Posted: January 31, 2024 Author: Rachael Jarzembowski, Marketing Manager
Before diving into the trends we believe will shape food and beverage flavor innovation in the months ahead, it’s important to note that trends tend to evolve gradually – they don’t drastically change from year to year. Instead, there is a steady progression as trends develop and react to market factors and gain more definition. Keeping this in mind, here are the three macro flavor trends we believe will have the most impact on food and beverage innovation this year.
The first trend we’ve identified is what we’re calling Cozy Classics. This is our take on the nostalgic, or “newstalgia” trend. With so much uncertainty in the world, people are finding comfort in familiar flavors. In fact, according to Innova Market Insights, 44% of global consumers agree that traditional/nostalgic flavors most influence their food and beverage choice. Yet despite this desire for familiar tastes, people also want novelty. This gives food and beverage manufacturers an opportunity to offer classic products with a unique flavor twist, satisfying both desires for something familiar and something new.
With Cozy Classics, what’s old is new again. Throwback favorites and past hits are trending items on U.S. menus. For example, beef stroganoff has seen four-year growth of +176% as a new item on U.S. menus, per Datassential Menu Trends. Other retro dishes and classics like lasagna, chicken parmigiana, and tuna noodle casserole are also gaining traction by using elevated ingredients, new flavors, and/or imaginative formats, which make them exciting again. Chocolate malt is another classic flavor example, experiencing a comeback. It tallied a four-year growth of +115% in new items on dessert menus, (Datassential Menu Trends as of Q4 2023).
Nostalgia continues to have strong consumer appeal. Classic products are connecting with new, younger generations, as they reach adulthood with their own purchasing power. This presents an opportunity to bring new life to products and flavors for younger consumers while also appealing to older generations who also love a nod to nostalgia. Inspiration from favorite throwbacks from the ‘80s and ‘90s, appeal to Millennials who can now share their childhood favorites with their own kids.
To your health
Our second trend for 2024 is Wellbeing Winners, where trending ‘feel good’ flavors also taste good. This trend is fueled by consumers who turn to food and beverage offerings that align with their personal health and wellness goals. People are increasingly knowledgeable and interested in the potential benefits of botanical flavors and ingredients.
Flavors for Wellbeing Winners range from floral and herbal to mushroom – so they can be used in endless innovation across categories. Some flavors are more familiar, like pomegranate, but other healthy, functional flavors and ingredients are gaining traction, such as, dandelion, chokeberry, and even seaweed.
Furthermore, 57% of consumers globally say food with botanical flavors (herbal, floral) is often good for their health, according to Innova Market Insights. The positive perception of these flavors and ingredients gives consumers a sense of healthfulness beyond the inherent functional benefits. The “health halo” associated with these flavors presents an opportunity to also pair them with less “health forward” flavors or applications – making the indulgent seem a bit less guilty. Floral, herbal, and botanical flavor use is growing in indulgent categories like chocolate/confections, desserts, ice cream, and salty snacks. The versatility and complementary nature of botanical flavors allows for creative flavor pairings in both sweet and savory applications.
Botanical flavors provide an opportunity to capture additional consumer interest as seasonal offerings or LTO flavors, providing novelty and excitement. According to Datassential, 79% of consumers are interested in limited-time-offers featuring seasonal ingredients. Consumers are more willing and more likely to experiment with novel flavors in limited edition or seasonal product offerings.
Finally, we’ve identified Opposites Attract as our third trend. New, exciting flavor profiles are created when pairing contrasting flavors, like sweet and savory. Creativity is key here, so we expect this trend to gain even more traction in the months ahead.
Consumers crave adventure and turn to food and beverage offerings for a sense of excitement. Nearly half of global consumers have looked for intense/bold flavors over the past year, and flavor mashups are the perfect way to deliver these bold and exciting flavor profiles.
Sweet and spicy pairings are already well known to many consumers and have proven to be very popular – like hot honey, for instance – which has taken social media, menus, and retail offerings by storm over the past several years and shows no signs of stopping.
Flavor mashups and pairing contrasting flavors has now evolved into adding sweet flavors to spicy foods and experimenting with new flavor pairings from sweet + bitter, and spicy + sour, to fruity + spicy, and umami + sour. This presents an opportunity to offer consumers bolder flavor experiences and even new, exciting textures (think chili crisp + chocolate). Globally inspired flavors and ingredients can add even more novelty and excitement. Many global cuisines have perfected balancing contrasting flavors into harmonious flavor profiles, so brands should look to various global cuisines for flavor inspiration.
Innovate with us
Creativity is key in driving new product innovation – and we’re here to help you with exceptional flavors. Let us help you with on-trend flavor systems that will delight your customers. Connect with your account manager or contact us at email@example.com.