For the latest in consumer and industry news, top trends and market perspectives, stay tuned to Mintel News featuring commentary from Mintel's team of global category analysts.

In this series, Mintel analysts share their recent food adventures – highlighting the exciting, the delicious, the intriguing and the terrible food and drink they’ve tried lately. This month, they travelled the world, discovered new snacks and explored the fine balance between tradition and innovation.

The satisfying texture of savoury mochi snacks – Chicago, US

Amanda Topper, Associate Director of Foodservice Research

At this year’s Sweets & Snacks Expo I tried two brands of savory mochi snacks: Sun Tropics Mochi Snack Bites and Woodbridge Mochi Rice Nuggets. This was the first time I have seen mochi in a savory or crunchy format. The rice is dried and fried, instead of being kneaded into the traditional soft mochi format. Both products had a crunchy-yet-chewy texture and packed a punch of flavor. The texture and crunch lends itself to being an addictive salty snack and I think there are endless opportunities for flavor innovation.

I’m not surprised that we are starting to see mochi being used as a snack base. It’s naturally gluten-free since it is rice-based, and acts as a nice carrier for Asian (eg sriracha, tom yum, teriyaki) and non-Asian (eg sea salt) flavors. Mochi is becoming more popular in foodservice in the US along with the rise of Japanese cuisine in the country. These products not only highlight a new application for the Japanese treat, they are also promoted as cross-functional for use as a standalone snack, or topping for soups or salads.

The unexpected uses of pork meat – São Paulo, Brazil

Ana Paula Gilsogamo, Food & Drink Analyst, Brazil

I’ve tried the pork-based tasting menu at A Casa do Porco, the only Brazilian restaurant featured in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2019 list.

It’s amazing to see how pork meat, not often perceived as a premium ingredient, is used as the basis to create a food journey in this awarded restaurant. Pork features in all dishes, including pork sushi, pork tartare, aubergine parmigiana, and a ‘breakfast’ with bread and bologna sausage to start the meal. Overall, the chef aims to give consumers a new experience, proving that it’s possible to transform an ordinary ingredient into an indulgent premium meal that’s also very Instagrammable. The whole tasting menu surprised me with unexpected sensations and flavors inspired by Italian, Japanese, Arabian and local traditional dishes. At the same time, each dish represents a reinterpretation of São Paulo’s tastes, habits and culture.

The fine balance between tradition and innovation – Sydney, Australia

Ayisha Koyenikan, Global Food & Drink Analyst

I recently travelled to Australia and New Zealand as part of a client roadshow and had the pleasure of eating many unforgettable dishes. One meal that stood up was in Sydney’s cafe Boon, situated inside a Thai grocery store. It serves up Thai flavours in new formats at lunchtime, before changing to a traditional menu in the evening – or as they put it ‘Sarnie’s by day and Isaan by night’. I tried the fried chicken burger topped with traditional thai green papaya salad from the daytime menu. This was no mean feat as the burger was huge! The chicken appeared to have been double fried as the batter was thick and crunchy, while the tangy papaya salad added a welcome touch of freshness and acidity. Interesting textures came from the addition of dried shrimp and peanuts, commonly used in Thai cuisine.

I love to see new takes on very traditional cuisines as younger generations start putting their own stamp on what is authentic to them – blending their family cultures with the culture of the countries they have grown up in.

The surprise of liking Brussel sprouts – Christchurch, New Zealand

Melanie Zanoza Bartelme, Global Food Analyst

I’ve also been travelling throughout Australia and New Zealand this month and have had many amazing food experiences. One of the most noteworthy was at 5th Street restaurant in Christchurch, NZ.

5th Street is an amazing restaurant – it’s gorgeous inside and has that right combination of a little bit fancy but ultimately really homey and warm. But it was the chef, Samson, who really made this experience an amazing one. When we asked him which dish was a ‘can’t miss’, he pointed to the raw Brussel sprout salad with pecorino, shallot, herbs & barberry vinaigrette… the one thing I’d just told my dining companion I would not order! Undeterred, Samson asked if he could give me a bite to try first, then proceeded to make me up a miniature version of the full dish, complete with the fluffy covering of grated pecorino. He was right – it was amazing! While I’ve had restaurants offer a taste of a wine or beer, it was the first time I’ve had a chef do that with an actual menu item. This service, in addition to the amazing food, means this experience will stay with me for a long time. Plus, apparently I like Brussel sprouts! Who knew?!

The permissible indulgence of reduced sugar chocolate – London, UK

Amy Price, Senior Food & Drink Analyst, UK

I’ve recently tried the new Cadbury Dairy Milk 30% Less Sugar chocolate bar. Slightly thinner than the standard Cadbury Dairy Milk, the mouthfeel of the lower sugar version (made possible from using maize fibre) is a little less indulgent, but it is, I must say rather similar to the original! However, I noticed a slightly bitter aftertaste.

At £1.50 for 85g or 65p for 35g, the 85g bar is the same price as a 110g version of the classic Cadbury Dairy Milk, which could put buyers off. Selling it alongside the standard version, however, at least gives Dairy Milk purists the option to carry on buying the number one chocolate brand. Personally, I would eat it again, but I’m not gonna lie – I still prefer the full sugar version!

The hypnotic shaping of gourmet rice balls – Los Angeles, US

Trish Caddy, Senior Foodservice Analyst

Whilst on holiday in Los Angeles, I ate at Mama Musubi, one of the many food stalls in Smorgasburg DTLA food market. Musubi is a popular snack from Hawaii, typically made with spam on top of a mini loaf of sushi rice, in a similar fashion as omusubi from Japan. The experience was made more engaging by watching the chefs’ palms move from side to side as they shape a mini block of rice around various fillings. It was hypnotic. When they were done shaping and pushing, each musubi was finished with some form of Japanese-style seaweed, such as Furikake. Here we have the crowd-pleasing Spam Musubi with pan-grilled spam drizzled with sweet soy glaze, and Mama Special with bay shrimp, imitation crab and its signature yuzu aioli. Being a fan of rice balls such as Wasabi’s range of Onigiri, I would love to see more places selling musubi which allows for stronger flavours and a wider choice of seasoned fillings!

 

Are you a passionate foodie, always on the hunt for the next trend? Would you also like to work with leading food & drink companies across the world? Then check out our current openings for research roles across our global offices!