The Superfood Tipping Point: Is America ready for Turmeric?

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With Turmeric being one of the newest superfood crazes, we had to ask – is mainstream America really ready to embrace this miracle food? “Food Adventurers” may know Turmeric as an orangish powder they add to curry, but outside of that, they may be scratching their heads. We’ve recently noticed many super drinks and smoothies using Turmeric, and chefs sneaking it into unexpected dishes. So what is going on with this new orange crush?

Turmeric is actually a rhizome in the ginger family. It looks kind of like a deep orange ginger root, but maybe a bit bumpier. It is native to warm weather parts of southern Asia: think India, Bangladesh, Iran and Pakistan who all use it for curries, dying, and yes, even medicine. In cooking, Turmeric roots are sometimes used fresh Рlike ginger root Рand are sometimes boiled, dried in hot ovens, then ground into a deep-orange-yellow powder.

Recently, Google published this fact about Turmeric: “While the concept of functional foods has been around for decades, interest in Turmeric … is the breakout star, with searches growing 300% over the last five years.” ¬†2016 GoogleFoodTrends

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Surprising, given that Turmeric, on its own, is not a taste powerhouse. It is a slightly bitter, chalky, mildly aromatic spice that really needs to be mixed with other things to make it palatable. In some cultures, it’s used as a cheap substitute for saffron, and, in many dishes, it’s used for color more than flavor. According to Google, top Turmeric searches included “powder,” “smoothie,” “recipe,” and “drink.” The top You Tube videos were tea and “golden milk” – a tea-like concoction of Turmeric, peppercorn, coconut milk and ginger — kind of like sipping curry sauce, if you like that flavor.

So why the obsession with Turmeric, and why now? As some consumers choose to side step pharmaceutical drugs, Turmeric pops up as a natural solution for an astounding number of conditions. No wonder there is a scramble to understand how to consume more of it. Curcumin, a healing compound found in Turmeric, is positioned as a clean alternative for a wide range of ailments including headaches, arthritis, inflammation and even depression.

“True Believers” — a small, but highly influential percentage of the population consisting of young, educated advocates of healthy eating and natural solutions — seem to be driving the Turmeric trend. Early adopters of kale, quinoa and juicing, they are the likely group searching for new ways to get their Turmeric fix.

In response, health-minded, innovative chefs are finding new dishes and ways to serve this wonder food, and forward-looking tea, juice and smoothie restaurants and retailers are mixing and blending their way to Turmeric heaven.

But for mainstream America, Turmeric has a way to go before it becomes a go-to food. Turmeric needs to turn the corner from a “should have” to a “want to have” food with taste as the lynchpin to mainstream success. We look forward to new products and recipes that help make this happen for this amazing food.