Tongs at the ready for a spicier barbecue season this summer
Whatever the rights or tongs of the great British barbecue, retailers and food experts are predicting that the season will come with, well, extra seasoning this year as sales of Asian spice blends, Middle Eastern marinades and fusion condiments are soaring.
“The flavour of barbecue food has really evolved in the UK,” said Zoe Simons, senior innovation chef at Waitrose, where Korean, Japanese and Middle Eastern spice mixes are proving popular with customers. “Nowadays, it’s not just about a simple sausage and burger, it’s more of an occasion to enjoy a variety of flavours and an opportunity to try out new cooking methods.”
Last week, Masterchef judges Gregg Wallace and John Torode laid into those who barbeque in Britain, suggesting most food griddled outside in this country is given little thought and the end result is “rubbish”.
Wallace complained that he was fed up of “finding the same lump of uncooked meat on a paper plate” and spending the rest of the afternoon stabbing it with “a plastic fork in one hand and a drink in the other”. But with Brits spending £834m on barbecues in 2020 (up by £329m in the previous year) and Nielsen reporting a 40% growth in “world sauces” in 2021, supermarkets have expanded their hot grill lines to include a range of Korean, Japanese and global fusion foods to meet customer appetite.
“Ninety-seven per cent of our customers said they’re excited to try more cuisines this summer. We anticipate this will be a recordbreaking year for barbecuing,” said Claire Hughes, director of product and innovation at Sainsbury’s, where the BBQ range has almost doubled compared to last year.
Wholesaler EHL Ingredients reported a boom in demand for lesser-known supermarket staples. “We’ve experienced a significant increase in sales of Middle Eastern baharat and Ethiopian berbere spice mixes, for instance,” confirmed joint managing director Tasneem Alonzo.
It’s a trend acutely observed in Pit, an independent food magazine dedicated to barbecue culture from around the world.
Editor Helen Graves believes experimentation will flourish after lockdown. “People are realising they can cook anything on a barbecue, and the ingredients for, say, west African or Vietnamese cooking are a lot more accessible these days.”
Younger cooks are more likely, she thinks, to experiment more with a range of new flavours.
Graves added: “People are using so many different BBQ rubs and spice mixes now – from baharat to things like yaji, which is a spice blend used for suya – a type of barbecued meat dish native to the Hausa people of Nigeria that’s eaten across the country and also in Ghana.”.