Predicting flavor trends has become an end-of-year ritual for ingredient suppliers. No wonder: Market research suggests today’s consumers have flavorful expectations when it comes to food and beverage purchases.

“Our research indicates that consumers are increasingly driven to try unique flavors, with more than two out of five, 42%, saying they are more likely to try new flavors than they were a year ago,” said Mary Chapman, director, product innovation, Technomic, Inc., Chicago, IL.

Emil Shemer, director of food solutions, Sensient Flavors, Indianapolis, IN, echoed these findings. “Our research shows that consumers have an interest in discovery,” he said. He explained that three subsets of the discovery theme have emerged: new and novel, re-invention and combinations of flavors.

An example of new and novel is the bright orange Aji Amarillo chile, which provides medium heat with fruity notes and can complement artisan breads and savory snacks. Another is black garlic, a fermented garlic that offers a sweet, syrupy flavor.

An adventurous flavor combination is found in the marriage of peach with rosemary, where the fresh and juicy profile of peach melds with the earthy, piney and aromatic notes of rosemary. Spicy caramel is a twist on the classic sweet brown caramel through the addition of subtle heat notes.

“The re-invention theme comes into play with the reassessment of heirloom varieties of plum, while vanilla becomes more interesting by placing emphasis on varietal taste profiles, such as Indonesian and Tahitian,” Mr. Shemer said.

Baked foods, with their inherently neutral grain profile, can help consumers satisfy their urge to discover flavor.