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Year of the Hibiscus: Firmenich Names Flavor of 2019

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Firmenich has named hibiscus its “Flavor of the Year,” following growing interest in the ingredient and its use in food and beverage applications.

“Hibiscus is a beautiful and tasty choice for 2019; it’s natural, floral, and slightly tangy, and we know our customers will be delighted by this selection,” said Emmanuel Butstraen, president of flavors for Firmenich.

Not Just for Beverages

According to Firmenich and Mintel insight, the worldwide launches of hibiscus in food and beverage products have increased 300% since 2012. Hibiscus flavors are being sought after as an alternative to sugary products and for their potential health benefits. Among the top product categories include yogurt, beer, tea and chocolate. Most market activity has occurred in the United States, Brazil, Mexico and Denmark, while European countries like Spain and Italy are showing faster growth rates.

“Flavored water has become mainstream, with traditional flavors such as lemon, lime and berry having led the way. But now, as people continue to demand healthier beverages, we expect the demand for more niche flavors such as hibiscus that have historical and cultural associations with health to also rise,” said Jeff Schmoyer, VP of global consumer insights at Firmenich.

Related: Floral Flavors Flourish in the West  

Floral ingredients have long been associated with beverage and tea applications but have also appeared in a number of savory dishes. In Mexican cuisine, many traditional ceviche recipes call for a flower ingredient, while Firmenich trend experts have found hibiscus in enchiladas and dried hibiscus garlic chip menu items.

“Hibiscus is more than just a flower extract. It does have a strong floral aroma, with a woody-astringent character, but at the same time there is a subtle and delicate fruity undertone, even a hint of green, like freshly cut mint leaves,” said Fausto Carriles, senior Firmenich flavorist in Latin America. “It is very versatile for beverages: it can be consumed cold in summer and also can be a great flavor modifier for winter hot fruit punches. Hibiscus is used all around the world in many cultures, from the simple street beverages up to sophisticated culinary sauces.”

Connectivity and Comfort

Consumers are not only turning to floral flavors for perceived health benefits but also for their aesthetic appeal. This is also reflected in Pantone’s Color of the Year, Living Coral, which according to Pantone it “embraces us with warmth and nourishment to provide comfort and buoyancy in our continually shifting environment.”

“We see a lot of mirroring this year between Pantone’s Color of the Year and our Flavor of the Year,” said Mikel Cirkus, global director of strategic foresight. “This speaks to the increasing interconnectedness of our worlds, and the blurring of boundaries demarcating where trends actually begin. It makes sense that what consumers gravitate towards is a reflection of the world around them, so here is to a beautiful and delicious 2019!”