What is next

by Allison Sebolt
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In the coming year, don’t expect it to be enough to simply label an item as “Asian” or “Mediterranean” and expect consumers to be completely satisfied with the description. Consumers have become more educated about flavors, are recognizing the specificity in flavor varieties and are looking for more healthy options.

Mintel International, Chicago, has named cardamom, sweet potato, hibiscus, cupuacu, rose water and Latin spices as the big flavors to watch during 2010. In addition, Lynn Dornblaser, new products analyst with Mintel, said bacon and mango are two other on-trend flavors.

“The overarching trends we see (with flavors) are very similar from one year to the next,” Ms. Dornblaser said. “You see more ethnic flavors, you see stronger flavors, and you also see flavors that have been niche flavors going mainstream.”

Cardamom is a spice used in many ethnic cuisines, including Indian and North African, but it’s used in more than just ethnic cuisine. It also appears in both sweet and savory products — not just one or the other — and shows up in foods and beverages. All are reasons the flavor has broad applications.

Sweet potato is popular not only for the flavor but also for the functionality of the healthy ingredients, including fiber and beta carotene (see related story on Page 32).

Ms. Dornblaser said mango is an example of a flavor making the move from a niche, exotic flavor to a mainstream, everyday flavor.

Rose water has made the move from scent to flavor. Ms. Dornblaser said last year lavender made the move from scent to flavor. Similarly, rose water is now beginning to appear in some of the food and beverage categories where lavender has appeared, including chocolate products. As a result, Ms. Dornblaser said rose water is this year’s lavender.

Consumers also are still turning to the comfort of bacon.

“Bacon is showing up and becoming more popular again,” Ms. Dornblaser said. “We saw a lot of bacon four to five years ago. It fell out of favor, and here it is popping up again. For us, it’s on the list because it’s really indicative of consumers looking for strong flavors, looking for indulgence, looking for the anti-diet product.”

Ms. Dornblaser also attributed shows such as Top Chef to contributing to the popularity of bacon as it is often discussed on the show as a way of making any dish better.

Ms. Dornblaser also said with Latin flavors, the popularity is specifically in Argentinean cuisine, including chimichurri, and Peruvian cuisines.

With ethnic flavors, Ms. Dornblaser said she sees less of a focus on specific ethnic cuisines and more of an emphasis on flavor profiles. For example, there is probably more of a focus on spicy curry in Indian cuisine. Overall, she said younger consumers are much more familiar with ethnic cuisines, and it’s less about teaching them specific flavor profiles and more about letting them experiment with the types of flavors they find interesting.

Sensient Flavors, Indianapolis, named baobab, caja, Cape gooseberry, elderflower, kumquat, lulo, marqui, marula, mora berry and umbu as the top beverage flavor trend profiles for 2010. All of these flavors are from different parts of the world, with baobab from Africa, caja native to Brazil, and elderflower found in Europe and North America. Overall, Sensient said the flavors are inspired from macro trends, including health and wellness, sensorial experiences and personalization.

Andrew Bosch, technical sales manager with Gilroy Foods & Flavors, a division of Omaha-based ConAgra Foods, Inc., said one of the biggest mega-trends he has seen with flavors is an emphasis on health and wellness. In addition, he said he gets numerous requests for clean ingredient lines with authentic, fresh flavors with low amounts of salt. He said his customers don’t want their flavor profiles to have a long, complicated ingredient list.

Mr. Bosch said ribeye and roasted pork tenderloins have been flavor profiles he has been using to meet recent requests. He

also said Mediterranean foods have become more popular as it goes well with the health and wellness halo. He said Mediterranean requests haven’t become too specific yet, although he is hearing some specific recognition of flavors from Morocco or Southern Italy.

Mediterranean cuisine has flavorful profiles, which he said makes it easier to reduce sodium and still maintain flavor. He also said regional Asian flavors are increasing in popularity, with emphasis on Thai, Vietnamese and Indian foods and flavors.

“We are getting exposed to more of the different regional profiles, we can tell the difference between a Vietnamese and a Thai (cuisine),” Mr. Bosch said. “We know the difference — our palates have been more educated to the different types of profiles.”

Mr. Bosch said he believes most flavors that may be tagged as healthy will continue to grow in popularity. While superfruits are popular in beverages, he said it hasn’t taken as much of a hold in foods and savory foods specifically as these are foods where people look for familiarity.

In terms of beverage flavors, June Montanari, category director for the beverage business unit at Symrise, Holzminden, Germany, said citrus flavors are popular and have become more specific, with distinctions such as Florida oranges and clementines.

“It adds a more premium positioning to a product when it has a more varietal citrus flavor,” Ms. Montanari said.

She anticipates superfruits, exotic tropical flavors and citrus flavors to continue in popularity in beverages in the coming year. She said flavors supporting nutritionally fortified products will continue to be popular. For example, she said vanilla and chocolate work well with dairy-based or protein-based nutritional drinks as these flavors help mask the nutritional ingredients. Also, she said flavors that go well with low-sugar drinks are popular.

Symrise has a platform for the company called “Taste for Life,” which is focused on developing products with lower sugar, salt and fat content as well as cleaner labels and natural tastes.

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