3 Asian BBQ Snack Trends Shaping the Market

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Consumers are looking for more than just generic barbecue flavours. We explore opportunities in the Asian BBQ snack market


KerryDigest Fast Facts:

  • Demand for Asian-inspired snack flavours continue to rise globally, and the rekindled interest in BBQ flavours is fuelling growth in this space.
  • Most snack innovation in Asia today is centred on generic western BBQ, but more consumers are seeking out locally inspired flavours.
  • The key to capturing the consumer palate is recreating authentic BBQ taste that incorporates cooking with different types of heat sources, meats and spices.
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Cooking over fire is the world’s oldest cooking method and consumers are rediscovering barbecue as they look for new and ethnic-inspired tastes. Demand is so strong, barbecue was named one of Kerry’s top tastes in 2021, and in Southeast Asia, savoury foods with barbecue flavours grew by 20% between 2019 and 2020.

Barbecue is ingrained in the cultural DNA across Asia, and the way the meats are marinaded, seasoned and grilled is unique to each region. For example, Korean barbecue balances sweet and savoury marinades while Japanese barbecue experiments with different grilling styles to maximise and draw out flavour.

However, while foodservice and meat are experiencing significant innovation in these regional barbecue variations, most snacks feature generic BBQ flavours. This presents an exciting opportunity to cook up Asian-inspired barbecue.

As the popularity of barbecue continues to fire up, here are three key trends to look out for.

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Unique Asian BBQ flavours show strong potential

The pandemic accelerated the consumer’s need for new, novel tastes in food and beverage. One in two global consumers polled in the Innova Top 10 Trends 2022 report on snacks said they want to be more adventurous with their choices. This can be seen in new product launches that help snackers ‘travel’ the world through their tastebuds. For example, Pringles Japan released a Pringles Passport series of chip flavours inspired by global cuisines.

Although barbecue snack flavours are on the rise, variety remains limited with most barbecue products featuring Western-inspired flavours. Data from Innova Trends & Database 2021 shows that only 9% of new barbecue snack product launches in Southeast Asia had Asian-inspired barbecue flavours, compared to 87% with generic barbecue flavours. At the same time, Asian-flavoured snacks are on the rise globally, with Innova Market Insights showing a 6.11% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in launches between 2017 to 2021.

Consumers want authentic local food flavours

Flavour is one of the most important considerations for food purchases. Innova’s Top 10 Trends 2022 report on snacks shows the importance of flavour rose from 36% to 43% between 2020 and 2021, as consumers began to increasingly value authenticity. When it comes to barbecue, consumers are looking for the tastes they find in local cuisine.

Asian barbecue snack flavours made it into many Asian-flavoured snack launches around the world in recent years, according to Innova Market Insights. Indian masala, a spice blend used to make tandoori or Indian barbecue, was the top flavour, appearing in 19.7% of global snack launches. In second place was Japanese teriyaki, which was used in 12% of products, followed by Indonesian balado—a hot and spicy mixture usually used in grilling—and Thai satay, which were used in 6.4% and 5.1% of snacks, respectively. Among up-and-coming flavours are Korean BBQ, bulgogi, charcoal, Chinese chaun’r (Chinese skewers) and lechon grill (roasted pork).

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Meaty flavours are in the lead

According to Kerry research, 91% of snackers in Asia enjoy meat flavours. In Thailand, it is gai yang—grilled chicken marinated in black pepper, garlic, lemongrass and coriander root. In the Philippines, there’s a preference for barbecue that’s meaty and sweetened with sugar or ketchup flavours, while consumers in Vietnam want Vietnamese barbecue taste profiles, which involve lots of dipping sauces.

However, incorporating these meaty Asian BBQ flavours to snacks poses some challenges. Manufacturers must be able to achieve an authentic meat-like experience that delivers deliciousness and the natural savoury taste of barbecued meat.

Another challenge is capturing the nuanced flavour of food cooked over fire, which is the signature of many barbecue foods. Consumers desire snacks that can give them hints of specific smoke or grill flavour profiles they would normally get from traditional grilling and smoking techniques. For example, the iconic satay BBQ dish found in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore gets its distinct flavour from an open-flame grill while traditional Vietnamese BBQ involves charcoal grilling. The marinades used across the region differ, but common ingredients include soy sauce, ginger and spices which offer differing balances of sweet, salty and spicy.

Given that there is growing demand for local Asian cuisine flavours in the snack space, the scope of Asian barbecue flavours is underdeveloped and brands and manufacturers can benefit from this by filling the gap in the market to appeal to consumers both in and outside of Asia.

To find out how Kerry’s Red Arrow™ authentic smoke and grill flavour products and smokehouse conversions can help you customise products that replicate the delicious, craveable flavours and aromatics of cooking with fire, contact us.

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