Asian BBQ Innovation: Three interest areas for UK food development in 2024

Insights Lab cooks up three Asian-inspired BBQ innovation areas for UK food teams to consider when approaching 2024 product development
BBQ meat being cooked on a grill
Brits love a good BBQ, with millions up and down the country eagerly gathering at the first sign of sun to cook up a smoke-filled storm. And while summer 2023 may yet still deliver on consistently decent weather, consumers have the issue of the cost-of-living crisis to contend with when planning their events, with food inflation to once again play a major role in influencing UK BBQ trends this year.

Traditionally, the likes of burgers and sausages act as the affordable bedrock of a classic British BBQ. However, as recently reported by The Guardian; the average price of a pack of frozen beef burgers has risen by almost 32% in the past year, with standard pork sausages up by almost 20% per kilo.

Such eye-watering price hikes may dissuade some consumers from buying both meat options for one BBQ occasion, instead fashioning simpler BBQ 'menus' with fewer mains to save money.

This, in turn, may lead to a greater emphasis on the flavour and quality of the chosen option, with consumers willing to pay slightly more for a premium protein to take full lead of their respective BBQs.

Referring to consumers eager to make the most of their BBQ experiences in 2023; Jason Fordham, customer insights director at The Compleat Food Group, told The Grocer: “Brands and retailers need to go beyond the standard banger in a bun with a squirt of ketchup if they are going to capture this end of the market."

Meanwhile, in hospitality, there has been a notable flurry of Asian BBQ restaurants launching in London, with Korean BBQ steakhouse AB Steak soon to join the likes of DIY Japanese BBQ eatery High Yaki, Korean BBQ concept Chungdam, and QSR Japanese BBQ chain Yakiniku Like as major new openings this past year.

It got us to thinking about potential BBQ innovation areas for 2024 and the Asian-inspired flavours, techniques and/or formats that might be harnessed by UK food businesses to pique the interest of BBQ lovers.

And so, without further ado, here are three potential BBQ opportunity areas for 2024, with Filipino-inspired ube burger buns, Korean BBQ sausages and 'Zibo-style' all part of the menu.
Food Trend to Food Concept

What to expect:

  • Understand the state-of-play with Asian-inspired chicken with an expert-led overview, innovator examples, and a spotlight on potential opportunity areas for the UK market.

  • Journey with us through fried/breaded chicken seasoning opportunities, exploring viable retail applications and digesting analysis.

  • Discover a brand-new retail seasoning concept as an example of our 'trend to concept' methodology, with the team discussing ingredient builds and suitability for the UK market.

  • Understand possible range expansions, backed up by AI-led product concept showcases.

Zibo-style BBQ
Shandong, China
A standard Zibo BBQ wrap. Image via Xiaohongshu
In terms of UK consumers, the likes of char siu pork or roast duck might come up in a discussion on Chinese BBQ.

This would just be scratching the surface, however, with Chinese BBQ encompassing a diverse range of culinary techniques that vary across different regions of China.

For example, you have Sichuan BBQ, which is driven by mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorns; Fujian BBQ, which focuses on seafood and uses a unique cooking method called "lu wei"; and Zibo-style BBQ, which closely resembles a gyro or shawarma, featuring charcoal-grilled meat in a flour wrap.

Interestingly, the latter style has recently gone viral in China. After seriously gathering momentum on social media, a reported 4.8 million visitors descended on the eastern city of Zibo to sample its unique BBQ offerings in March alone, with the Chinese media christening the city the "holy land of barbecue".

Traditional Zibo-style BBQ sees diners cook various meats themselves on small charcoal grills before wrapping them in small, tortilla-style wraps with additions such as chilli-garlic sauce, crushed peanuts, chilli powder and spring onion.

Simple, accessible, cheap to make, and altogether flavourful; Zibo-style BBQ has no real presence in the UK and could be worth exploring as an affordable street food-style option or as an at-home kit for summer BBQ occasions in 2024.

Korean BBQ Sausages
Brooklyn Cured's (US) Korean Style BBQ Sausage. Image: @brooklyncured
After considering the burger/sausage summer BBQ axis in the UK, and with Korean BBQ restaurant openings catching our eye; we searched for innovators making waves with Korean BBQ-inspired flavours for either pork or beef options (and potential white space opportunities).

The beef burger is by far the dominant of the two in this niche space (and has been for a while), driven by the concept of Korean bulgogi beef. Recent spots include US restaurant Underdog's bulgogi double smash burger which, last month, came as part of a nostalgic comfort food-driven 'Special Happy Meal' with a banana milkshake.

The sausage, however, could be a bit of an opportunity area for UK food teams in the coming years, with only a handful of artisan brands in the UK and US currently capturing interest with Korean BBQ sausages made with authentic, high quality ingredients.

These include the award-winning, LA-based Seoul Sausage Company and its range of 'KBBQ' pork and chicken sausages; and Sausage Sensei (US) with its Korean Bulgogi sausage - a beef brisket-based number seasoned with gochujang, palm sugar, fish sauce, dark soy sauce, garlic and ssamjang, with smoked kimchi and broken jasmine rice part of the sausage mix for further flavour and texture.

Then there's UK-based craft sausage brand Sosij and its Korean BBQ pork sausage developed specifically for the BBQ. It's made with a pork belly ramen-inspired marinade featuring gochujang paste, fermented soybean paste, tamari soy sauce, red pepper flakes, sesame oil and brown sugar.

Fillipino BBQ
Ube burger buns
'The Major', the double chori burger with ube bun by Gigi's Kusina (@gigiskusina)
Filipino BBQ (otherwise known as 'inihaw' or Pinoy BBQ) is a vibrant, marinated skewer-led arena, with the likes of chicken inasal (chicken marinated in a mixture of calamansi, pepper, coconut vinegar and annatto), and lechon manok (a Filipino spit-roasted chicken dish) further broadening what is an age-old BBQ portfolio.

That said, we want to talk about the Chori burger - a pork pattie-based burger originating from the island of Boracay in the Philippines.

We've noticed a few eye-catching modern iterations emerging in the US that feature ube burger buns, such as Maryland-based Gigi's Kusina and its double chori burger (pictured) with atsara, fried egg and 'G-Sauce'.

Ube's been touted as a UK food trend-in-the-making for a year or two now, and we mentioned the Filipino purple yam in a Gen Z menu brainstorm at the end of 2022.

Vibrantly purple and an excellent source of dietary fibre and antioxidants; ube burger buns could well appeal to a young, affluent UK audience looking to add more pizazz to 'boujee BBQ' occasions over the next few years.
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