In summary A growing interest for unique taste combinations has been the inspiration behind numerous trends that leverage on distinct flavour composites – from salty sweet pairings to sugar and spice offerings that are being referred to as “sweet heat.”
Identified AI-powered flavor forecaster Capchavate validated this by reporting a rise in savory ingredients such as salted egg and ponzu being added to the sweetness of creamy milk or tea bases in Southeast Asian countries.
New data collected from Capchavate is picking up another flavor pattern where a combination of “sour and sweet” is the ongoing theme in LTO drinks or special items hoping to make that transition from novelty to standard menu. With this current beverage trend, we witness a resurgence of yuzu, the buzzy and versatile citrus fruit indigenous to Northeast Asian countries including Japan, Korea and China, being combined with the luscious saccharine punch of honey as the new “sweet and sour duo” being used by foodservice outlets across the Asian region to perk up their drink menus.
The mixture of yuzu and honey is not new. Yuzu-infused honey can already be bought from Japanese FMCG brands such as Sugi Bee. The coupling has also made its appearance in hot drink formats such as the Korean Citron Tea called Yuja Cha (Yuzu Tea in Korean). However, yuzu honey is now proliferating into the mainstream index as we see it being adopted by outlets ranging from neighborhood haunts to global chains, turning the exotic combination into a variety of drink permutations and adventurous concepts.
Starbucks in Taiwan and Singapore simultaneously launched its ‘Yuzu Honey’ series in April 2019 for its summer LTO menu that comes in the form of an Iced Shaken Yuzu Honey Jelly Green Tea and a Frozen Jelly Yogurt Frapuccino. The Frappuccino’s sweet-tangy yogurt is complemented by the subtly tart yet fragrant zest of yuzu honey sauce, milk, ice and yuzu jelly. The iced shaken tea option, on the other hand, is described by the company as a refreshing, sparkling Fizzio beverage which is a fusion of juice and pulp from the yuzu citrus fruit and Starbucks Zen tea.
Also bringing the in-vogue medley of yuzu and honey into the potable limelight is a Japanese ramen place in Thailand called Yuzu Ramen. The Bangkok joint named after the superfruit, is known for their signature noodle broth dishes that are prized for their aroma and authentic flavor – thanks to the delicate acidity and lively fragrance that their namesake fruit imparts. Their newly released Yuzu Honey Slushie and Yuzu Honey Soda, however, are becoming bestselling stars in their own right. Launched in April 2019, and presenting a bright and invigorating kick to an otherwise basic citrus cooler, a reporter for Thai online lifestyle publication khaosodenglish.com writes, “the Yuzu Honey Soda and Yuzu Honey Slushies are must-orders. Cutting through the creamy oiliness, the drinks might be the most yuzu thing there.”
Crossing over to Hong Kong, we see some slight variation on the yuzu honey blend that fine dining restaurant Shè introduces into its happy hour menu. The chic hotspot serving contemporary Chinese gastronomy has listed a yuzu cocktail that mixes yuzu juice with jasmine syrup and sweet white vermouth – both of which serve to counterbalance the tartness of the yuzu with a honey-like sweetness that characterizes its taste notes.
So what? More than its exotic allure and being a more sophisticated alternative to its citrus counterparts, yuzu’s perceived health halo also contributes to its enduring fame that drives consumers to appreciate its vitamin-rich, antioxidant and even mood-boosting benefits. With a distinct aroma and taste, as well as its increasing availability outside of Japan and China (Australia and New Zealand are now able to produce their own yuzu as local F&B players include yuzu on their repertoire), all signs seem to be pointing to a positive future for the superfruit. So much so that its steadily mounting fame is paving the way for other Asian citrus varietals such as Amanatsu, Komikan and Daidai to get noticed across international waters.