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Much of the food and drink focus has been on the flavours of Northern Africa so far, but more recently there has been a groundswell of interest in the largely unexplored cuisine of Western African countries such as Ghana, Nigeria, and Senegal.
In fact, according to Google Trends data, searches for West African recipes have significantly increased over the past 12 months, including Nigerian foods (+250%) and dishes such as egusi (+120%), fufu (+120%), and jollof rice (+70%).
Some key West African ingredients include kola nuts, moringa, plantain, yam, cassava, ginger, scotch bonnet chilies, beans, fonio, okra, peanuts and sorghum. West African dishes are often gluten-free and high in plant-based protein, fitting in with current trends.
We can expect to see more focus on West African cuisine this year, according to Ben Tish, chef director of Cubitt House Group, “It’s still relatively undiscovered and unexplored in the UK, but the cuisine is incredible, with interesting flavours and unique cooking techniques.”
Aji Akokomi, founder of West African restaurant Akoko, added, “Retailers now have a good selection of essential ingredients used in West African cooking, so more people are trying out recipes at home now, too.”
According to Ayisha Koyenikan, global food and drinks analyst at Mintel, “The largely untapped and unexplored cuisine of West Africa offers numerous opportunities for innovation. The region has many varied and unique ingredients, and their use can elevate a product when the West African provenance is highlighted.
“To cater to these consumers looking for ‘safe adventure’, innovation pairing vibrant West African flavours with well-known modern formats could do well in European markets. The West African foodservice scene is blossoming and there is an opportunity for partnerships between the rising restaurants/chefs and brands or private labels to bring these flavours to the masses.”