Regional & Ethnic Food

Americans continue to love ethnic foods. Entrees once considered distinctly ethnic, such as pizzas, pastas and tacos, have become comfort foods for many, particularly young people. Italian, Mexican, Chinese and other ethnic cuisines are as common as meat loaf and mashed potatoes.

While canned spaghetti, frozen egg rolls and shelf-stable taco shells enjoy popularity, American palates are becoming more sophisticated and adventurous. Consumers are seeking variety, "new" flavors, good presentation and, sometimes, a little spiciness in prepared foods. As a result, three trends are clearly developing.

Regional flair
First, mainstream consumers desire greater authenticity in ethnic foods. Consumers now understand that "true" ethnic flavors come in regional styles. Thus, instead of Oriental or Chinese food, consumers are seeking Cantonese, Hunan or Szechwan cuisine.
Second, the popularity of regional American cuisines, such as Creole or Southern cooking, is growing, and these cuisines are becoming more authentic as well. They also are adopting flavors from other cuisines. For example, Creole cuisines are replacing their heavy sauced flavors with lighter, fruity and hot flavors from Caribbean Creole, Asian and other ethnic cooking.

Third, ethnic foods are redefining the concept of the entree. In the future, we will see fewer entrees with a large piece of meat as its centerpiece. Entrees will feature smaller servings of meat, combined with exciting side dishes of rice, legumes and pasta. Meat and fish will come well-seasoned in sauces, or as part of a one-dish meal.

Can food manufacturers profit by creating new ethnic and regional entrees? Absolutely. Creative food designers can develop ethnic entrees, authentic and acceptable to mainstream consumers, by using more "real" ingredients or by fusing ethnic flavors or ingredients with traditional American cooking. Food designers can give familiar foods a new ethnic twist, but, at the same time, not shock consumers with extreme changes. Even conservative taste buds can venture into adventurous territory.

By creating authentic ethnic entrees, food manufacturers also may capture sales from those seeking "healthy" foods. Consumers are more concerned now than in the past about nutritional value. Demographic changes will prove influential: The population will increasingly be comprised of larger percentages of those who are more youthful and affluent, as well as those who are elderly and well-traveled.

Consumers will be demanding more varied, flavorful, healthful and freshly prepared foods. Ingredients and preparation techniques used in authentic ethnic cuisines will meet this growing demand. Ethnic dishes will emerge that feature phytochemicals or other ingredients that boost energy or perform healing functions.

Moreover, wise food product designers are recognizing that mainstream America is becoming more diverse. Demographic studies show a significant increase in ethnic populations, and even more dramatic growth is predicted. An ethnic upper middle class also is emerging with growing affluence and buying power. Mainstreamed ethnic products can reach the second- and third-generation ethnic consumers who want a little less authenticity.

With the growing demand for convenience foods and home-meal replacements, food product designers need to develop prepared entrees that are authentic and appealing, for grocery shelves, delis or freezers. When creating these new ethnic entrees, technical and sourcing issues need to be considered.

Regional focus
For mainstream American consumers, the most popular ethnic foods within the last 15 to 20 years have been Italian, Mexican/Tex-Mex and Chinese, followed by Greek, Japanese, Cajun and Creole. Demand continues to grow for these cuisines, but tastes are changing. Consumers now want the "real" thing. Demographics, media, travel and ingredient availability are making consumers more knowledgeable about authentic ethnic products. Consumers' appetites for variety and stronger flavor profiles also are creating this demand. These cuisines will continue expanding in popularity, because now their regional flavors are gaining greater acceptance. Consumers want Sardinian, Ligurian or Tuscan cuisine, not just Italian. They want Yucatan, Oaxacan or Veracruz-style food, not just Mexican. They desire Cantonese, Szechwan or Beijing dishes, not just Chinese. To develop these regional ethnic entrees, food product designers must understand regional ethnic cuisines, including their preparation, ingredients, and how meals are put together.
Italian foods have come a long way. Canned tomato-based sauces and heavy cream sauces are being replaced by lighter, fresh tomato sauces with olive oil, fresh herbs and roasted flavors. Great regional variety exists in Italian foods. Food product designers can take advantage of these regional tastes to create exciting Italian entrees. Tuscan foods use lighter white wines, olive oil, garlic and fagioli (beans). Around Rome, dishes feature diavolo (a spicy marinara), marsala wine and pizzas. In Campania, black olives, mozzarella, marinara and capers are popular. In Sicily, lemons, olives, fish and almonds prevail. In Sardinian dishes, pecorini cheese, roasted flavors and fruits dominate. Black truffle, pastas and fennel are frequently used in Umbria. Ligurian cooking contains aromatic herbs, pine nuts and pesto. Dishes from Lombardy have butter, polenta and celery. In Piedmont, white truffle, fontina cheese and ravioli predominate. Venetian dishes typically contain scampi, rice and black pepper.

Mainstream consumers also are learning that Tex-Mex foods differ from authentic Mexican foods. They now realize that Mexico offers distinct flavors that vary among the country's geographical regions, influenced by different cultures, ingredients and climate. In northern Mexico, flavors are milder with plenty of cheese, pinto beans and beef. The Pacific coast offers poblanos, ceviches and pozoles. Oaxacans, because of an indigenous Indian influence, enjoy black beans and spicier sauces. Yucatan cuisine uses hot habaneros, achiotes and chilmoles. Dishes from the Veracruz region, with its strong Spanish influence, contain more seafood and fruits.

Food preparation and presentation techniques also differ among cultures, and will provide important ways of creating flavors for ethnic products, particularly when designing refrigerated home-meal replacements. In Mexico, the way masa is prepared and cooked varies with the finished product - whether tortilla, chalupa, taco or tamale. These products also are presented differently in the Yucatan, Oaxaca or the northern regions - with fillings or toppings, baked or fried, steamed in corn husk, banana leaf, or maguey leaf.

Japanese categorize their meals by preparation method, whether grilled, steamed, simmered, deep-fried or vinegared. Japanese meal presentation often artistically combines different cooking techniques, creating balanced flavors, textures and colors.

Spice it up
Cultures that eat hot and spicy foods are influencing North American eating habits and tastes: Mainstream consumers want more zip and thrill in their foods.
The demand for more picante and spicier taste profiles, together with the demand for comfort foods with a "new" flair, are making Cajun, Creole and other Southern regional cooking resurge with more sophisticated flavors. These cuisines are re-emerging with more authentic ingredients, such as andouille sausage, file powder, Tabasco and jalapeño chile peppers.

While heat will be part of the flavor profile, the new products will not be accepted solely on their heat. Chile peppers will now be added for flavor, texture and color. Consumers will expect the food industry to fully utilize spices and chile peppers to create more authentic gumbos, blackened fish or barbecued entrees. In addition, Cajun food will increasingly combine other ethnic ingredients or flavors to create Caj-Mex, Caj-Caribbean or Caj-Chinese.

In the past, most food manufacturers ignored African-American cooking, because many soul-food recipes relied on cast-off cuts of meats, fried foods, gravies or vegetables with smoked ham hocks. This is changing. Currently, culinarians and restaurants nationwide are reviving soul food with more healthful concepts. Also, as the trend for comfort foods and authenticity grows, so will the demand for new soul-food dishes that are produced using traditional approaches, but include lighter ingredients.

"Soul-food cooking originated in the slave quarters of Southern plantations, and has influences from Cajun, Creole and Tex-Mex foods," says Wilbert Jones, president, Healthy Concepts, Inc., Chicago. "Since soul food began as a poor man's food, the basic flavorings are salt, onions, black pepper, cayenne pepper or vinegar-based sauces." African-American foods form the building blocks of mainstream comfort foods, Jones says, such as fried chicken, barbecued ribs, roast turkey, mashed potatoes, and macaroni and cheese. Comfort ingredients, such as collard greens, mustard greens and black-eyed peas, are great entree components.

Food developers should seriously target the "new" African-American tastes. "Typically, African-Americans cooked soul food at parties, weddings, and Sunday dinners and do not cook soul food on a daily basis," Jones says. Therefore, soul-food entrees that are easy to prepare will have a ready market. Entrees for the new generation of African-Americans can include foods with some Caribbean, Creole, Cajun or even Chinese flavors.

Rethinking the basics
Food designers need to know that basic components of an entree are changing due to ethnic food's increasing popularity. Ethnic entrees often emphasize side dishes or are in the form of one-dish meals. They will offer more complex flavor combinations, and exciting sauces and seasonings.
Flavors derived from side dishes will represent the next emerging trend. Entrees might not continue to focus on big chunks of beef, pork or chicken. In many cultures, a meal's quality isn't measured by a main dish, but by a range of diverse side dishes that add varied flavors, textures and aesthetic appeal. This diversifies the flavor in a meal, and no single flavor predominates. In particular, the health-conscious mainstream consumer will seek smaller portions of meat combined with vegetables, legumes or rice.

Can entrees be developed that incorporate a variety of side dishes? Food product designers might consider looking to the Japanese for ideas because, in their cuisine, side dishes provide an important source of variety and aesthetic appeal. Japanese box lunches, or O-bento, consist of white rice and an assortment of small side dishes of meat, fish, vegetables, egg, fruit or pickled plum. One popular meal is kaiseki ryoi, which features an exquisite array of a dozen or more tiny side dishes artfully arranged on a table, complementing a basic meal of boiled rice, miso soup and pickles. The side dishes contain meat, fish, poultry, pickled daikon or other vegetables. Food presentation is important in kaiseki ryoi. The side dishes that are round are served on square or rectangular plates; the foods that are square are served on round plates, with sculptured vegetables, sisho flowers or colorful daikon.

Many ethnic cuisines blend together the concepts of entree and side dishes to form a one-pot or one-dish meal. For reasons of economics or convenience, ethnic groups have one-dish stews, soups, stir-fried noodles or fried rice. These typically contain meat, chicken or vegetables, topped with sauces or condiments. One-dish meals of noodles, rice or legumes enjoy substantial popularity in Asia and Latin America. They come in many varieties, each with its own unique flavor. However, the addition of ingredients for these one-dish meals isn't random. Ingredients are chosen and added to create a balanced system of taste and texture.

Food designers can create tasteful one-pot meals that are convenient, healthful, upscale and authentic. Large or busy families will enjoy these, which can be prepared with seasoned meat, chicken or seafood, and various vegetables as lunch or quick-fix dinners. Additional ingredients can be added or attached separately so consumers can place their own final touch on the meal.

Food product designers also can develop one-dish entrees using pastas or rices with appropriate sauces. Pasta products, in particular, offer designers endless possibilities for one-dish meals possessing appeal for mainstream and ethnic consumers alike. Find/SVP, New York, reports that nearly three out of four adults eat a pasta meal for dinner at least once every two weeks. Dry dinner and entrees account for 28% of all pasta dollars.

Pasta dishes are attractive because they're easy-to-prepare and, with the right ingredients, economical and healthy. Many upscale, imported pasta shapes and pasta sauces are growing in popularity because consumers are seeking the "real thing" - whether olive oil, roasted flavors or cheeses. Home-meal replacements that include pasta achieve popularity because of convenience. Macaroni and cheese is still popular, especially with young people. Lighter versions of these can be created, with upscale flavor and variety offering universal appeal.

A convenient one-dish ethnic entree, pizza has surpassed hot dogs and hamburgers as children's favorite meal, Find/SVP reports. Microwavable premium, ethnic-type pizzas containing varied and healthful ingredients for toppings, and which rise like fresh bread when baked at home, will attract teenagers and singles seeking convenience and variety.

Combining the complex
Another way ethnic entrees differ from traditional American entrees is in their complex flavors. By combining spices, seasoning, and chile peppers, these entrees offer greater variety, more healthful ingredients and stronger flavor profiles. By using several ingredients, hot, sweet, sour, savory and aromatic sensations can be created all in one bite. This combined flavor perception is beginning to appeal to mainstream consumers.
The Chinese have mastered the art of combining complex flavors in one bite. The legacy of Szechwan regional cooking is blending the five opposing tastes from basic ingredients to create a successful flavor release: sweet from sugar or fruits; sour from vinegar or tomato; bitter from fried garlic or vegetables; hot from ginger or chiles; and salty from bean pastes. Heat is either an initial or final flash, with other flavors being released one at a time. Hoisin, pungent bean pastes, five-spice blends and smoky flavors enhance many vegetable, pork and chicken dishes in China's northern regional cooking. Cantonese cuisine employs simple cooking techniques, such as stir-frying, braising and steaming with garlic, ginger, light soy sauce and vegetables to create subtle, yet great flavored and textured sauces.

Traditional American entrees present thick cuts of meat or fish, sometimes unseasoned and sauceless, but this is changing. Consumers want marinated meats with sauces that are more seasoned and fresh. Most authentic meat entrees are marinated and cut thin, thereby providing more intense flavors. The Mexican comida, or main meal of the day, often features puerco asado (a thinly cut marinated roast pork), pollo parilla (grilled marinated chicken) or ropa vieja (shredded beef), accompanied by soups, salads, pickled onion, rice and beans or tortillas.

Mexican entrees offer excitement because of a fascinating array of salsas and moles produced from chiles, tomatillos, pipian, beans and chocolate, with herbs and spices. They are scooped over everything - rice, tacos or meat - and provide the entree with flavor variety. These sauces contain dried, smoked or fresh chiles that provide color, flavor and heat, tending to enhance and provide a background note for spices and other flavorings. Mexicans have mastered their knowledge of different types of chiles in these sauces to achieve great taste, aroma, mouthfeel, color or bite. If chile extractives are used in processed entrees, they need to provide flavor in addition to heat.

Training the taste buds
Food product designers face a challenge. An ever-growing number of mainstream consumers want more authentic ethnic flavors. Mainstream consumers are becoming increasingly aware of typical ingredients used in ethnic foods, whether through a dish they ate in a restaurant, on vacation, or at a bodega around the corner. How can true ethnic flavors be developed that meet this demand, yet not alienate other consumers?
To create great ethnic entrees, food product designers don't need to compromise on ingredients or the cooking process. Rather, they need to reduce or effectively substitute the more flavor-intense ingredients, such as chile peppers, fish sauce or fermented bean pastes.

A second method involves creating fusion dishes that combine authentic ethnic ingredients with traditional American foods. "Authentic ethnic ingredients blend well, such as risotto with jalapeños or pesto with cilantro," says Michael Joy, corporate chef, flavor division, McCormick & Company, Inc., Hunt Valley, MD. "This is where consumers are heading."

Ethnic groups traditionally have used wraps - tortillas, pita breads, Mandarin pancakes, dosais or other flatbreads as meals or snacks. These are emerging as fusion lunch entrees with diverse fillings, including spicy, stir-fried vegetables or rice with beans. Joy expects wrap kits to grow significantly. This entree concept appears popular with mainstream consumers, and has increased sales of grilling products, marinades and dry spice blends for meal solutions.

"Wrap kits - either frozen, refrigerated or dry - will contain everything needed for a meal," Joy says, "such as tortillas, various fillings (shredded chicken or beef, vegetables, beans, cheese, rice, chile peppers) seasonings and condiments.

"In home-meal replacement, the consumer wants ownership of meal, a combination of buying a prepared entree with an array of seasonings from which she can choose," he explains. "These wrap kits will appeal to the working parents, singles, as well as teenagers, who would enjoy putting the wrap together, thereby giving them choices."

Another way to create interesting fusion entrees is combining authentic ethnic side dishes of rice or risotto with traditional American meals. Rice is becoming popular with mainstream consumers because of its nutritional and nonallergenic properties. When we create rice products, we need to be aware of their varieties, their properties after cooking, and textural preferences.

Demographic studies show a significant increase in ethnic populations and even more dramatic growth is predicted. But ethnic consumers also are becoming more mainstream. Not all Italian, Hispanic or Asian consumers are interested in only foods from their native countries. New ethnic, fusion and regional American dishes are ideal for this growing ethnic market.

Food product designers must consider generational differences and adaptation to newer cultures when developing ethnic entrees. A second- or third-generation ethnic consumer may desire her grandmother's home cooking, but with some traditional American notes. As the newer ethnic groups mingle with mainstream Americans, new concepts of traditional entrees will evolve from Mexican, Chinese, Soul, Cajun or Italian flavors.

Healthful and tasty
Consumers are becoming more concerned about nutrition. A growing mature population won't only be demanding more varied and flavorful foods, but also those that are healthful. Ingredients and preparation techniques used in authentic ethnic cuisines will meet this demand for healthier meals. Ethnic entrees that feature spices or other ingredients will be used as natural healing sources.
Consumers also are seeking flavorful vegetarian foods, and Native Americans, Chinese, Indians and Japanese have mastered great-tasting versions of these. A great future exists in vegetarian dishes or vegetarian substitutes for mainstream Americans desiring authenticity. Ethnic vegetarian entrees can capture the entire market, from strict to semi-vegetarians, as well as consumers seeking low-fat or reduced-fat meals.

Ethnic entrees that feature phytochemicals and other important micronutrients will grow in popularity. In this regard, soy-based products will increase due to their many apparent nutritional benefits, such as alleviating menopausal symptoms, preventing osteoporosis and reducing cholesterol.

Soybean consumption is increasing, whether as meat substitutes, fresh tofu or a seasoning. Tofu, a freshly packaged soybean product, is popular in Chinese entrees; it's typically eaten in stir fries, dips, salads and as toppings. It provides a distinct texture, and takes on the flavor of any ingredient with which it is cooked. It can be mixed with spices and other flavorings to create healthful entrees. Unfortunately, a tofu that can be used in entrees has yet to be developed.

"Using the current flavor technology and freeze-dried products, these soy products can taste like real chicken or beef," says Carl Hastings, Ph.D., executive vice president, research, development and manufacturing, Reliv International, Inc. Primavera, one of the company's healthy pantry products, which is low-fat, cholesterol-free and rich in isoflavones, delivers these health benefits. The company's dishes contain high protein (soy isolates with texturized soy protein), with other plant sources containing phytochemicals and micronutrients.

Another issue in creating authentic dishes is ingredient availability and price. "Until some of the ingredients become produced in large volumes or become mainstream," Hastings says, "the price for these soy-based products will be more expensive than the nonvegetarian-based products."

Herbs, spices and chile peppers that contain many of the micronutrients and important phytochemicals are like "comfort" ingredients for many ethnic groups. Spices and chiles possess nutritional and medicinal properties, in addition to meeting consumer needs for strong flavors, variety and natural status. They provide a good source of vitamins and minerals, and contain negligible fat and sodium levels. Preparation techniques of spices and chiles in authentic ethnic cuisines bring out much more intense and powerful flavors nonexistent in mainstream cooking. Hence, they will increasingly be used to season reduced-fat or reduced-salt entrees.

Chile peppers provide excellent sources of vitamins A and C, with some containing four times more vitamin C than an average orange. Cholesterol-free, these peppers provide a good source of folic acid, potassium, protein, fiber and trace metals. Many ethnic groups have traditionally used chiles for treating pain and wounds, respiratory diseases and digestive problems.

Healthful ethnic dishes using legumes are increasingly popular because of their stronger flavor profiles. Legumes can be used whole, pureed or ground into flour, and incorporated into entrees such as stews, soups, wraps, noodles or rices. Legumes can stretch a meal and, at the same time, provide texture and mouthfeel to a finished product. More seasoned and gourmet-style, bean-based entrees promise to achieve popularity.

Every culture eats legumes, whether Italian, French, Hispanic or Asian, with regional and cultural preferences. Future interest in legumes will focus on their nutritional properties. For vegetarians, legumes are a way of balancing the amino acid profiles of grains or vegetables.

Authentic ethnic vegetables and fruits are increasingly popular. They provide variety, visual appeal and nutrition through their many flavors, colors, cuts and textures. They are now being used to substitute meat-based roux in some restaurant meals. A great variety of ethnic fruits and vegetables are available, such as leafy greens, eggplants or tropical fruits. Numerous methods exist for preparing ethnic vegetable dishes, including steaming, stir-frying, pickling, chutneying, or seasoning and serving dry.

Achieving freshness
Consumers want prepared ethnic entrees to taste fresh and natural. Consumers perceive crispy and crunchy vegetables, aromatic bright herbs, firm-textured basmati, or al dente-textured pasta as natural. Achieving this goal of freshness depends, in large part, on the ingredient selection and treatment. The challenge for food manufacturers is developing fresh-tasting products capable of quick and easy preparation.
Fresh ingredients have flavor volatility, textural and stability problems, especially under processing conditions (freezing, cooling or heating). Entrees designed for supermarket shelves, delis, cafeteria steam tables, freezer cases or produce sections require different specifications for ingredients, processing, handling, packaging and shelf life. Quick-cook forms of rice, herbs or vegetables usually don't have the original texture, color and aroma of their fresh counterparts.

A strong preference exists for prepared ethnic entrees using new spices and ingredients. Certain spices have a crossover appeal with different ethnic groups. These include ginger, garlic or black pepper. However, with other spices, regional preferences exist. When formulating foods with spices or chile peppers, food technologists need to know the varieties of such ingredients and the processing techniques that create a particular flavor profile. The various spice forms significantly affect flavor, texture and mouthfeel, as well as functionality in a food system. Pungency or flavor intensity varies with the nature of the entire product system, whether starch-, gum-, water- or oil-based, and whatever its pH and heating methods. These factors can balance, negate, augment or add zest to the entire system.

Food technologists also must be aware of spice properties before and after cooking. For a given spice, different preparation techniques will yield different flavors and colors. Knowing the way spices interact and function in a food system is important for proper substitution of ingredients, whether for reasons of availability, economics or toning down strong authentic profiles or textures. To understand all this, one has to learn the basics of regional ethnic cuisines before technically putting together a refrigerated, frozen or shelf-stable entree.

Legumes have to be cooked at appropriate temperatures for proper digestion. Cooking time varies, depending on legume size, age and tenderness. Lentils take less time to cook. Food technologists need to know the varieties of lentils or beans and optimum cooking times for whole, hulled or split forms. It is important to understand why beans are rinsed and soaked before cooking, and why certain spices are added.

Pasta and rice entrees that are packaged in quick-cook or instant form, need to retain their original fresh aroma and texture. Consumers want instant noodles that resemble the original texture and taste when rehydrated. Proper cooking times and water levels are very important for obtaining the right textural qualities in cooked rice products. Cooked rice must be cooled quickly to maintain optimum texture. White or brown rice can be precooked and dehydrated, reducing cooking time. But as with frozen rice dishes, flavor and texture become a problem.

Holding rice at refrigeration or higher temperatures can promote starch retrogradation. Rice also gives off some liquid when thawed, creating a drier end product. Short- and medium-grain rices have more amylopectin and are more resistant to starch retrogradation. They also tend to absorb less moisture over time.

Long periods of cooking and high temperatures adversely affect pasta texture and color, making it starchy and soft. Therefore, for retort and steam-table products, the type of flour and stabilizer used becomes important. Also, to reduce overcooking, retort pasta should be rehydrated more slowly than pasta for home use. Increasing wall thickness and adding ingredients for slowing the cooking process or starch gelatinization becomes critical.

Cooked-vegetable texture plays an extremely important role in perception of freshness. Mainstream consumers are being exposed to a variety of vegetables and healthful cooking techniques that preserve original freshness and crunchiness. Cantonese cooking is unique, because the wonderful colors, flavors and textures of vegetables are brought out through steaming and stir-frying techniques with little or no seasonings. Cooked vegetables and herbs need to maintain these "fresh" bright colors, crispy textures and aromas consumers now desire. Traditionally prepared vegetables become mushy, and possess a boiled taste and dull visual appeal. But although freeze-drying provides appealing cuts, colors and sometimes tastes, it does not yet match the original textures and mouthfeel that fresh vegetables, herbs or fruits provide.

Fresh vegetables and spices are consumers' first choice. The challenge then for manufacturers is determining the best way vegetables or other ingredients can be developed, yet still maintain acceptable taste and texture profiles.

Sourcing issues
An increasing number of consumers are willing to pay the price for more healthful and fresh ingredients. This has led to an increasing interest in organic foods. Certain products tend to be perceived as authentic and natural when they have authentic ingredients. Consumers link olive oil to authentic pasta sauce. When consumer eat stir-fried vegetables, they link crispy and crunchy to authenticity. Similarly, when someone eats a frozen Japanese meal, he expects a sticky textured rice or a close substitute instead of converted rice. Therefore, a consistent and reliable source for these authentic ingredients should exist.
Some authentic ingredients aren't available in forms readily incorporated into processed foods. And if they do exist, they might lack the original flavor or texture profiles. Food designers have to substitute some of these with available ingredients, which sometimes changes the taste. When mainstreaming or adding a little more authenticity to ethnic entrees, how well an ingredient has been substituted or toned down in the entree is critical.

For example, chipotle possesses a unique flavor with a deep, smoky taste. Merely adding a smoky note and high heat isn't enough to capture its characteristic note, but flavor technology exists to create desired flavors. When a flavor supplier provides a chipotle flavor, designers should thoroughly examine its flavor profile and not simply rely on the supplier for direction. Its flavor needs to be evaluated alone as well as in the particular dish in which it is used. Ingredients increase in intensity, tone down or create quite a different flavor profile when cooked with other ingredients or when prepared in a certain way. Technology still has not provided good or matching flavor and texture profiles of many nonstandard chile peppers, spices and herbs. Since today's consumers are becoming more educated about ingredients, they will recognize these differences.

Mainstream American consumers are becoming more adventurous, so food designers should be more innovative. Food product designers need to create more authenticity in ethnic entrees to offer variety and exciting new tastes.

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