‘Adventurous’ consumers and plant-based products among food trends in 2019
Frog legs are a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. (ABC News: Jarrod Fankhauser)
During a recent trip to Fuzhou city in south-eastern China, travel bloggers Chris Behrsin and Ola Jagielska thought they were ordering a chicken dish, only to later discover that it was actually frog leg stew.
- People are now more aware of their health, animal welfare and sustainability
- Jellyfish, bugs and worms among the usual foods commonly eaten in parts of Asia
- Consumers can expect to see more alternative vegan meats in their local supermarkets
To their surprise, they enjoyed the meal and also learnt that frog legs are a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids.
The UK couple, who run the blog Being a Nomad, are among a growing number of people who are embracing alternative foods after trying it for the first time while travelling and experiencing different cultures.
Chris Behrsin and Ola Jagielska have been sharing their travel experience through their blog and Instagram. (Supplied: Being A Nomad blog)
“As we become more and more internationalised, we’ll start accepting more types of food as the norm … bugs, jellyfish, worms, raw tree fungus — to name a few,” Mr Behrsin said.
In addition to the booming international tourism industry, experts also attribute the discovery of different foods to exposure through social media, globalisation and growing concerns about food sustainability.
US-based Innova Market Insights are among the firms predicting that consumers will be more “adventurous” this year, while also pointing to trends including plant-based products and alternative proteins such as black beans and lentils.
A spokeswoman for the firm told the ABC the trends were driven by growing awareness of health, animal welfare and sustainability.
“Younger generations (Millennials & Generation Z) are reported to be paying more attention to what they buy,” she said.
“Instagrammability is a major driver for this generation of consumers.
“Novel, creative, and impactful foods with funky colours, shapes and flavours which are exciting to share through social media, have an edge.”
How to make ‘nasty bits’ taste delicious
Cookbook author Carolyn Phillips says this Taiwanese dish, made from pigs feet, is served to mothers to help them produce milk. (Supplied: Madame Huang blog)
Carolyn Phillips, an award winning American cookbook author who lived in Taiwan for eight years, told the ABC that Asian dishes in particular often received negative reactions.
She said this is because the cuisines often included what Western countries consider as “strange” animal parts such as tripe, tendons, brains, or tails.
However, Ms Phillips believed most foods could taste good if it was made in the right way and said “just about every part of an animal is tasty”.
She said all people needed, was to “take a leap of faith”.
“Sometimes we just need to close our eyes, open our mouth, and trust that other people really know how to make nasty bits delicious,” she said.
“As the world gets smaller, we’re learning that the idea of deliciousness knows no boundaries.”
Insects as an alternative protein source
Kara Nielsen, vice president of food trends and marketing at CCD Helmsman, told the ABC that insect consumption was growing globally.
“Developing nations are looking for inexpensive sustainable protein,” she said.
“It’s still a very small [number] in the US, but I think younger people are more open about it.”
Ms Nielsen said the younger generation was also more conscious about climate change while sustainability continued to be part of a global discussion.
Noby Leong, a food scientist and presenter on the ABC’s Catalyst, has been eating insects as an alternative source of protein.
He regularly makes bread using a mixture of wheat flour and ground-up roasted cricket, and enjoys mealworm tacos served with salad and guacamole.
Dr Leong said insects were a sustainable protein alternative because it required fewer resources to produce compared to a kilogram of beef, which required around 150,000 litres of water.
“[The insects] grow under hygienic conditions … it’s quite high in protein, low in fat, so they make a delicious snack,” Dr Leong told the ABC.
‘A double standard’
Many people in South-East Asia believe cow testicles can boost men’s sexual vitality. (Flickr: Kim Seng, captainkimo)
Experts say one reason why Asians are more open to eating different parts of an animal is because they don’t like wasting food.
For example, cow testicles curry is a common dish in Cambodia while spicy cow brain curry is widely consumed in Indonesia.
Dr Leong said there is often “a double standard” when it came to Asian and European cuisines.
“Asian food … can have unconventional ingredients considered to be ‘weird’, ‘gross’, and ‘disgusting’,” he said, pointing to snails as one example.
“But if those ingredients are used in European cuisine, [they’re] more likely to be viewed as delicacy.”
He believed there was a trend towards people not wanting to waste food and trying different parts of animals.
Experts say consumers could also expect to see more alternative vegan meats in their local supermarkets, including pork made from wheat gluten and seafood made from soy bean.
“A lot of these alternatives may not seem super adventurous, but are actually new to the world of food,” Ms Nielsen said.