Fancy some vegetarianchickentikka potato wafers and guava masala juice for an evening snack? Sounds strange to the ears of hardcore Indian veggies bred on leafy greens, energy drinks and cereals, isn't it? But innovations in the world of flavors might soon make these new snacks a reality.
Gastronomic flavors are rooted in local cultures. Indians generally have a strong preference for masala - or spices. It is wrong to think that globalization has opened the boundary for flavors. In fact, there has been a great deal of balkanisation in terms of tastes," Doug Tough, chairman and CEO of International Flavors & Fragrances Inc (IIF), told IANS in an interview here.
The company provides flavors and fragrance solutions to the food and beverage sector by inventing new varieties. Set up in Britain in 1833 and functioning in India for the last 80 years, IFF has set up a new facility in the NCR region to reach wider sections in this country's emerging flavors market, the CEO said.
Tough said the preference for flavors has seen a "return to the retro" post-globalization, prompted by the nature of the country and culture concerned.
"In Brazil, oranges and lemons still remain the most popular flavors, while Indians would love tomato chips. The British love their salt-and-vinegar taste and the Americans would never say no to the cheddar cheese chip," Tough said, explaining the variations in global flavors.
The firm is working on several new flavors for the Indian snack market.
One of them is the chicken tikka potato chip, a non-vegetarian flavored vegetarian snack. The potato wafers are dusted with chicken tikka masala, a meaty spice mix created with replicas of chemical components present in chickens. The wafers are eaten with yoghurt dip and onion rings.
Then, the paapri chaat potato chip - a flavor yet to reach the market - can be topped or dipped in the traditional 'chaat' base of yoghurt, mint and coriander chutney and sweetened tamarind juice.
Other flavors that will soon hit the market are mango lassi muffin and pineapple masala muffin in combination with guava masala juice, fizzy rose apple cooler and pomegranate ginger brew.
"The appreciation for new fruit-based flavors like litchi and pomegranate in the beverage sector in India is rising, but masala continues to rule the palette," says flavors watcher and researcher Imtiaz Kaiser.
Just how right he is can be gauged from what top Bollywood filmmaker Ramesh Sippy said a while ago: "We're Indians. We like masala in our food and we like masala movies."
According to a 2012 prediction report by Sensient Flavours, a leading global trend spotter, the theme for flavors in the food and beverages market is "new and novel, re-invention of old flavors and a combination of flavors".
Some of the emerging flavors for 2012 are aji amarillo, a fruit-based flavor native to South America; black garlic, popular in Asian cuisine; coriander, native to the Middle East, southern Europe and Asia; pink peppercorn, a dried berry flavor; and plum, caramel and varietal vanilla, sourced from three main vanilla plants.
Bell Flavors, a 100-year-old international flavors firm, says the theme for 2012 is "emerging cultures". The company predicts that the 2012 beverages will "incorporate regional fruits, exotic herbs and rare blends to drive innovation in new concepts in the new markets".
"This is a very exciting time for the flavors industry in India," Herman Vaisman, group president of Flavors, said.
Like a lot of working families and busy individuals around the world, Indian consumers are looking for not only authentic taste and convenience but also healthier options in the food they eat, Vaisman said of the need for new flavors in the Indian food and beverage market.