The Future of Flavor Kelly Hensel | December 2017, Volume 71, No.12

(Page 4 of 6)

And now that same movement has inspired the production of mixers and mocktails. “An example of how Generation Z is influencing flavor trends is the drive for more sophisticated low- or no-alcohol beverages with an emphasis on herbal flavors,” notes Marie Wright, vice president and chief global flavorist at WILD Flavors/ADM. “These beverages will be sophisticated—a new era of mocktails. Teas, tonic waters, and ginger beers are regulars in this space and will continue to grow in 2018 and 2019.”

Joia Natural Soda Grapefruit, Chamomile & Cardamom beverage Gladys Slovis, flavor applications manager at Comax Flavors, agrees with Wright and sees the “popularity of sophisticated herbal and floral flavors being driven by the mocktail trend.” Flavors such as pomegranate elderflower and cucumber ginger will gain ground and become more mainstream. Boundary Waters Brands was founded in 2010 to offer consumers an alternative to standard soda that was more flavorful and featured fresh ingredients. A year later, the company introduced Joia Natural Sodas in five flavors: Blackberry, Pomegranate & Ginger; Pineapple, Coconut & Nutmeg; Grapefruit, Chamomile & Cardamom; Ginger, Apricot & Allspice; and Orange, Jasmine & Nutmeg. The market appears to be receptive, with Panera Bread carrying the brand’s Grapefruit, Chamomile & Cardamom flavor in more than 1,600 of its stores throughout the United States since late 2015.

McCormick’s “Drink to Your Wellness” 2018 Flavor Forecast trend aligns perfectly with the increase in botanicals, herbs, and spices appearing in beverages. “These wholesome drinks add uplifting ingredients and robust flavors like cucumber, dandelion greens, ginger, turmeric, and cayenne pepper,” said the company in its report. The trend is illustrated with two beverages: Spiced Cucumber & Apple Morning Boost and Pineapple Turmeric Mocktail with Dandelion Greens.

Mike Kostyo, senior publications manager for Datassential, explains that as consumers’ definition of health has evolved, so has what they are looking for in their food and beverages. “Healthy 1.0 was focused on bad things being taken out of food, like fat and calories,” says Kostyo. “Healthy 2.0 was focused on feel-good terms like farm-to-table and organic, but Healthy 3.0 focuses on functional foods and positive nutrition. ‘I want my food to give me energy, support wellness, detoxify me, etc.’”

“The clean label and organic trends aren’t going anywhere,” says Kip Murphy, marketing manager for Virginia Dare. “Any ingredients that meet these requirements and offer natural benefits make those new offerings even more enticing.” According to Mintel’s Global Food & Drink Trends 2018 report, chamomile, lavender, and lemon balm are the leading herbs and spices used in global food and drink with relaxation properties launched from September 2016 through August 2017 (2017).

While prevalent in beverages, botanicals and herbs are also appearing in food products. “Lavender, basil, hibiscus, and cherry blossom are all popping up in beverages and baked goods,” says Murphy.

“Lemongrass is also seen more widely, especially in tea and other beverages, and will find its way into frozen desserts and more delicate baked goods, like cookies and confections,” says Kara Nielsen, vice president of trends and marketing for CCD Innovation. This medicinal plant is said to aid in the treatment of a variety of digestive ailments and even the common cold.

5. Maple and Honey
Caramel has pretty much ruled the sweet brown category for years, and while it is not disappearing, it may take a back seat to maple and honey. Both are appealing to consumers because they are natural ingredients that have the ability to add sweetness and depth of flavor to practically any food and beverage category.

This trend is probably the furthest along in terms of adoption, as evidenced by the launch this fall of Starbucks’ new Maple Pecan Latte. “Seasonal or limited-edition flavors will continue to shine,” says IFF’s Horrocks, “and right now maple is having a moment.”

According to Technomic’s MenuMonitor, mentions of maple are up about 85% in nonalcoholic beverages between the second quarter of 2016 and the second quarter of 2017 (Market Watch 2017). Positioned to oust pumpkin spice as the top seasonal flavor, maple is showing signs of living well beyond the brief fall limited-time-offering period. This makes sense given that maple syrup is harvested in the spring and is already associated with year-round foods like oatmeal and waffles.

Honey is on a similar trajectory. “Honey has a very well-known profile as a sweetener that people are really familiar with,” said Lindsey Oostema, senior marketing specialist at Synergy Flavors. “It has this natural connotation, so I think that consumers are really drawn to it.” At a time when artificial sweeteners of any kind can immediately turn consumers off, both maple and honey provide a health halo effect because they’re known as natural sweeteners and they have the added benefit of providing a nuanced and varietal flavor to food and beverage products.

“We are tracking increases in sweet flavors such as maple, honey, and cinnamon spice used beyond traditional bakery applications into beverage, snack, and savory products,” confirms Luis Fernandez, vice president of strategic development for flavors at Mane.

Technomic is also tracking a similar trajectory, according to its 2017 Flavor Consumer Trend Report. Mentions of maple on burgers is up 31.3% year over year, while honey mentions in fried chicken dishes have increased 12.5% on menus. In addition, more consumers now (46%) than in 2015 (42%) prefer honey glazes and marinades for chicken, according to Technomic’s 2017 Center of the Plate: Poultry Consumer Trend Report.

Mike’s Hot HoneyHot honey, a chili-infused honey condiment, has been poised to become the new sriracha for a few years now, appearing on an increasing number of menus and in grocery stores. A well-known brand, Mike’s Hot Honey, got its inspiration back in 2003, when founder Michael Kurtz was first introduced to the concept of chili pepper–infused honey while living in Brazil. Upon his return to the states in 2004, he began experimenting with honey infusion, but it wasn’t until 2010 that he officially debuted Mike’s Hot Honey.

On the foodservice side, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen recently introduced a new limited-time offering featuring its Crunchy Tenders drizzled with a Red Hot Honey Sauce, moving this flavor trend squarely in the direction of mass market attention thanks to the chain’s 2,600 locations around the world.

Technomic predicts “continued growth of both maple- and honey-flavored savory dishes, as well as an increase in demand for maple-based icy beverages and desserts” (2017).

The Millennial Factor
Many factors influence the development of flavor trends over time, but today one factor dwarfs all others—the Millennials (who were born between 1982 and 2000). What is now the largest living generation in the United States, the Millennials have a lot of interest in every aspect of their food, including flavor (U.S. Census Bureau 2015).

“The consumers that are really driving these trends are Millennials, not surprisingly,” says Fuchs’ Cushen. “They are curious about the world; even if they’ve never been to Thailand, they want to experience Thai food and know what it’s like. Millennials are challenging food companies to come up with more creative and inventive products.”