Cooking over a live fire is a culinary practice found across all continents and has been nurtured over tens of thousands of years (Raichlen, 2010). And while some regional methods showcase low-and-slow smoking, others focus on fast, direct grilling. From Serbian ćevapčići (pork, veal and lamb sausages) and Peruvian anticuchos (beef kebabs) to Filipino lechon manok (rotisserie chicken) and Indian tandoori aloo (grilled potatoes), global barbecue provides endless sources of inspiration for new product offerings and menu items.
“Barbecue” is a mainstay descriptor for snacks all over the world—and the demand for intense flavor is growing. Bold options like beef brisket and pulled pork flavored crunchy broad beans (UK), mala barbecue crispy chicken skins (Thailand) and applewood smoked cheddar potato chips (Costa Rica) can be found on retail shelves. For those who crave healthier varieties, barbecue flavors are moving into new formats—think green pea crisps, plant-based tomato jerky and air-dried carrot chips.
In foodservice, we’re seeing regional flavors transcend borders. In some cases, that means fusion dishes—with North American chain restaurants serving up Memphis-style barbecue chicken pizza, hot dogs with bulgogi and kimchi mayo and maple-whiskey BBQ burgers. Korean barbecue is especially taking off in the US, showing 271% growth on menus since 2018 (Datassential, 2022). For others, it’s about introducing authentic techniques to a new audience. One supper club in London serves up South African braai (featuring pork chops, eggplant and mackerel) while Japanese diners can enjoy spit-roasted Angus beef at a Brazilian churrascaria in Shibuya (Mintel, 2023).
American barbecue is known for its diversity in proteins, seasonings, woods and sauces, which can help manufacturers bring authenticity to their offerings. Think Kansas City ribs slathered in sweet sauce, dry-rubbed Texas brisket, chicken with mayonnaise sauce in Alabama and Carolina pulled pork, dressed in vinegar or mustard sauce. But St. Louis-style BBQ smoked ribs have even been spotted in Colombian grocery stores! And while the category is dominated by meat, diners looking for plant-forward options can turn to smoked “salmon” made from carrots, pea-protein steaks and plant-based barbacoa. Low-sugar sauces made with hibiscus tea, balsamic vinegar and beetroot powder are filling a gap in the marketplace, too (Mintel, 2023).
Whether you’re serving classic meats or plant-based options, slathered in sauce or simply dry-rubbed to perfection, one thing is certain—the bold, robust flavors of barbecue deliver universal appeal.
Restaurants serving barbecue or grilled options frequently reflect local culinary traditions, but inspiration from other markets is taking shape in regions with strong international influence.
Sauces, seasonings and ready-to-cook meal options provide consumers with shortcuts to elevated smoky flavors. Plant-based proteins are also proliferating across regions.
CPG brands are differentiating their offerings by leveraging specific meat barbecue or grilling flavors. High-protein, satiating ingredients such as legumes and meat are being used to satisfy the appetites of consumers between meals.