What savoury ingredients are unexpectedly sneaking into sweet products?

Mintel notes that consumers are looking for novel experiences and brands are delivering this in new chocolate, ice cream and crisp products.

12 March 2019
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image credit: Instagram @eatpeekaboo

Savoury ingredients are slowly creeping into products where you would least expect them. Arguably, some of the most eye-catching examples recently have been the vegetable cereals from Kellogg's and German producer Kölln, but development is being taken much further than the breakfast aisle. It’s influencing chocolate, crisps and ice cream, too.

“Today’s consumers are increasingly looking for products that provide novel experiences,” according to Mintel, “and brands and manufacturers are happy to take on the challenge, hoping to create buzz on social media and to see their products go viral.”

Here are five unlikely pairings that seem to back that up.

Pesto with cocoa nibs

Hailing from Hotel Chocolat, this chocolate pesto is made with rough-chopped basil, crunchy pine nuts, Italian cheese and nutty roast cocoa nibs.

Created in the brand’s Boucan kitchen in Saint Lucia, the product is being pushed as an outstanding accompaniment to pasta, risotto, salad, blinis, crusty bread and cold meats – or eat it straight from the jar as a dip.

The brand also has a spiced cocoa nib ketchup for the BBQ and cold cuts, along with white chocolate horseradish that energises smoked salmon, mackerel, mashed potato, roast beef, cold meats and vegetable crudites.

Cocoa nibs, which provide a crunchy texture and pack in both flavour as well as antioxidants, iron and magnesium, are tipped by Mintel to become a more prolific food ingredient in future. 

Crisps with strawberry and chocolate

Japan has to have some of the most inventive snack makers in the world.

One of its major snack companies, Calbee, has released thick-cut potatoes that have been seasoned with sweet and sour strawberries and topped with a mild chocolate sauce, coconut, cashew nut and roasted almond slices. We think they might have gotten inspiration from a common move at McDonald’s – dipping your chips into a sundae.

Mintel said this innovation could prompt more chocolate-flavoured snacks that bridge the sweet-salty divide. 

Chocolate with smelt fish

For those looking for a wild time, Finnish company Taiga uses traditional Nordic ingredients to create chocolate bars with crazy ingredients. Some of the most adventurous combinations include dried smelt fish, dried reindeer meat and sea buckthorn.

Taiga has also thrown crunchy crickets into its latest release.

Safer bets include bars with lingonberry and bilberry, which is where product developers might start for inspiration.

Ice cream with a boost of veg

Peekaboo is out to trick children and adults alike into eating their vegetables. It has released an organic dark chocolate ice cream that includes cauliflower that you can’t see or taste.

But it doesn’t stop there. The US brand also has strawberry with carrot, mint chip with spinach, vanilla with courgette and cotton candy with beets, promising veggies in every bite.

The ice creams are targeted at those who don’t get their daily quote of greens – and they’re not the only products to take this tack.

Sweet potato, ube, red bean and corn also appear in ice creams around the world, according to Mintel, while the hidden veg aspect could be a good selling point for manufacturers.

Miso ice cream

Back in the UK, Yee Kwan has a chocolate miso ice cream that promises a taste akin to salted caramel. It’s gluten-free and made from locally sourced milk and cream.

Even Itsu has a recipe on its website to make miso ice cream, while Mintel notes that the umami ingredient pairs well with chocolate as well.

So what does Sparkie think of these savoury-sweet tie ups?


Sparkie says:

Consumer curiosity is at an all-time high and that is creating a market for the weird and wonderful. This is not without risk though. The weirdness will definitely invite a decent share of the consumer base to try it for the first time, but at that point the product needs to be outstanding or you will suffer from one-off sales. For a product to survive long term, it needs to drive repeat purchases and novelty foods don’t often do that.

To cut a very long story short, this is a trend and there is certainly money to be made, but in the same way as food made for Instagram, you will always need your next product line (or three) ready to go when the consumers get bored.

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