Flavour focus: Caribbean cuisine

August 30, 2021
3 min read

It would have been the Notting Hill Carnival this weekend, and although it’s not happening this year, Global Food and Drink Analyst Ayisha Koyenikan is using the opportunity to spotlight Caribbean cuisine.

Journey beyond ‘jerk’

Whilst Jamaican jerk has been used as the vehicle to introduce Caribbean cuisine to the world, there unfortunately hasn’t been much exploration of other Jamaican dishes or indeed the dishes of the other Caribbean islands. 

When jerk is used in mainstream foodservice or by larger brands as a flavour as opposed to a cooking method, or without referencing heritage, it can lead to backlash and claims of appropriation. Authenticity is key when communicating with younger consumers: almost half of Gen Z US consumers agree international cuisines taste better when they are authentic.

Explore the other Caribbean islands to bring regional flavours to life

Brands in Western markets can be encouraged by the fact that a quarter of US consumers want to know which region within a country a recipe comes from.

Food brands and restaurants should address underrepresentation by showcasing the rich cuisines of other Caribbean islands. For example, the cuisine in Trinidad and Tobago was greatly influenced by the influx of Indian indentured servants in the 19th century. Typical dishes include roti, choka (choka refers to the process of roasting ingredients such as tomato or aubergine to intensify their flavour) and chana (chickpea curry).

A Dozen Cousins Trini Chickpea Curry (US)

Source: Vittles

Go easy on the tropical fruits in savoury solutions

A common misrepresentation of Caribbean food is the addition of pineapple or mango to a savoury dish in which the fruits simply don’t belong.

Mango and coconut: Erasco Caribbean Tomato & Mango Soup with Coconut contains mango and apple puree and coconut milk (Germany).

Pineapple: Iceland Takeaway World Foods Caribbean Chicken comprises chicken breast pieces in a spicy jerk coconut sauce, with pineapple pieces and diced grilled red pepper (UK).

Mango, coconut and passion fruit: Ricante Tropical Mango Coco Caribbean Style Sauce contains mango, coconut, orange and passion fruit, alongside habanero chillies (US).

Brands must take an ethical stance and give back

The pitfalls are great for any brand being seen to reap benefits from Black cuisine and Black culture without respecting its origins or ensuring Black people participate in its commercialisation.
Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones MBE, businessman and farm owner behind British company The Black Farmer, influenced major UK supermarkets to help raise awareness of Black History Month 2020. This included them stocking limited edition, Caribbean-inspired sausage variants celebrating Black cultural icons. Revenues were used to benefit Black charities.

Social media is key to encouraging trial

Social media is a key channel for the discovery of world cuisines, especially amongst younger consumers. Brands wanting to develop Caribbean ranges could consider leveraging the power of social media by working with Black content creators in that space. 

For example, UK-based Jamaican descendants Craig and Shaun McAnuff, alongside a number of entrepreneurial young migrant or second-generation Caribbean chefs, cooks and social media personalities, are leading the new wave in raising awareness of the diverse cuisine of their homeland. They started the Original Flava movement online, creating easy step-by-step Caribbean food recipe videos, which went viral. 

The McAnuff brothers’ bestselling first book was published in 2017

Ayisha Koyenikan
Ayisha Koyenikan

As a Global Food & Drinks Analyst, Ayisha provides insights to clients in Europe and around the world in the prepared meals and bakery sectors. She also leads Mintel’s Summer Internship Programme.

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