In an area with a strong culinary tradition like the Caribbean, it can seem like the popular food items don’t change much. But in fact, import and export taxes, local growing seasons, generational shifts, and trends in the U.S. and elsewhere can all have an impact on island food tastes.
For example, fast food has been wildly popular in certain Caribbean countries throughout the 2000s and 2010s. But in the wake of major hurricanes in the Caribbean, there is an increased focus on local ingredients and traditional fare. Add that to the rise of Caribbean food in the U.S. and U.K., and it’s no wonder that some of the local classics are seeing a resurgence.
Here are some of the food items that are trending in the Caribbean right now.
Oxtail recipes have become more popular all over North America in the past year. Recent articles in Chowhound, Insider, and a major uptick in Pinterest searches all show that this slow-cooked meat is entering the mainstream. And with Jamaican oxtail as a traditional dish, the uptick has reached the islands as well.
Foodservice establishments can expect an increase in orders for this rich, savory meat as coverage in the U.S. and U.K. increases.
Bright red with “scales” protruding from its skin, this fruit is described as a cross between a kiwi and a pear. In the most popular variety, the fruit has bright white pulp with black seeds. It’s often used to flavor juices and alcoholic drinks at restaurants and resorts.
Dragon fruit is easy to grow and has a long growing season. Plus, it can regrow from plants that are damaged in bad storms. This means the pitaya industry has been able to bounce back more quickly than some other agricultural trades.
The cuisine of the Caribbean has traditionally been meat-heavy, with staples like goat, chicken, and seafood showing up in regional dishes. But there is a new trend in the area, bringing delicious vegan and vegetarian dishes to locals and tourists alike.
Restaurants are developing new recipes featuring the islands’ classic flavors, but using tropical produce instead of meat. Jackfruit, for example, makes an excellent meat substitute in vegetarian dishes. And starchy produce like plantains and yucca can add bulk to a meatless meal.
When you think of Caribbean spirits, you probably already think of rum. But in the national marketplace, rum has taken a backseat to trendier liquors like gin and whiskey.
Now, rum is repositioning itself as a luxury spirit made in small batches, generating excitement in both the sipping and cocktail markets. As rum continues to grow, you can expect to see increased demand for niche brands that tourists can’t get outside of the Caribbean. With tourism representing over 14 percent of the region’s GDP, this increased focus on small-batch, artisanal rums could bode well for both restaurants and retailers.
Merchants Market Group can ensure that your Caribbean hotel or restaurant has all the supplies you need to keep up with the latest trends. As a local food supplier and distributor, we have our fingers on the pulse of what is new in the foodservice market. With warehouses in Florida, St. Thomas, St. Croix, and Anguilla, we can service both distribution centers and direct customers throughout the islands.