Spicy business

1 November 2013

Santa Maria lives and breathes spice. The Sweden-based company began trading in the mid-20th century and since then has continued to create innovative products and concepts, as Peter Blomgren, head of research and development, explains.

Ingredients Insight: Could you identify Santa Maria's latest innovations in ingredients?

Peter Blomgren: Cacao and chilli is an innovative spice blend from Santa Maria, which has been developed to appeal to consumers and chefs who are looking for a new taste sensation.

The idea behind the latest innovative spice blends is to combine flavours that bring excitement, but that also have a genuine purpose in the cooking process; to complement different ingredients to create the perfect dish. They should carry enough flavour so they can be the main component for spicing up a dish, but also work when combined with other flavours. The operator is free to explore all the possibilities.

The cacao and chilli spice blend is salt free, making it suitable for savoury dishes and sweet desserts. This versatility allows chefs to use it in an array of different dishes and menu offerings.

How have consumers and the industry responded to these products and ingredients?

Santa Maria's innovative spice blends have been available in the Nordic market for a number of years now. It is a premium line aimed to inspire and bring excitement when cooking, with new products continuously researched and added based on tastes and trends popular among consumers. Cacao and chilli is one of the most successful spice blends to be launched so far.

Can you provide background information on these ingredients?

The main component in cacao and chilli spice is crushed cacao nibs, which gives the blend its rich and bitter flavour. The chilli pepper combines the richness and flavour of an ancho chilli pepper with the heat of red-hot chilli flakes. Other ingredients such as cinnamon, vanilla powder, sugar and maize flour add complexity and roundness to the blend.

"The idea behind the latest innovative spice blends is to combine flavours that bring excitement, but that also have a genuine purpose in the cooking process."

The cacao and chilli spice blend consists of crushed cacao nibs (26%), paprika, sugar, chilli pepper (13%), maize flour, cinnamon, cacao powder, chocolate flavour, vanilla powder and anti-caking agent (E551).

Are there any significant rivals to these ingredients?

The cacao and chilli spice blend is unique to Santa Maria, making it appealing to chefs who are looking for something new, different and exciting to include on their menu.

Are there any regulatory and financial issues surrounding these ingredients?

The ingredients are specified in selected quantities, but their varying price on the market can influence the cost of ingredients. All ingredients are evaluated according to EU legislation.

How, as a company, do you drive innovation?

"We want to build trust and excite both consumers and end users with our products, and the innovative spice range is a key way to do that."

We combine consumer insight, food exploration and lifestyle trends with monitoring new ingredients, new technology and research. With this background, we often conduct idea workshops to explore and discuss our new products and concepts. External consultants such as trend analysts and chefs are often involved in these meetings to offer additional depth and detail to our research. Once the idea has been evaluated, an internal project team will develop it further and release it into the market.

What are the key development trends in the pipeline at Santa Maria?

We are currently exploring new products and concepts within healthy foods, the fusion of ethnic ingredients and dishes, as well as convenience solutions for the creation of quality meals made easy.

Are there any ingredients you can see making a breakthrough in the food market in the next year?

We are continuously seeing an interest in more spice blends and flavouring sauces, which help consumers to try new flavours and give chefs convenient solutions. In addition, there is demand at the moment for more chilli spice varieties that combine different flavours and heat.

Could you talk about some of the new global product launches on the horizon?

The innovative spice blends are being extended with new exciting flavours including 'Natural Umami'. This spice blend enhances flavour in dishes from the natural umami taste, commonly found in ingredients such as fish sauce, garlic, lemon, mushroom, ripened tomatoes, roasted onion and soy. Many of the ingredients that professional chefs use to build flavour will now be available in one handy spice blend.

In your opinion, how important is brand development?

The Santa Maria brand is extremely important to us, not only with the development of our spices, but also in how we want our products to be perceived by the consumer and the end user; as a passionate, inspiring, engaging and dynamic brand.

We also want to build trust and excite both consumers and end users with our products, and the innovative spice range is a key way to do that, bringing chefs and consumers a range of premium, exciting and different spice blends that will enhance an array of dishes.

Santa Maria’s versatile cacao and chilli spice blend contains crushed cacao nibs.

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