Flavor Insight: Tulsi

May 25, 2021
Flavor Trends
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Tulsi, also known as holy basil, is an adaptogenic herb used to adapt the body to stress and energy. It is also closely related to culinary basil and is native to India and Southeast Asia. Tulsi is known for its strong aroma and an astringent and bitter flavor with a hint of floral and pepper notes as well. We are spotting tulsi new product growth globally since 2017 with beverages being the leading category. Let’s take a closer look at various forms of tulsi on the menu, in social media, and in new products.

What is Tulsi? AKA Holy Basil

Tulsi is a stiff, leafy, perennial herb that develops small pink, fragrant blossoms when mature. The taste often varies between types, but the flavor profile is often described as similar to cloves and anise with a hint of mint with a slight peppery note. Tulsi is commonly used to make tea, but it is also a very popular culinary ingredient in Thailand cuisine.

Holy basil is different than traditional sweet basil. Even though they remain in the same genus, they have different uses and properties that make them unique in their own way. One way to tell the difference between the two plants is to look at the stem—holy basil has a hairier stem, where sweet basil’s stem is hairless. The leaves are also different—holy basil’s leaves have a more jagged appearance, whereas the sweet basil leaves are smooth and rounded.
"Holy Basil is a variety of basil. It is spicier than most other basils and has an almost peppery taste when fresh. Cooking Holy Basil helps to better blend the peppery and basil tastes in the leaves." -Cook’s Info

Tulsi Social Listening Summary

We conducted a social listening analysis on tulsi/holy basil covering the previous 12 months. An overview is provided below.
  • 7,493 mentions in the past year
  • 51% female

Popular Posts

Twitter: @zLaTaNPiKaPi29 posted a picture of a soup that his mom made that uses tulsi in the recipe. “Mom made carrot-onion-garlic-ginger-pepper-tulsi-turmeric soup, garnished with coriander leaves. It’s quite thick. And it tastes amazing.”

On Foodnetwork.com, 13 recipes appear when you search for tulsi/holy basil. Recipes include mostly entrees with items such as Thai Holy Basil Chicken, Razor Clams with Fermented Black Beans and Holy Basil Paste.

Tulsi on the Menu:Q2 2019 - Q3 2020

16 Tulsi mentions on the menu.

Quick service dining is the top restaurant segment, with beverage and entrées as the top menu sections with the most tulsi/holy basil flavored menu items. Beverages account for 63% of all tulsi/holy basil flavored menu items.

Fast Casual: Holy Thai Basil Tofu featuring oyster sauce, bell peppers, Thai Basil, onions, chilis, onions, garlic, sunny side egg and with side of white rice at the Saigon Sisters in Chicago, IL.

Fine Dining: Holy Basil Panna Cotta featuring Kashiwase Santa Rosa plums and a pistachio sponge cake at La Toque in Napa, CA.

Quick Service: Tulsil Tranquility Tea with calming ingredients including rosehips, rose petals, strawberries and tulsi, aka holy basil at David’s Tea nationwide.

Tulsi Global New Product Introductions 2015-2020

247 Tulsi flavored new global product introductions

Global Fast Facts:

  • ASIA PACIFIC is the top global region for TULSI new product introductions with 65% of all new products.
  • HOT BEVERAGES is the top product sub-category globally for TULSI flavored new products.
  • GINGER is the top flavor paired with TULSI globally.

Products of Note:

Booch Blueberry Holy Basil Organic Kombucha: This product is described as having bold blueberry paired with the soft notes of watermelon, pineapple, vanilla, and spice from the full-moon-harvested holy basil. This company partnered with 3 local farmers to deliver a bold flavor profile. | Canada

Mae Supen Chilli Paste with Holy Basil Cooking Sauce: Described as a cooking sauce that pairs well with beef, chicken, seafood and all meats and best served with rice or pasta. | Thailand

Ju Health 365 Ready to Drink Crush Powder: Described as powered by plant intelligence including ashwagandha, giloy and tulsi, and boosts immunity with every sip. This product is claimed to strengthen immunity; provides anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties; improves stamina; improves metabolism; and protects against infection. | India

The Takeaways

Tulsi/holy basil is showing consistent growth since 2017 with new products appearing around the globe. We are also spotting growth in tulsi/holy basil menu items with quick service dining as the top restaurant segment with beverages accounting for 63% of all tulsi flavored menu items. Tulsi is being used in many traditional ways such as teas and cooking sauces but also adding a peppery herbal note to entrées and even appearing on dessert menus in restaurants. The question is—is tulsi on your Flavor Radar?

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Sources in full report