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Firmenich Announces 2020 Flavor of the Year: ‘Classic Blueberry’

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Firmenich has announced ‘Classic Blueberry’ as the flavor of the year for 2020, due to its longstanding association with health and its role in helping to usher in a new wave of food and beverage options for consumers around the world. This is the eighth consecutive year that the company has cast its vote for the hottest food and beverage flavor.

“What’s classic is new again,” says Emmanuel Butstraen, President, Firmenich Flavors. “With blueberry we celebrate a flavor that is timeless and enduring, but also increasingly relevant. Blueberry has been a beloved flavor for centuries in many markets and today, with our increasing focus on health and wellness, blueberries are being rediscovered and growing to be one of the most relevant flavors in many categories.”

Consumer interest in blueberries overall has surged in part due to a strong linkage with well-being. In a recent Firmenich social media study of online discussions around “super foods”, berries were the number one food mentioned, and blueberry was the number one berry. Products with blueberry flavor are nearly twice as likely to make a functional claim as a typical food or beverage according to Mintel data.

Blueberry as an ingredient has been growing in food and beverage use each year since 2008. As a flavor used in new product development, blueberry has seen 101% growth over the past 10 years globally, with particularly rapid growth in markets such as the Middle East, Latin America and Asia, according to Mintel. Blueberry has seen growth in nearly all of the food and beverage categories tracked by Mintel, with particularly strong 10 year growth in baby foods (700%), snacks (255%), special drinks (224%), breakfast cereals (145%), dairy (143%), sports & energy drinks (127%), and alcoholic drinks (100%).  

“As consumers are being introduced to an expanded offering of choices, more traditional flavors like blueberry are being used to help them experience these new food trends, as they evoke positive feelings at a time in history when we crave optimism,” says Mikel Cirkus, Global Creative Director Foresight & Trenz for Firmenich.

In a recent survey across 16 countries conducted with nearly 5000 consumers, Firmenich found that the number one emotion associated with blueberry was happiness, followed by a sense of comfort.

“This choice of a more traditional flavor as our ‘flavor of the year’ actually represents a more significant shift in the food industry toward more intentional and emotional design,” notes Jeffrey Schmoyer, VP Global Insights for Firmenich. “Consumers are more inclined to try something unfamiliar to them, such as kombucha or a cashew yogurt, if it’s flavored in a way they can connect with on an emotional level. We see blueberry playing a bigger role in the coming years in helping product developers introduce new food concepts around the world.”

“Classic blueberry is a fantastic flavor to work with because it’s robust and multi-faceted,” explains Eric Tang, a flavorist at Firmenich. “Blueberry has stand out floral notes and distinct tanginess, with fresh green and sweet elements woven in. Besides the classic pairings you find with blueberry, I’m also drawn to pairing it with less obvious matches, such as black tea or habanero.”

In the culinary world, long gone are the days when berries were relegated to supporting roles in salads or dressings. Today, blueberries are found in countless savory items, including pizzas, grain bowls, and meat dishes. “Blueberries can even be used in noodles as a good source of vitamin C and for color,” says Oana Ocico, VP of Firmenich’s Global Savory Business. She adds: “through Culinary Anthropology, the Firmenich Chef Designers have created a series of delicious and novel ideas that can inspire our clients and their consumers to bring more blueberry to their creations.”