5 Grilled Meat Flavor Trends That Will Dominate in 2018

Summer is just around the corner. That means more consumers will be opting for flame-grilled items at restaurants and in the frozen and prepared food sections at grocery and convenience stores. If you’re still looking for that perfect item to add to your menu, here are five trends that will keep your customers coming back for more.

1. Authenticity

Consumers today (especially Millennials) crave authenticity in everything. In the food world, that manifests as a demand for clean labels, as well as transparency about ingredients and processing methods.

For meat processors and foodservice providers, there’s no better way to achieve authenticity than by using ingredients and processes that consumers understand and that mimic what they do at home. That means cooking your flame-grilled products on a real flame grill and achieving that delicious charcoal flavor using actual charcoal.

Whether you’re producing fully-cooked frozen burgers or grilled chicken strips for prepared meals, if your products don’t look, smell, and taste authentic, then nothing else will matter.

2. Spicy

The demand for spicy foods has been growing at a staggering rate. It was just five years ago that spicy foods tipped the scale — a 2013 Technomic report showed that, for the first time, more than half of consumers said they prefer hot or spicy sauces, dips, or condiments.

Today, 90% of American consumers report enjoying spicy foods, according to a Kalsec study, with two-thirds opting for medium or high levels of spice. What’s more, the study found that younger consumers eat spicier foods and are more adventurous about it. This suggests the market for spicy foods will continue to increase at an accelerated rate.

As an ancillary benefit of adding spice is that it allows you to cut down on salt, making your products naturally healthier.

3. Filipino flavors

For those times when spicy foods aren’t desired, complex Filipino flavors fit the bill.

One of the Specialty Food Association’s Trendspotters’ top trends for 2018, Filipino dishes are usually built around meats that are grilled, roasted, or slow cooked. The flavors rely on a range of ingredients including spices like coriander, cumin, paprika, and garlic; citrus zests; and sweeteners like brown sugar.

4. East African BBQ marinades and sauces

African spices and seasonings have been gaining momentum for a while now. This year, they made McCormick’s Flavor Forecast. In particular, the spice company identifies two seasonings that will be especially popular for meats:

  • Berbere, an Ethiopian seasoning containing spices including paprika, allspice, coriander, cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, and red pepper
  • Tanzanian BBQ, which is traditionally marinated in a blend of lemon, tomatoes, green papaya, curry, garlic, red pepper, and ginger

5. Latin American specialties

As noted by Nestle Professional, “South America is one of the world’s largest producers of beef, so it stands to reason that the region specializes in grilled meat….”

The culinary products company highlights dishes like meat served with chimichurri sauce and barbecue specialties including a Colombian beef dish cooked in coals and Peruvian grilled chicken skewers.


Grilled meat trends are becoming more innovative and adventurous. This is due in large part to the growing influence of Millennials. As the younger generations gain more spending power, processors and foodservice operators will need the flexibility to adapt quickly to a changing marketplace.

If you’d like to explore how Unitherm can help you meet the demands of consumers today and tomorrow, contact us or schedule a visit to one of our solution centers.

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