Kerry, the world’s leading taste and nutrition company, has reviewed extensive research and examined global trends in emerging flavors in an effort to identify the top global taste trend in 2021. The result: barbecue—in all the many variations that can arise when cooking with fire—is electrifying consumer appetites and elevating expectations for new and interesting flavors. This includes in snacks, meats, plant-based meat alternatives, vegetables, sauces, dips, marinades, and seasonings. 

A total of 26 barbecue, smoke and grill tastes were identified across Kerry’s Taste Charts in Europe, APMEA, North America and the Latin American region. A dozen of these were considered “emerging,” while another five made the “up and coming” category. 

Meanwhile, Innova reports that one in every seven new products developed around the world is barbecue-focused, while in Europe 43% of new food and beverage launches in 2021 featured barbecue as a component. Asia has the most potential, with new product launches up almost one-third (to 21%) in the last five years. In addition, more than 33% of all sauces and seasoning products launched during 2016–20 call out barbecue on the front of package, along with 30% of new snack products. Barbecue is now ranked number three on the list of top snack flavors globally, and fifth in meat flavors (“smoked” is number one). 

Due largely to the COVID-19 pandemic, global backyard cooking is at an all-time high. Furthermore, since every global region has extensive variations and traditions in barbecue, many of these are now  migrating between and cross-pollinating markets and regions. In short, consumers all over the world are seeking out new taste variations on the world’s oldest cooking method—fire. 

Kerry’s Soumya Nair, Global Director, Consumer Research and Insights, commented on barbecue’s status. 

“Barbecue might just be the world’s new favorite taste, and the global-leading barbecue trend our analysts are seeing right now shows that consumers everywhere are looking for new and ethnic-inspired specific tastes—such as Korean, Texas or Brazilian—in various meat and snack products,” she says. “Consumers love the balance of sweetness, salt, spices and smoke that seems to enhance virtually any application, and we regularly witness new barbecue-flavored items showing up on menus and in stores in foods such as snacks, meats and meat alternatives.”

Nair adds, “Our research is confirming that today’s global consumers don’t just crave ethnic-inspired dishes, snacks and flavorings, but also that they’re demanding authentic experiences and tastes that are true to their regions of origin. Moreover, they’re actively looking for these interesting new snacks, sauces and meat products in the marketplace, and in a variety of applications. Authentic barbecue-flavor innovation, delivered quickly, remains key to winning in this fast-changing marketplace.”

Kerry has identified 39 main global variations and traditions from around the world—ranging from Memphis and Texas in North America to kebab in the Middle East, yakitori, char sui and tandoori in Asia, khorovats from Armenia, to jerk in Latin America. Barbecue has also begun to enter the mash-up trend, with curry, sweet chili and beer-inspired barbecue flavors emerging globally. 

“To keep pace with consumer desires, brands must now move faster than evolving cravings for complex and culturally nuanced barbecue tastes,” Nair concludes. “It’s vital in this shifting environment that new barbecue flavor innovations meet consumer expectations for the ‘real’ flavor of foods cooked over flames. Although barbecue is described differently everywhere, fire, the world’s oldest cooking method, is at its core—seared, so to speak, in our global shared DNA.”

Kerry Red Arrow
With the most innovative technologies in the smoke and grill space, coupled with industry-leading applications expertise, Kerry Red Arrow is able to craft market-leading authentic barbecue, smoke and grill flavors with superior taste. These offerings are exciting tomorrow’s consumers and driving preferences into the future. Furthermore, with consumers increasingly prioritizing sustainability, our proprietary smoke flavors—captured from heat, wood and water—offer a comprehensive solution for companies seeking to meet the demand for authentic barbecue products that are better for both people and the planet. Kerry Red Arrow is the world’s most trusted supplier of barbecue flavor solutions: With an established smoke and grill heritage, wide-ranging applications expertise, a broad market reach, and invaluable consumer insights, Kerry Red Arrow is the authoritative expert on global barbecue flavors.