On the whole, men still are far more likely to have tried a wider variety of barbecue styles, but the future of the category is less gender-specific. This is particularly relevant for CPG categories as well, as women do more of household shopping compared to men. This also represents a great opportunity to engage older consumers who view barbecue as a relatively familiar category with options for regional exploration.