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7 Hot Flavor Trends

By: Diana Cholewa, senior analyst, Mintel
Posted: June 3, 2009

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Wine Flavors: When consumed with food, wine can intensify the flavor of the dish making it a more pleasurable eating experience. Mintel expects red wine to make an appearance beyond the drink menu—a trend that is quite apparent in the company’s Menu Insight. Chefs are utilizing red wine for its acidity, which can help cut fat and oils, thereby moisturizing meats, while imparting the flavor during the marinating and cooking process. Wines are also popularly used in sauces as seen in Giovanni’s Calamata crusted salmon with pinot noir reduction, polenta and vegetable mélange.

Spices: Mintel predicts that cardamom—an herb belonging to the ginger family—and cinnamon will be popular spices appearing on restaurant menus. In terms of popular beverage flavors, chai, a popular South Asia tea flavor, and cassis, a cordial made from blackberries, will make a notable impact on restaurant beverage menus and to some extent on food offerings. For example, The Cheesecake Factory offers a spiked black organic chai tea with steamed milk, while Clio Restaurant offers a Croustillant of Lemon Curd containing raspberries, cassis, and preserved lemon syrup.

Salt Reduction Trends

According to government health experts, US consumers ingest more than twice the recommended amount of salt, thus raising their risk for high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes. To help alleviate this problem, food manufacturers have reduced their use of sodium in formulations. According to GNPD, the non-alcoholic beverage, sauces and seasonings, bakery, snack, and baby food categories most prevalently featured low/no/reduced sodium claims, which skyrocketed 775% from 2000–2008. Apart from reducing the salt content, manufacturers have opted to use sea salt in their formulations because it is purported to be healthier than table salt, since it is offered in its additive-free, natural form containing 80 body essential minerals. Conversely, table salt contains additives in its formulation and is stripped of more than 60 trace minerals and essential macro-nutrients during its refining stage.

Economy Shifting Consumer Food Purchases

This year will be a time of prioritization among consumers, and many will be forced to make lifestyle changes by either trading down to cheaper, private label brands or dining out less by resurrecting at-home cooking. Private label brands have capitalized on the economic situation and have put themselves in the same playing field as mainstream manufacturers by offering competitive offerings that closely mimic features visible in their rivals’ products. To appeal to cooks, restaurants have created meal kits appealing to those wanting that at-home dining experience. For example, in the UK, Waitrose launched a range of restaurant quality meals under the “As Good As It Gets” brand, while Smithfield Foods introduced Chili’s Grilled Chicken Fajita Kit. Even though consumers will have to make financial sacrifices in their purchases, many will still find ways to indulge in their guilty pleasures by treating themselves to small, affordable luxuries such as premium chocolate in order to alleviate the stresses caused by economic uncertainties. For those offering a premium price point, success will be dependent upon the value they provide; the more value-added functionality they supply, the more successful they will become.

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