Asian flavors are becoming increasingly favorable among US snack companies. For example, PepsiCo-owned Lay recently launched Chinese Szechuan chicken potato chips; while green tea-flavored KitKat was also brought to the US from Japan.
Schaeffer is enthusiastic about further expanding authentic Asian flavors to the snack industry, noting that a snack is an affordable way for flavor exploration.
Seasoning and functional ingredient company Asenzya has worked with several snack companies to develop flavors. As such, Schaeffer said he spends almost half his time reading reports about what is trendy in restaurants and for retail.
Naming a major challenge
Snack manufacturers are currently not able to retain traditional terminology when it comes to naming though, even though there is “a lot of excitement” around Asian flavors, Schaeffer said.
“Korean is popular for its simple taste profiles, balancing sweet, savory, spicy and tangy. The real name for Korean barbecue is Bulgogi, but US consumers would just pass it because they don’t know what Bulgogi is,” he said.
“A decade ago, when it came to Mexican food, you had to say taco or salsa. People are now more comfortable with the culture, so you use words like carnitas and other specific types of tacos.
"The education process has to happen for us to use [traditional] names, and this requires putting a lot of money into marketing,” said Schaeffer.
Schaeffer said he has started doing research on Filipino flavors as celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain recently told CNN that Filipino street food, such as Sisig made from pork, will be the “next big thing in America.”