Mochi, a Japanese sweet rice dumpling snack, has never really made its mark in the UK, though there’s been plenty of experimentation to make these treats appeal to people’s sweet sides. Over in the States and Australia, however, the dumpling has been transformed into everything from muffins to doughnuts via the waffle.
So could a savoury conversion be the answer? It’s something that’s already been tried with churros, eclairs, profiteroles and croissant crossovers.
Mintel has previously noted that mochi taps into a number of key food trends that dominate the food scene – authenticity, artisanship and unusual flavours – while also being permissible thanks to their diminutive size.
Two American brands have recently taken it upon themselves to make over mochi. Traditionally, the mouthfuls are made by steaming the rice first, then pounding and mashing it, resulting in a sticky mass that is then formed into the final shape and baked or boiled. But for the savoury take, the rice is instead dried and fried.
The first US outfit, called Sun Tropics, has done a mix and match on mochi flavours. There’s a safe sea salt one, while more adventurous options include sriracha for a bite of tangy heat, tamari soy sauce for a hit of umami with a hint of sweetness and Tokyo curry with a touch of turmeric. All are dairy-free.
The other is Woodbridge Snacks, which is marketing its products as mochi rice nuggets and likens them to crisps. There are two flavours so far: tom yum for a taste of the traditional Thai soup or teriyaki for notes of soy sauce and sake, as well as a hint of ginger.
Not just for snacking
These new savoury mochi have a number of selling points. They are naturally gluten-free and act as a nice carrier for both Asian flavours and others like sea salt, not to mention the vegan credentials.
The products are also being promoted as cross-functional for use as a standalone snack, or topping for soups or salads.
So will Sparkie be snacking on these savoury bites?
It’s probably a solid idea if the product is good. The general market for free-from products got saturated with the basics pretty quickly so now really is the time for producing the weird and the novel to test the market. They are always going to be a gamble but one that could pay off.