July 29th, 2019

Hibiscus Trend is Blooming

Posted in Food Trends, New Foods and Flavors

Hibiscus is trending on menus for its bright flavor and brighter color!

Hibiscus flower

I feel like it’s been too long since we’ve discussed flavor trends, so we’re going to end that streak today with a look at hibiscus.

Now, when I say hibiscus you probably think of a flower garnish on a Mai Tai or a component flavor in tea. But these vibrant flowers have proven to be a lot more versatile then we give them credit for. Their slightly bitter and citrusy flavor makes them perfect for an array of uses from garnish, sauces, beverages, and herbs.

Now Trending: Hibiscus

According to Datassential, hibiscus currently falls into the “adoption” stage of the Menu Adoption Cycle (MAC). This generally means that it’s gaining traction on menus but is still considered unique. It can be found at independent casual-dining and progressive fast-casual restaurants.

Hibiscus Glazed Wings

Image courtesy of Wahaca Twitter

It’s currently found on 6% of menus nationally, which is a 69% increase over the past 4 years. While the product is most familiar with Millennials and Gen Z, over half of the population has heard of it and almost a quarter have tried it. This leaves fertile ground to explore hibiscus in application.

In fact, the product Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup recently won the 2019 Front Burner Foodservice Pitch Competition. How’s that for timing?!

How to Use Hibiscus

Hibiscus is most commonly found in beverages, such as teas, cocktails, and agua frescas. But those are merely entry points for this ingredient.

Velvet Taco in Dallas serves their “Gator” taco on a hypnotically purple hibiscus taco shell. With its mild tartness, it’s a great balance to the fatty meat inside. You can use hibiscus in almost any bakery application to add color and an aromatic citric note.

Hibiscus Taco

Image courtesy of dallas.culturemap.com

Looking for a tangy sweet glaze for pork or lamb? Hibiscus and cranberry or orange make an excellent addition, cutting through the fattiness of the meat with bright, fresh flavor. It’s equally delicious in chutneys and vinaigrettes.

White fish and hibiscus also have a special relationship. It can be used as a dry rub, sweet sauce, or fresh garnish to bring a tropical note to the meat. It can also be an excellent component to ceviche, exemplified by Poca Madre’s Hamachi Ceviche, made with hibiscus, agua Jamaica, garlic, chile Serrano, and corn.

Where to Find Hibiscus

Hibiscus Ceviche

Photo courtesy of nrn.com

As its popularity grows, so does its availability. Hibiscus powder and dried flowers can often be sourced through networks like Shamrock and Sysco. Smaller producers, such as Iya Foods and the Wild Hibiscus Flower Company are also working on bringing their distribution up to meet the needs of a larger market.

Fresh hibiscus flowers can be more difficult to locate, but Fresh Origins, a micro greens company that works with most major distributors, can provide them.

Power to the Flower

As hibiscus continues along the MAC, we can expect to see new and unique methods of utilization. I, for one, expect to see it used often in sauces where color becomes almost as important as flavor. In our Instagram generation, it never hurts to pay attention to the aesthetics.

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