The New Multicultural American Kitchen – 3 flavor trends for 2017

ABC Family's "The Fosters" - Season Three

The make up of the American household today is quite different than it was just thirty years ago.  In one generation, we have gone from the nuclear family with it’s one mom, one dad and two kids all of the same race to a country of single parent and multi-cultural rentals.  The American dream of owning your own home in the suburbs has fallen to the wayside with the recession of 2008 and a millennial generation that’s more concerned with their phone plan than their life plan.

We currently have more single households in the United States than ever in history with a whopping 34% of children’s today living with an unmarried parent, this is up from just 9% in 1960, and 19% in 1980.  This combined with a fast growing Hispanic population and increasing bi-cultural households has made for quite the change over the last thirty years.  Hispanics made up a minuscule 6.5% of total US households in 1980 and now make up almost 18%.

Not only are we seeing a dramatic change in the overall make up of the household, but the US household is now a multicultural melting pot of Black, White, Asian, Indian, Mexican, Russian and anything and anyone.  Gone are the days of the traditional one man, one woman same race household, today we see no boundaries and no barriers to what makes up an American home.  Even American popular culture has figured it out with shows like The Foster’s which features a multi-ethnic family mix of foster and biological teenaged kids being raised by two moms that recently completed it’s fourth season on FreeForm.

I know this is a lot of data to take in, but it says one clear thing to me, the times they are a changin and so are our palettes.  Today’s kitchen is dramatically different than it was fifty, twenty, even ten years ago and will continue to evolve as cultures mash up and consumers bring their cultures and culinary heritages together in the kitchen.

With this changing dynamic of the American household comes a revolution in the kitchen. With the meshing of these different ethnic backgrounds comes a fusion of authentic flavor profiles and mixed cooking styles.  The millennial generation has not only brought an openness and multicultural influence to the kitchen, but also an appreciation of authenticity and a palette for exploration of new spices, flavor combination and cooking techniques.  The increasing pace of life and access to data through technology has also created a need for new portable formats and requirement of healthy functionality that can be consumed anywhere and anytime.  Day part barriers have been demolished and three squares a day now only refers to the number of bars you have left on your battery life.

As this generation continues to grow older and establish families, they will also be merging their culinary styles that they grew up with.  As acculturation takes hold and this generation becomes Americanized, they will refuse to lose sight of their roots, but blend it into their lifestyles and culinary creations.  They are striving for authentic recipes, flavors, and dishes but are also willing to merge with their counterparts and create an entirely new platform of cooking and flavor.  Hispanic-Asian, Korean-Mexican, Cuban-Vietnamese, Peruvian-Japanese, Italian Indian.  Each of these cooking styles offering its own spectrum of flavor and spice, but being merged with one another to create a fantastic fusion of flavor and form.

As the millennial generation will continue to lead this quest for fantastical fusion flavors the sky is the limit.  I see many combinations coming to fruition in the near future, but here is where I see the next wave of flavor heading.

1) Latino-Indian – as Americans we continue to be scared of curry and Indian spices, but the palette is starting to open and the Mexican platform seems to be a good way for these two formats to merge.  They share similar handheld formats and spices like cumin and cilantro that seem to make an easier connection.  Samosas have a strange resemblance to an empanada, so I could expect to see a yellow curry and potato empanada or a green chili and chicken samosa in the Trader Joe’ frozen aisle in the near future.


2) Mexican merging with Vietnamese cuisine – both formats have similar hand held varieties that seem to work well together.  Tortas and bánh mi will fuse together as these two formats continue to make headway with consumers.  You may see a carne asada bánh mi on a food truck near you soon.


3) Japanese Italian – this format is been running through the streets of Brazil for many years, but this will finally start to take hold in the near future as Japanese street food and Italian profiles become mainstream.  Think about how delicious a pizza filled steamed bun would taste.  It’s the upscale Hipster hot pocket.


The Amazon Dash Button – The Future of Ultra-Convenience

The future is here.  Anything you need at the push of a button.  No thinking, no long lines, rude cashiers or wasted time.  The dash button is the next big technology break through that will revolutionize the way that consumers shop, think, order and buy their groceries.  This device takes ultra-simplicity to the next level by not only reminding you with the brand logo attached to your washing machine or cookie jar, but with one simple push of a button, your products are magically delivered to your door within two days.

Amazon offers over 500 products across 100 different brand buttons ranging from Huggies and Tide to Doritos and Red Bull with new buttons getting added daily.  ConAgra just added four buttons supporting their Hunt’s and Slim Jim brands.  Amazon hasn’t been vocal about their sales, but did report that Dash sales have grown 75% in the past three months and they have shipped from 300,000-500,000 buttons since last October.

Amazon has done a great job of taking the traditional club store format and putting it on-line and on-demand.  Who would have imagined that people would pay a premium to order something on-line?  Well, Bezos has again created another way to make our lives easier and gain a few bucks in the process with his Amazon Prime platform.  He has beautifully crafted a way for the consumer to enjoy premium services and benefits for doing something that they were already planning to do, shop.  Since I haven’t seen the statistics I cannot say that this model is making money, but we do know that the membership model at Costco and Sam’s Club is a main source of income for these retailers and since the net worth of Jeff Bezos was recently valued at over $50 billion by Forbes magazine I would say his e-commerce platform is doing something right.

What’s next?  Since we already have wearable technology that tells us to exercise and keeps track of our steps and calories, our heart rate and other vital statistics the sky is the limit.  Soon, this data will be communicated openly and freely to our insurance companies to determine our premiums or our doctors to determine our treatment plans.  With convenience comes freedom and with freedom comes access to your personal data.  

This is the future, this is the new reality, this is the new convenience, but it will be customized specifically for you, so breath easy and shop away.  I plan to start tomorrow with my first button for Charmin, because you never want to run out of toilet paper and just use your imagination where that button will be stuck.  

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