In recent years, the beverages industry has been transformed by the innovation of once routine thirst-appeasing liquids into exciting, energizing, sometimes better-for-you products. Consumers are looking for beverages that satisfy a number of needs in their daily lives beyond satiating thirst, and these include energy, weight loss, illness mitigation, nutrient replacement, sugar and caffeine cravings and protein intake. Beverages are taking cues from exotic flavors, fruits and even ancient foods to deliver products that are both functional and exciting.
Fruit that has typically been popular in Latin America and indigenous there, like pineapple, is making its way into the beverages we see and experience daily, like tea, juice and adult beverages. They’re also fueling energy and nutritional drinks. Vegetables, grains and seeds have also become a mainstay in beverages. Purple corn, a dark-colored, ancient vegetable indigenous to South America is emerging as an exciting option with wellness attributes; Anthocyanin, a flavonoid in purple corn, purple potatoes and a number of dark fruits and vegetables that gives them their purplish color, has been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer in some research.
Enter purple corn
Purple corn, identified by CuTTS, our new Culinary Trend Tracking Series, as an opportunistic food for CPG, food retailers and foodservice/restaurant operators, has been used for hundreds of years in a Peruvian drink called chicha morada. The drink is made by boiling purple corn with cinnamon sticks, cloves and other fruit, including pineapple. It’s not surprising there’s a growing interest in this ancient drink, with 57% of American Culinary Federation chefs surveyed for the National Restaurant Association’s “What’s Hot in 2014” culinary forecast voting Peruvian cuisine the top trend in the Ethnic Cuisine & Flavors category.
The Varas Group, a company that produces chicha morada-inspired Chicha LimeÃ±a, has been in the spotlight recently for its plans to increase production of purple corn-based and wellness beverages. Chicha LimeÃ±a is made with pineapple, lemon, cinnamon, cloves, cane sugar and filtered water. Simply Originals, another Varas brand, also sells a chicha morada drink and other specialty beverages that are marketed to the “natural/organic demographic,” according to a recent article in Food Navigator.
Chicha morada has also been a clever element added to adult beverages. The A Las Once cocktail at Peruvian-influenced Del Campo restaurant in Washington, D.C. blends Colombian Cristal Aguardiente, a South American spirit from cane, with chicha morada syrup, lime juice and pineapple juice. The Chica Chong cocktail recipe from Travel Insider magazine, based on a drink served at PB Steak in Miami, uses pisco, the Peruvian Brandy, and lemon juice and is topped with bitters made from chicha morada.
South American foods inspire food innovators in the beverage space
Expect more beverage inspiration in foodservice utilizing ancient foods from South America. Quinoa, an ancient seed largely imported from Peru and Brazil into the U.S., is inspiring a new generation of nutritional drinks, like the ones from NuWi. The company’s Smart Fuel drinks are reminiscent of a traditional oats-based drink from South America called colada that is a favorite in Ecuador and is prepared with fruit including pineapple and naranjilla. In addition to gluten-free quinoa, NuWi drinks contain ingredients that are non-GMO, refined-sugar-free and free of dairy and soy.
Food producers, retailers and foodservice operators, including restaurants, will be drawing upon food and beverages from Peru, Ecuador, Brazil and other South American countries to inspire the creation of highly-differentiated products and offerings that are sure to engage and excite customers.
To learn about the CuTTS food and beverages we’re tracking, and to learn more about the culinary research series, please see our slideshare.