November Flavor of the Month: Ginger

From charmingly sweet to decidedly pungent and spicy, ginger is as versatile as its appearance is unassuming. Its unique flavor profile of lemony-citrus and warm earthy notes has made it a hallmark for a wide range of dishes, including Caribbean, Indian, and Asian cuisine – and of course, traditional holiday baked goods, seasonal beverages, and preserves. Is it any wonder ginger is our flavor of the month?

Why We Love Ginger

Ginger is our go-to flavor for adding nuance and warmth in all kinds of flavor systems.  From sweet pumpkin pie lattes to calming green teas and tangy teriyaki sauces, ginger provides earthy flavor notes (grounding), sharp nasal pungency (energizing), and mild to moderate palate heat (comforting).  This broad range of sensory profiles helps stabilize and balance other flavors in a blend, creating harmony and adding rich layers of complexity.  

Used liberally, ginger is bold and characterizing – just the profile a developer needs to convey natural intensity and power in an energy shot or detox tea.  Handled with artful discretion, ginger is the “secret spice” in the most orchestrated of custom flavors, providing a “je ne sais quoi” that is easy to love…but difficult to duplicate.  Whether the star of the show or a supporting cast member, ginger is a humble root with an unforgettable impact.

Ginger Tea

Ginger Science

The first thing you’ll notice when tasting fresh ginger is that it’s extremely pungent. This is a result of a compound called gingerol, which is related to capsaicin and piperine. These two compounds are responsible for the spiciness of chili peppers and black pepper, respectively. However, as ginger is cooked, the gingerol is transformed into a different compound: zingerone. Zingorone still retains the spicy, bright flavor we associate with ginger, but it’s warmer and less pungent. Although ground ginger is more concentrated than the fresh rhizome, it has less of a bite, making it preferable for use in baked goods.

Chemistry Of Ginger

Ginger Sensory

Due to its long history in the global spice trade, and subsequent incorporation into global cuisine, ginger flavor has universal appeal.  Beef teriyaki, pumpkin pie, tom kha gai (Thai chicken and coconut soup), and chai tea are all regionally popular recipes that gained worldwide appeal – and all feature ginger as a primary flavor.  Even with its widespread acceptance, it’s important to note that the type and quantity of ginger used in a formulation can be quite polarizing.  Consumers have a broad range of both sensitivity to and appreciation for chemesthesis (the tingling or burning sensation that accompanies chemical irritation of the oral and nasal cavities, such as the heat from chile peppers), and therefore care must be taken when incorporating ginger in a product so as not to alienate your target consumer.

That said, ginger is an amazing spice that plays VERY well with others!  The breadth of its flavor compatibility is pretty impressive.  Check out the infographic below for a selection of flavor categories that – alone or in combination – pair perfectly with ginger.

Perfect Pairings Ginger

Where Does Ginger Come From?

Ginger is indigenous to China, India, and other tropical regions. It no longer exists in its wild state, making it a true “cultigen,” which is essentially a domesticated plant. The earliest evidence of ginger’s selective cultivation is among the ancient Austronesian people, approximately 5,000 years ago. It was a crucial crop for them, used for everything from food and medicine to weaving materials and religious purposes.

Ginger Root

Today, the top exporters of ginger include China, Brazil, and Thailand. There are several varieties of ginger, but the one many of us are most familiar with comes from the perennial plant Zingiber officinale, also known as “common ginger” or “garden ginger”. It’s a close relative to cardamom, which perhaps should come as no surprise, considering they’re often used together in recipes and share a similar flavor versatility. It’s also closely related to turmeric. Each ginger plant can grow up to three feet high and can produce 2-5 sections, or “hands,” of thick, knobby rhizomes (often mistakenly called “roots”) that can be harvested throughout the year.

Ginger Plant

From Confucius to the Colonies

Ginger has a long, rich history among cultures around the world, having been used for culinary and medicinal purposes for thousands of years. In India and China, the rhizomes were traditionally used in a tonic to treat a wide variety of common ailments. The ancient Chinese philosopher, Confucius, was known to eat a small amount of ginger before every meal, and praised it for its digestive and healing powers. By the 1st century, the word had spread about the inconspicuous rhizome, as traders brought it into the Mediterranean regions.

Confucius

Ginger eventually became a popular spice in Rome, however, its use declined as the Roman Empire fell. It was forgotten in Europe for centuries until it was rediscovered when Marco Polo brought it back from his travels to the East. The Crusades also played a large part in the spice becoming more widely used in Europe, as the Crusaders ventured to far off lands, only to return home with exotic spices from the foreign trade centers. Ginger became known as the “grains of Paradise” and the Atare pepper; with its spicy flavor, it was often used as a substitute for the more expensive black pepper.

By the 13th century, ginger was widely appreciated in the spice trade and its worth had greatly increased. As with all imported goods at the time, only the most wealthy could afford it – a pound of ginger was worth the price of a whole sheep! Spices like ginger were used in food preparation, but it was also common to pass around a “spice platter” that held additional spices to add to meals, much like how many of us add salt and pepper to our meals today. Members of the royal family and nobility would often follow their meal with a wine spiced with ginger to aid digestion.

It was during the Middle Ages that ginger became a popular ingredient for sweet delicacies, like cakes and bread. Gingerbread originated around the 14th century, although it was more of a sugary confection than the cake-like variety that’s common today. According to medieval historian Bruno Laurioux, ginger was found in approximately one-quarter of all medieval French and English recipes, however, it was used far less frequently in Italian and Spanish cuisine. There were at least three varieties of ginger used culinary in the Middle Ages, including the common garden ginger we all know and love.

As the British Empire grew and expanded into new territories, ginger went with it. The spice was introduced in Jamaica around 1525, where it quickly became established as a successful export. British colonists (in what would later become America) used it and other spices abundantly in their recipes, making ginger a characteristic flavor in traditional American cooking.

The Health Benefits of Ginger

Although ginger is prized for its unique peppery, sweet flavor and spicy aroma, it’s worth noting that it’s been widely viewed as medicinal for thousands of years. The most common use across cultures has been for relieving various digestive issues and nausea, as well as to help stimulate or improve digestion. Modern science has shown that many types of folk medicine using ginger may have some validity – and there’s evidence that along with gastrointestinal issues, ginger also aids in relieving pain and inflammation, supporting cardiovascular health, and may even lower the risk of cancer.

Ginger is great any time of year, but as the holidays approach and the weather cools down, this popular flavor inspires feelings of comfort and warmth. Here are three fun ways to add ginger, in its various forms, to your diet this winter:

As an incredibly versatile spice, you’ll find ginger in a wide array of savory dishes, spice blends, sauces, desserts, marinades, pickled vegetables, curries, condiments, and drinks. The uses are so widely varied that it’s virtually impossible to list them all!Looking to add some spice to your products? Blue Pacific offers the finest certified organic and natural ginger food and beverage flavors.

Request a sample today!

Jessica’s “Harvest Salad with Olallieberry Dressing”

This month’s recipe comes from Blue Pacific’s Sensory & Consumer Insights Manager, Jessica Morton! The Olallieberry is a blackberry/raspberry hybrid developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture at Oregon State University in 1949. They were made commercially available in 1950 and quickly became one of the most prized members of the blackberry family. Ollaliberries are naturally sweet, with a bright tartness and a deep wine-like note that makes them perfect for jams, pies, sauces, and dressings.

Olallieberries

Jessica’s introduction to the Olallieberry began in her late teens and 20’s, while she was going to school and working in San Luis Obispo, California. This beautiful town, just a few miles inland from the Central Coast, still maintains the farm to flavor way of life that put California Polytechnic State University – one of California’s top agriculture colleges – on the map. 

“As a Food Science student at Cal Poly SLO, I remember making Olallieberry jam in the pilot plant in steam-jacketed kettles, breathing in the summer ripe fruit flavors, always wondering what this “mystery” berry with the funny name was,” Jessica said. “I knew it had been popularized by a farm-to-fork bakery and restaurant in nearby Cambria called Linn’s, but other than that I had never heard of it before…or since.”

“I remember making Olallieberry jam in the pilot plant in steam-jacketed kettles, breathing in the summer ripe fruit flavors, always wondering what this ‘mystery’ berry with the funny name was.”

Jessica Morton

Flash forward 20 years later, to the summer of 2020, when Jessica and her boyfriend took a weekend trip to Cambria and stopped at Linn’s Fruit Bin for a bite. “We literally ate three breakfasts (in a row!) at Linn’s where we became connoisseurs of the amazing olallieberry,” she said. “I finally had ‘discovered’ the origin of my mystery berry!”

2016 Web Olallieberry Gift 64222.1543452367.1280.1280

Linn’s offers an unbelievable assortment of syrups, jams, preserves, dressings, sauces, and of course, PIES made from these humble little flavor producers. Jessica bought a bottle of olallieberry dressing and was inspired to create this harvest salad that showcases fall’s natural fruit flavors. The creaminess of the avocado and camembert cheese, the crunch of the pistachios and beet chips, and the juicy flavor burst of pomegranate arils provide the perfect symphony of complementary flavors and contrasting textures for the star of the salad: the olallieberry!

Thank you, Jessica, for sharing this flavorful salad with us! Try it tonight, and discover why the ollalieberry is considered by many to be the “king of blackberries”!

Harvest Salad with Olallieberry Dressing

  • 4 c. mixed spring salad greens
  • 1 small avocado, pitted and cubed
  • 1 Fuyu persimmon, cubed
  • 2 tbsp. lightly salted pistachio nutmeats
  • ¼ c. pomegranate arils
  • ¼ c. Linn’s olallieberry salad dressing
  • ¼ c. lightly salted beet chips
  • 4 oz. camembert cheese, sliced
  • 1 Fuyu persimmon, thinly sliced

In a large mixing bowl, toss the salad greens with the avocado, cubed persimmon, pistachios, pomegranate, and dressing. Serve with lightly crumbled beet chips and slices of cheese and persimmon arranged on top. Serves 4.

Persimmon

Understanding Electrolyte Hydration Systems

Electrolytes are responsible for facilitating many important functions[1]. Some functions include regulating the acidity of your blood, muscle function, and the amount of water in your body[2]. Dehydration can occur from a variety of ways such as physical effort, being sick with the flu, or even being in the heat for long periods of time[3]. Since the body excretes these minerals it requires more than just water to bring things back into equilibrium[4]. In the market, some of the more popular forms of electrolyte hydration systems are ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages, instant powders and tabs, and concentrated liquid electrolytes.

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Pandemic-Driven Purchases

Covid-19 is expected to have significant long-term effects on electrolyte beverage consumption.  In the early days of the pandemic, sport drinks and immune support beverage powders were some of the first items to fly off shelves after the Department of Homeland Security advised consumers to have “health supplies on hand…such as fluids with electrolytes.”[5]  While initial sales increases for these beverage products is mostly transitory, the consumer behavior is not.  When a consumer engages with a product consistently over a period of time, especially one that provides positive and measurable health benefits during a period of health insecurity, there is a high probability that they will continue to use the item even after the original need is gone.  Product developers can seize on this opportunity by incorporating Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) into new and existing beverage formulations.

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A Healthy Trend

What exactly are ORS, and how can they help our health?  ORS are a specific mixture of electrolytes (such as sodium, chloride, potassium, and citrate) and carbohydrates (glucose, sucrose) that, when dissolved in water, mimic the osmotic balance of a human body’s cells.  This enables a dehydrated person to quickly restore fluid while reducing shock to their system.  Dehydration, primarily due to diarrhea, is a leading cause of death for children in emerging countries. That’s why the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF developed standards for the formulation of ORS solutions.  These electrolyte delivery systems are designed to save lives – and they do so, every day.

The global electrolyte drinks market was valued at $1.4 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow to $1.8 billion in the next 5 years, fueled by the increasingly active lifestyles of young Millennials and Gen Z’s.

MARKET DATA FORECAST: Electrolyte Drinks Market Growth, Size, Share and Forecast to 2025

We are extremely fortunate in the United States to have universal access to clean water, making dysentery and the deadly dehydration it causes much less concerning.  However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t an established – and growing! – market for ORS solutions.  The global electrolyte drinks market was valued at $1.4 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow to $1.8 billion in the next 5 years, fueled by the increasingly active lifestyles of young Millennials and Gen Z’s.[6]

Man In Mask And Protective Gloves Buying Food In Shop At Coronavirus Epidemic

Formulating for the 2021 Consumer

Traditionally RTD electrolyte beverages have been dominated by two or three major sports drink brands.  However, the market has recently seen some significant changes driven by an increasingly health-conscious consumer.  Artificial sweeteners have been replaced with stevia, sugar has been trimmed down, electrolytes have been increased, and artificial colors and flavors swapped for natural and organic options. Powdered beverage packs and liquid electrolyte squeeze bottles have taken the category by storm, offering consumers portable convenience and a sustainable solution to the much higher carbon footprint of RTD products.  To summarize, consumers are increasingly replacing electrolyte drinks with convenient, concentrated, and clean label hydration systems – a trend we expect to gain traction throughout 2021. 

Consumers are increasingly replacing electrolyte drinks with convenient, concentrated, and clean label hydration systems – a trend we expect to gain traction throughout 2021. 

Mineral Selection Text

Mineral selection is one of the most important factors when developing a new hydration beverage. Let’s take potassium for example. Potassium comes in a few different forms such as potassium citrate, potassium gluconate and potassium phosphate.  From a nutritional standpoint, there are benefits to choosing the gluconate form since it is an essential mineral and also able to be called out on the label[7]. From a sensory perspective, however, potassium citrate is generally perceived as neutral tasting whereas the phosphate form has a salty taste. Flavor modifiers and blockers can be used to mask certain sensory defects in the taste. Seldom are these tools “one size fits all” as they generally have to be dialed in at appropriate levels.

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The oral rehydration category has a wide variety of participants, so market differentiation is very important. One way to separate your product from the pack is to utilize functional ingredients. These can be added in the form of caffeine for energy, zinc and vitamin C for immune health, and melatonin as a sleep aide. Another way is by isolating and catering to a niche. For example, creating a product that targets consumers on the keto diet by removing sugar and adding additional sodium (to combat keto-flu), potassium and magnesium[8]. Lastly, getting the calories to zero enables consumers who practice various forms of fasting, such as intermittent fasting, to consume the flavored beverage and not break out of the fasted state.

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Given renewed interest in health and wellness and the continued decrease in carbonated soft drink consumption, the oral hydration category is ripe for growth in new product development[9]. Blue Pacific’s Food Scientists are highly experienced in beverage formulation in the health and wellness category.  Whether you need organic flavors, natural bitter and salt maskers, innovative encapsulated flavors, pure vanilla extracts, or expert beverage development, Blue Pacific’s Beverage Innovation Team can help take your ideas from benchtop to Top Seller!  Contact us today to Request A Sample or Submit A Project.


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Sources

[1] Fluid and Electrolyte Balance. MedlinePlus. 2020.

[2] Electrolytes: Medical Encyclopedia. MedlinePlus. 2020. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002350.htm

[3] Provisional Committee on Quality Improvement, Subcommittee on Acute Gastroenteritis. Practice Parameter: The Management of Acute Gastroenteritis in Young Children. Pediatrics. 1996. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8604285/

[4] Jequier E, Constant F. Water as an essential nutrient: The Physiological Basis of Hydration. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2010. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19724292/

[5] Baker S. Stockpiling toilet paper, food gives people a feeling of control in a situation that’s out of their control, mental health experts say. Chicago Tribune. 2020. https://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/naperville-sun/ct-nvs-naperville-coronovirus-anxiety-st-0313-20200313-62agr5w6mvep3fcm7e4jwy3hnm-story.html

[6] Electrolyte Drinks Market Growth, Size, Share and Forecast to 2025. Market Data Forecast. 2020. https://www.marketdataforecast.com/market-reports/electrolyte-drinks-market

[7] Heaney RP. Phosphorus. In: Erdman JW, Macdonald IA, Zeisel SH, eds. Present Knowledge in Nutrition. 2012.

[8] Bostock E, Kirkby K, Taylor B, Hawrelak J. Consumer Reports of “Keto Flu” Associated with the Ketogenic Diet. Frontiers in Nutrition. 2020. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32232045/

[9] Stevens R. Consumers Seeking Non-Carbonated Beverages. Bernicks.com. 2020. https://blog.bernicks.com/blog/consumers-seeking-non-carbonated-beverages