Changing trends find consumers seeking nostalgic, comforting flavors as well as new, ethnic tastes, while formulators tap flavors to enhance whole grain and better-for-you foods. The bakery market has long been dominated by butter, lemon and vanilla — flavors so universally used that industry buyers know them better as “BLV” — and likewise, cheese and BBQ rule in savory snacks. But there’s lots more creativity to be applied to flavor choices.
In this exclusive Baking & Snack Q&A, experts from Mother Murphy’s Laboratories, Greensboro, NC — Pat Butler, vice-president of R&D; Dean Kasper, vice-president, technical services; and Devon Edmonson, marketing coordinator — look at trends in flavors for baked foods and snacks.
Baking & Snack: What is “the next big thing” in flavors for baked foods and snacks?
Devon Edmonson: The next big thing in flavors for baked foods and snacks come from two different dominant food trends — nostalgia and ethnic.
First, there is the consumer’s desire for nostalgic and familiar flavor profiles. These nostalgic tastes offer relief and security from a hectic lifestyle, and these hard economic times have consumers craving stability and brands with nostalgic appeal. Caramel and lime have been pegged as nostalgic flavors to watch due to their versatility in pairing with other flavors and their classic taste profile.
Trending sweet flavors tend to follow the nostalgia and indulgence trend. For the sweet baked foods market, creme flavors like banana, coconut and chocolate are also going to be more prevalent on the shelves, as well as peanut butter. There is also interest in sour flavors like cherry and blood orange as consumers are craving tart and acidic flavor profiles. Retro flavors and old-fashioned desserts have been trending the last few years for baked goods, but the next big thing will be taking the dessert trend and expanding it to include flavors from the spirit industry. “Mocktails” is an idea that uses alcohol-inspired flavors in non-alcoholic applications like baked goods and snacks to add exciting yet familiar taste profiles to products.
Second, trending savory flavors tend to follow the ethnic and adventurous flavors trend. People are becoming more adventurous with their eating and are incorporating formally “ethnic” ingredients into their everyday eating. Furthermore, people want more heat and spice in their food. Spice helps differentiate familiar products and attracts new customers. Also, consumers are looking for less fat and sodium, driving demand for flavorful solutions such as herbs and spices that add flavor without the need to add fat and salt. Chipotle, jalapeño, onion and garlic have been dominating spice flavors in the crunchy snack market in recent years. In the future, rosemary is going to be used more as a spice, and even hotter flavors like siracha and smoke flavors like paprika will be on the rise in the savory baked good and snack food market.
How have reduction/replacement of sugar and fat changed the dynamic for flavors in baked foods and snacks? What do you advise your customers about such applications?
Dean Kasper: As far as changes in regard to flavors as it relates to sugar and fat replacement, the biggest challenge is in regard to shortening. Not in the area of fat-free or reduced-fat, but in the types of fat used to achieve trans-fat-free claims. The most common fats used for trans fat-free are palm shortenings, which are highly saturated and oftentimes leave and unpleasant mouthfeel and eating experience. They seem to block our flavor receptors and require increased levels of added flavor to try to offset the unpleasant characteristics of these fats compared with the hydrogenated shortenings that were used in the past.
Even with increased flavor applications, however, eating quality has declined in most baked foods categories and is particularly noticed in sweet goods, donuts and pastries. Bread and other yeast-raised goods that typically carry lower fat levels in their formulation are less undesirable, as they have been produced with liquid vegetable oils for years and are not affected to the degree that are baked goods like cookies, donuts and pastries that relied on hydrogenated shortenings in the past.
Pat Butler: We do have new sweeteners in bakery and snack products that need masking flavors to overcome the off notes that they bring to the finished food. Some examples of these are stevia, aspartame, and acesulfame potassium.
How has the use of whole grains affected flavor choices? Are some flavors better than others? Why?
Mr. Kasper: In regard to whole grains, the main challenge in flavoring these items is related to overcoming the more bitter taste associated with whole grains’ bran coats and fibrous material absent in refined flour and grains. These issues are often addressed with increased sweetener levels and the types of sweeteners used in the product formulas. In cases where specific nutritional claims are being made and added sweetener levels are not permitted, flavors to mask the bitter notes and enhance the perception of sweetness or specific flavor profiles that enhance or compliment wholegrain such as honey and brown sugar or molasses are typically applied.
The baking business is highly competitive and a low-margin food category. That is why it is so difficult for the baker to meet and achieve the quality goals and objectives of delivering a product that is of an enjoyable eating experience and at what is considered by the consumer a good value. Ingredient costs are continually rising with the more restrictive and regulatory-compliant ingredients, while the challenges to produce a quality product and deliver a pleasing and nutritional eating experience in an efficient, economical manner rises with the cost of these materials.
Ms. Butler: The use of whole grains in the marketplace does require new brown notes to achieve the sweetness associated with other bakery items. Molasses, brown sugar, and fermentation flavors play a big part in supplementing items. Adding the brown sweet flavors help enhance and mask the off notes from added fiber in bakery products.
What are you seeing in the marketplace?
Ms. Butler: We are requested to develop fusion flavors such as a popular fruit and a superfruit combined. This is due to the desire for antioxidants in the diet. Many of our customers are now formulating their products to be more health conscious. Due to the changing demographic population of the US, we also are seeing increases in requests for various ethnic flavors such as jalapeno, cumin, papaya, mango and other tropicals.