Trends Update: The slow but meteoric rise of ube
Trends come in all shapes and sizes. Some trends come out of nowhere and are white hot for a year before tapering off. Other trends burn slowly, building momentum like a runaway ice cream truck on a hilly San Francisco street and then keep growing, and growing and growing.
Ube is one of those slow burers. It’s also one of many flavors included in the quench 2023 Food & Beverage Trends Report under the “International Fusions” trend.
The purple yam – pronounced OO-beh – has been popular in the Philippines for more than four centuries (how’s that for a slow burn?) where the versatile tuber finds use in everything from ice cream and candies to burger buns and pasta. But it didn’t gain international recognition until 2019. That’s when Trader Joe’s introduced its version of ube ice cream, which the grocer described as a “cross between vanilla and pistachio with a hint of coconut.”
But Americans love ube not just for its unique flavor, they also love it for its made-for-Instagram purple hue. Those qualities spawned other Trader Joe’s ube products like tea cookies, mochi pancakes and an ube waffle mix. The yam burned brighter during COVID when ube cheese pandesal, a fluffy Filipino bread roll filled with creamy cheese and ube jam, became a must-have lockdown snack.
And ube has only gained popularity since then. Countless media outlets – and quench’s own 2023 Food & Beverage Trend Report – have heralded ube as the unofficial international flavor star of 2023 with no end in sight for its fame. The steady, unwavering praise means the photogenic purple yam isn’t just a Filipino flavor any more, it’s a global one.