Peruvian influences: Superfoods, heritage and export success inspire culinary creativity

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23 Oct 2018 --- Increased consumer interest in superfoods from Latin America, and Peru, in particular, is driving innovation and creating waves in the food industry. Peru is becoming more influential in the global food market, as an exporter and scene of culinary inspiration. The Peruvian climate also allows for a broad range of foods to be grown, opening up many possibilities for NPD or exports of unique Peruvian ingredients and bringing them to markets outside of Latin America. 

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Aji Amarillo is one of the most frequently used chilies in Peru

Culinary trend and menu experts also point to Peru as a country to watch, following the growth of other South American cuisines. Activity recorded by Innova Market Insights is largely confined to sauces and seasonings to date, although Peru is also a major exporter of quinoa products and artichoke hearts to the US. There are more cuisines poised to gain popularity in the US and European market. These include various foods and spices from Peru and Latin America. One good example is Aji Amarillo, which is a yellow pepper. This is one of the most frequently used chilis in Peru and a key ingredient in Peruvian cooking.

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Featuring Aji Amarillo chilies, this sauce launched
in the UK in 2017, is based on Peru's famous
“Aji Verde” sauce – usually served with
one of the country's most popular dishes,
“Pollo a la Brasa” (Peruvian roasted chicken).

Over the past few years, chia and quinoa have fueled the application of seeds and grains in the food industry. But nowadays, there is a more significant focus on superfoods and other natural ingredients from the Andean regions of South America, including purple corn, canihua, maca, lucuma, camu camu and super berries which are high in polyphenols and antioxidants. Peru’s agricultural climate produces some of the world’s most famous and emerging superfoods, which boast nutritional values, amino acids and beta-carotene. 

Peru has a uniquely diverse agricultural heritage and is home to popular health foods including quinoa, which originates from South America. The country has become a significant exporter of in-demand products for health-conscious global consumers.

The Peruvian food industry will continue to grow as an exporter, especially with the country’s unique connections to Asian markets. Food conferences and culinary awards will help sustain interest and growth in the Peruvian food scene. Sustainability is also a strong trend that is reflected in Peruvian food culture and there is potential for trends to reinforce each other in a virtuous cycle of Latin American growth. 

Moreover, Peru’s fine dining restaurants are globally renowned and its ingredients and cuisine are attracting interest from chefs and food processors from around the world. This mountainous nation is rising high in the global food rankings and is positioned for future growth. As part of its overall economic growth and expanding middle class, Peru is experiencing a renaissance in its culinary scene and food industry. Peru, and the capital city of Lima, in particular, is becoming known as a major culinary destination with top-ranked restaurants. 

In 2017, Bloomberg published an article that shows why Peru has so much respect in the culinary scene and with foodies seeking the best Latin American cuisine. Some of the most beloved dishes reflect Peru’s tendency to co-mingle cultures, such as Japanese, Italian, Lebanese, Spanish and indigenous Pre-Columbian influences.

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Camu camu is a Peruvian superfood, which
has 48 times more Vitamin C than oranges.

In addition to Peru’s renowned restaurants, Peruvian cuisine is becoming more influential around the world. Peruvian food has been rated as the #2 trend among “Global Flavors” in the US National Restaurant Association’s 2018 What’s Hot Culinary Forecast.

Although avocados originated in South Central Mexico, Peru is also a major producer of avocados, which has led to increased interest in the green fruit and the country, thanks to the millennial and plant-based trends for avocado toast, guacamole and other avocado-based recipes.

Speaking to FoodIngredientsFirst, Xavier Equihua, CEO of the Peruvian Avocado Commission says: “Personally I think that Peruvian products and food are increasingly becoming of interest to consumers because overall they are healthy and hence the reason why Peru is being tagged as the ‘Land of Superfoods.’ Peru is not only the second largest producer of avocados in the world it is indeed the largest producer of many superfoods including blueberries and quinoa to name a few.”

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Goldenberries (also known as the Peruvian groundcherry
and physalis peruviana), is an Andean superfood
high in vitamins and antioxidants.

Organic Rainforest is a Canadian-based business that provides organic superfoods unique as they are grown in mainly in Peru and cannot be grown in other regions of the world. The company takes organic Peruvian fruits and vegetables and produces powder and supplements. They also produce cacao, specializing in 22 percent fat cocoa powder.

Marvin Zeifman, General Manager at Organic Rainforest, tells FoodIngredientsFirst: “We are investing more and more in Peru and in particular, the cacao sector. Cacao is a hugely important traditional market for export to Europe. Legally acceptable levels of cadmium are significantly lowered and countries such as Ecuador are out now of the exports markets due to high cadmium in its cacao.”

With 42 years of experience in South America and roughly 38 years in Peru, Zeifman says that: “Although cacao is the company’s largest investment, we also produce many of the Peruvian superfoods such as maca, camu camu, which has 48 times more vitamin C than oranges, physalis and lucuma among others.”

Maca is a cruciferous vegetable and therefore related to broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and kale. It has a long history of culinary and medicinal use in Peru and the main edible part of the plant is the root, which grows underground. It exists in several colors, ranging from white to black.

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At SIAL in Paris, this week, Peruvian food
trends have been featured as a key theme to look out
for. Latin American food is gaining traction globally.

“Maca and camu camu are probably the number one superfoods known to Peru and this year, camu camu was a featured food product at Biofach in Nuremberg," he adds, referring to the organic global trade fair.

Earlier this year, Nestlé widened its presence in Latin America by strengthening its superfood portfolio with the acquisition of a majority stake in Terrafertil, a company selling natural, organic, plant-based foods and healthy snacks. The move broadens the Swiss global leader’s position in a fast-growing category in Latin America. Terrafertil is the world’s largest buyer of goldenberries (also known as the Peruvian groundcherry and physalis peruviana), an Andean superfood high in vitamins and antioxidants.

According to Innova Market Insights data, the snacking category was the leading category for launches where goldenberries were listed as an ingredient (43 percent) in 2017. Health was the top claim for products with goldenberries, and the US and UK (combined) accounted for 28 percent of launches tracked in 2017.

What’s happening in Peru?
Snacks sales value growth in Peru is in line with that of Latin America. In 2017, Peru accounts for 6 percent share of snacks NPD in Latin America, according to data from Innova Market Insights. Peru is a high innovation and high-value growth market for snacks category, rising disposable incomes, availability of a wider variety of snacks and increased demand for gourmet products are propelling growth in Peru. 

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Inka Chips brand (Peru)

During 2013 to 2017, snacks NPD in Peru increased at 42.2 percent CAGR, while sales value and volume growth averaged at 4.1 percent and 3.7 percent, respectively. Recently, the spotlight has been on potato, cassava and plantain-based launches. Inka Crops also recorded high growth from 2015 to 2017, primarily driven by savory and salty snacks launches from its Inka Chips brand. 

In flavors, salted flavors are the leading flavor in both Peru and Latin America. Aside from that, other flavors growing in popularity in Peru during 2017 are spices, cranberry, yuca, honey and Oriental. New flavors introduced in Peru in 2017 include peach, pomegranate, apricot, broccoli and white cheddar cheese, according to data from Innova Market Insights. 

At PLMA earlier this year, Q Foods highlighted their range of products based on quinoa in Europe for the first time. You can view the video interview about the introductions here.

What’s next?
Even within the high level of NPD and the arrival of more multinational snack brands, there is ongoing interest in traditional and local Peruvian ingredients for snacks, as well as Peruvian potatoes and Andean corn and other grains, including traditional ancient grains such as quinoa, as well as Peruvian Pink Salt.

Snacks are a high innovation and high-value growth category in Peru. The range of snack types and formats is broadening as rising disposable incomes allow the purchase of more products for grazing and on-the-go eating. Watch this space! 

By Elizabeth Green

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