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A New Megatrend: Multicultural Wellness

ROCKVILLE, Md. — Two major food and beverage trends — a focus on ingredients that promote a healthier lifestyle and the popularity of authentic, tasty ethnic cuisines from across the globe — are coming together to create a new megratrend. "Multicultural wellness" combines these two trends into a single megatrend that speaks to Americans' escalating demands for healthier eating and increasingly international palates.

Restaurant operators and food manufacturers should use multicultural wellness ingredients as demographic equalizers, according to Multicultural Wellness Ingredients: Culinary Trend Tracking Series, a new report from research firm Packaged Facts. This would offer culinary innovation and a strong shot of nutrition for everyone.

The report profiles five multicultural wellness ingredients that are gaining traction on restaurant menus and supermarket shelves. This includes foreign fare that is being introduced to a widening range of American consumers or as more integrated ingredients being introduced in new dishes and formats.

"It's not hard to make the case for multicultural wellness ingredients as compelling starting points for culinary innovation," Packaged Facts Research Director David Sprinkle stated. "In the first place, most American consumers are trying, however waywardly and with however much backsliding, to eat more healthily."

The five profiled multicultural wellness ingredients are:

Teff Stretches Out. Used in the spongy Ethiopian flatbread injera, teff is the smallest grain in the world but is high in fiber, low in fat and sodium, and ideal for wheat- and gluten-avoiding consumers. Upscale gluten-free bakeries use teff to create breads and pastries with an artisanal flair, and it has appeared in grocery aisles in the form of cereal bars and chips.

Avocado in Desserts & Drinks. Although avocados are most often associated with savory foods such as guacamole or sandwiches in the United States, in many other cultures it is treated as the fruit it actually is and incorporated into desserts and sweet drinks. Avocados offer considerable nutritional benefits, and its mild flavor and creamy texture make it a remarkably adaptable ingredient.

The Matcha Difference. Cultivated in Japan's Shimoyama region, matcha is identified by its vibrant color and a rich grassy flavor. Generally regarded as a superfood, matcha is a special case because of the extra dose of antioxidants generated by its distinctive growing method, which are then retained because the tea leaves are pulverized and blended into water rather than being steeped, according to the report. Matcha brings special nutrition, a brilliant color and the tradition of the Japanese tea ceremony under the umbrella of beverage craftsmanship.

Pepitas Power. Pumpkin seeds are especially associated with Mexico, and pepitas is the Spanish term for them. Pepitas are high in various minerals and moderately high in protein and fiber. They also offer authentic Mexican food appeal and invitation to taste adventure. Pepitas are versatile and can be used whole, ground up in foods or as a garnish with a distinctive green hue.

Lentils as Souped-Up Nutrition. What was possibly the world's first cultivated crop spans dozens of cultures in Indian, Middle Eastern, Ethiopian, European and South American traditional recipes. As a pulse crop, lentils contribute to soil conditioning by fixing nitrogen into the soil and mitigate the need for chemical fertilizers, providing an environmental benefit. Lentils are most commonly used in soup or paired with rice, but commercial kitchens are now exploring the use of lentils (in whole, dissolved and flour form) in salads, veggie-based burgers, sauces and gravies, breads and pasta, chips and other savory snacks, as well as even sweet baked goods and desserts.

The full Multicultural Wellness Ingredients: Culinary Trend Tracking Series report is available for purchase and download here.

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