From chardonnay cookies to chipotle mango scones, today’s consumers’ increasingly curious and sophisticated taste buds have bakers exploring the addition of all types of flavorful ingredients, from sweet and tropical to ethnic and fiery. The addition of this layer of flavor can be subtle, almost unidentifiable, or bold and characterizing. 

“Millennials are less brand-loyal and are more experiential with their food and beverage choices. They are more interested in specialty offerings that include interesting new flavor profiles and combinations,” said Gary Augustine, executive director, market development, Kalsec, Kalamazoo, MI. “This creates limitless opportunities to add value to traditional baked goods.”

Jim Boniecki, vice-president of technical sales, Flavorchem, Downers Grove, IL, said, “Heat and spice blends in savory products have made inroads into baked goods. Reasons stem from the popularity of Asian and Hispanic fusions of flavor. In the past year, we have received many requests for unique blends such as citrus and spice.”

Research from Packaged Facts, Rockville, MD, indicated that 53% of consumers are seeking bolder flavors. Whereas some consumer segments, namely millennials, are willing to explore news foods and formats, older consumers can be reluctant. By applying these bolder, often ethnic flavors to familiar foods such as baked goods, bakers can bridge the gap from the familiar to the exotic. The key is to make sure they taste as described.

“Today’s consumers are looking for excitement and unique twists on nostalgic Americana favorites. The current overarching flavor trends are authentic Filipino/Southeast Asian, regional Mexican and Peruvian/Brazilian,” said Aaron Rasmussen, research chef, Bell Flavors & Fragrances Inc., Northbrook, IL. “In addition, we have seen an increased demand for flavors of heirloom fruit varietals, artisan cheeses and craft beverages.”

Authentic is paramount. Varietals must deliver their signature taste. It’s not just orange; it’s blood orange. “Think Meyer lemon Earl Grey tea pound cake,” Mr. Rasmussen said.

Another developing trend is the combination of sweet profiles with non-traditional savory ingredients, such as sweet potato cupcakes, black pepper tea cookies or balsamic vinegar and strawberry scones, according to Dax Schaefer, corporate executive chef and director of culinary innovation, Asenzya Inc., Oak Creek, WI.

“Honey is definitely trending in baked goods,” said Marie Le Beller, application laboratory manager, Prova US, Danvers, MA. “It is used as much for taste as for its healthful halo. But honey alone is often not powerful enough, or too expensive, and that’s why the use of an authentic honey flavor allows a more flexible formulation and a boost of flavor.”

Authentic flavor is imperative in the fresh baked goods sector, which consumers often perceive as being minimally processed and natural. For example, the popularity of artisan bread continues to rise and, along with it, the need for specialty flavors that can assist bakers in delivering an authentic artisan taste, according to Peggy Dantuma, director of bakery applications, Kerry, Beloit, WI. “This can be achieved through the use of natural Italian bread, sourdough and grain flavors,” she said. “Flavors can help bakers capture the essence of rustic flavor in traditional foodservice breads, rolls and flatbreads.”

Flavors also assist with better-for-you formulations. “There’s increasing demand for high-protein bread and snack products,” Mr. Boniecki said. “From a flavor standpoint, these products tend to have bitter off-notes where masking agents can play an important role in improving taste.”