Posted: February 16, 2021
Author: Wixon's R+D Team

Trend: Maple Bacon

Lisa Andrews, R+D Assistant

I am interested in this flavor combo because it pairs so well together. It’s reminiscent of having my pancake syrup run onto the bacon still left on my plate as a kid. To me it’s breakfast comfort food.  As a baker I have made cookies and other baked goods using maple and bacon together.

Trend: Salted Caramel

Denise Baldeh, Director of R+D

I am excited about this flavor trend because of the unique balance between salty and sweet.  Anytime most people crave something, it tends to be either salty or a sweet. And with this flavor profile, you get both at the same time. Caramel flavor has always been a favorite of mine due to its sweet, buttery and caramelized notes. When you incorporate the salt, it enhances all the right flavors and makes it pop! This combination is so versatile that it allows you to pair it anywhere, from coffee to baked goods and snacks!

Trend: Habanero

Tyler Burns, Food Scientist

I love habanero for its clean, fruity, sweet, and floral heat. This makes habanero the “heat of choice” for sweet and savory applications. The fruity notes pair well with pineapple, lime, lemon, papaya, and really, any kind of fruit. Additionally, the sweet notes pair well with honey, sweet dairy, and jammy flavors. A dash of habanero can take a run-of-the-mill orange marmalade from delicious to interesting and exotic. Finally, as a match with today’s floral trends, habanero is a shoo-in, with its natural floral attributes. This lends an interesting affinity to products looking to capitalize on the floral trend while helping to build a more robust, well-rounded and exciting flavor. A sweet chamomile and habanero cream sauce would be to die for on a mild fish with habanero-spiked fruit salsa.

Trend: Sweet Heat

Antje Collman, Food Scientist

This trend speaks to me because it is my favorite to utilize at work and in my everyday life. Hot honey is one the best ways to enjoy it, in my opinion, because you have so many options. I love to eat it with Parmesan cheese and brie, on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and even drizzled over fried chicken or pepperoni pizza. It’s all about a new hot twist on a sweet comfort food flavor we all enjoy.

Trend: Serrano Pepper

Kim Cornelius, Sr. Food Scientist

Serrano peppers are great because they have a similar flavor to the jalapeno pepper – a bright and fresh flavor with a slightly delayed heat. Serranos are a bit hotter in flavor than jalapenos, so keep that in mind if you are looking to substitute. The heat can vary based on size, color, and crop. They can be eaten raw in sauces or dips, pickled, or cooked. These peppers are most commonly used in Mexican cuisine but also appear in Southeast Asian cuisine.

Trend: Bread

Roni Eckert, Sr. Food Scientist

The trend I am most excited about is the return of bread. This is in part due to the bread baking craze that took hold in 2020. Some examples of trending types include sourdough, shokupan (Japanese milk bread), naan, brioche, pita, tortillas, and artisan breads (baguettes, ciabatta). Bread is an essential component of many meals that provide comfort. One of the most exciting aspects of this bread resurgence is the many opportunities for flavored butters and dipping oils. They can be traditional types like Egyptian dukkah with pita or provide contemporary fusion with Japanese milk bread and miso-coffee butter.

Trend: Coffee

Ralph Krawczyk, Sr. Food Scientist

It’s one of the oldest drinks in America, yet it is constantly being reinvented. Early last year, dalgona coffee went viral via social media sites like TikTok and Instagram. We tried it in the lab and found the texture to be creamy and quite stable (I highly recommend it!). There has also been an explosion of new product launches for coffee in the past decade. It’s gone from your morning wakeup go-to, to an indulgent dessert flavor. With so many possible variations, there is something for everybody. Flavor innovation keeps showing up in coffee creamers too, which provides a great source for inspiration. Many of the new flavors are combination flavors or just have a comfort sound to them like Southern pecan. Cold brew and nitro-Infused coffee have also become very popular in the last few years. Many of these are now featuring functional ingredients to help with focus, energy, productivity without the caffeine jitters, and low- no-calorie. In short, there’s a lot going on. So much so, it’s hard to focus on just one segment, but that’s why I’m intrigued.

Trend: Regional Burger Types

Ryan Kukuruzovic, Corporate Chef

The burger is easily America’s favorite comfort food. There are endless variations of stuffing and topping to consider as well as a plethora of meat block adaptations to explore, i.e., 70 chuck short rib/30 brisket or 90 sirloin/10 fat or alternatively, veggie/legume base for a flavorful veggie burger twist! From turkey burgers to moose burgers in Alaska😊, onward to the flavor bomb called the onion burger in Oklahoma that is essentially encrusted with thinly-sliced sweet onions (salivating), and over to the ultimate smash burger in Michigan from Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger – where the ball or mound of ground beef is smashed so aggressively on the griddle, it typically requires 3 to 4 slices of cheese for basic support to hold the burger together. From the ultimate “butter burger,” (once cooked, both the burger and bun are literally slathered in butter) in Milwaukee, Wis., to the “Jucy Lucy” in Minneapolis, Minn., (a burger generously stuffed with good ol’ American cheese that flows like molten lava as soon as you sink your teeth into this heavenly creation), there is not another comfort food with as many delicious variants of flavor-enhanced opportunity and experience.

Trend: Smoked Meats

Jerry Moehn, Sr. Meat Technologist

Smoking pairs well with a variety of protein bases and provides a vast amount of innovation opportunity. There is lots of creativity in the ability to alter the base marinade to deliver a wide variety of flavor profiles from mild to spicy or mainstream to more exotic flavors. The finished smoke flavor can also be tailored to the preferences of your consumer. The person smoking the food is only limited by their imagination and creativity in what is crafted for the dinner table.

Trend: Sushi

Tom Mohaci, Sr. Food Scientist

With sushi there are so many possibilities. I love the traditional styles; however, newer sushi bars are combining elements from other cuisines, such as Mexican and Thai with the Japanese foundation. These are really cool and a great source for flavor inspiration. Having flavors like pickled jalapeno, red onion, or spicy chilis combined with ceviche-style fish in a familiar sushi rice and seaweed wrapped format, tastes awesome. I look forward to seeing where sushi bars take this “fusion” of cuisines in the future.

Trend(s): Serrano, Honey – Jalapeno, Street Tacos

Zak Otto, Sr. R+D Manager

There are three trends I’m keeping a close eye on right now. Serrano pepper provides a wonderful “quick” heat to anything you’re cooking. It’s different than traditional pepper types, and a small amount of serrano packs a big punch. Honey-Jalapeno is a great combination in a breakfast for dinner food item, like chicken and waffles. It makes the sweet heat a good common flavor, since jalapeno and honey are staples.  Finally, street tacos, which are everywhere. They give chefs the ability to be super creative, from the shell (flour, corn, romaine lettuce) to the protein (goat, beef, pork, chicken, lamb) and the condiments (slaws, cheeses, pickled veggies).

Trend: Watermelon

Shannon Servais, Food Scientist

My favorite comfort food of the moment is watermelon. I crack open my favorite watermelon seltzer, and the flavor reminds me of hot summer days and get-togethers with friends and family…something I have sorely missed over the last year. The refreshingly delicate flavor of watermelon is well known and pairs well with other trending flavors. I like to combine watermelon and jalapeno or hot honey for some sweet heat. Watermelon, yuzu and mint pair well for a refreshing drink. Its versatility continues in the sweet and savory realm with pairings like watermelon, feta and basil.