More than 60 million American traveled abroad in 2010, a 69% increase versus 2003, says Kim Holman, director of marketing at Wixon (St. Francis, Wisconsin). This travel has created new taste cravings among US consumers. At the same time, Holman says, America is becoming increasingly multicultural. Mariano Gascon, Wixon's vice president of R&D, cites statistics that nine million Americans identified themselves with more than one race in the 2010 census. Meanwhile, the overall population is becoming increasingly urban and exposed to ever diversifying ethnic cuisines, which have become ubiquitous on television. "Everyone wants to try new flavors," says Holman. "Your innovators are going to be on the West and East coasts. If it's a winning flavor concept you'll see it start to make its way to the Midwest."
These macro trends are reflected in a number of flavor profile concepts for sauces and snacks recently developed by Wixon’s flavor and R&D teams, encompassing tastes from global street food and specific food traditions in Asia, Latin America, the Mediterranean and beyond. “We have an innovation group that works on interpreting these trends,” says Gascon. Holman adds, “We’re being asked for something unique and different, going beyond what’s been the mainstay and going after unique flavor profiles.”
Gascon’s R&D team takes flavor trends and filters them through Wixon’s internal flavor innovation initiatives. For instance, he says, “We notice ‘fresh’ is a word that is often [cited] with these trends—fresh ingredients. [Consumers] want to taste fresh cilantro (for example). We also get requests for new ingredients we don’t normally see—spices from all over the world.” The flavor initiatives capture these aspects through encapsulation technologies and flavor creation strategies.