Flavor Outlook 2008

Forecasting the future of flavor is an admittedly unscientific undertaking, but a survey of some recent analyses is instructive.

Tension Between Emerging Cuisines and Familiar Tastes

Ethnic-centric trends have made several organizations’ lists of hot flavor trends. Member chefs of the American Culinary Federation (via the National Restaurant Association) have cited a number of broad categories for future growth: ethnic fusion, Latin American, Mediterranean, Thai and Pan-Asian. Specifically, the surveyed members (1,200+) cited foods such as flatbreads, Asian entrée salads and appetizers, ciabatta bread, and mojitos. Meanwhile, Flavor & The Menu magazine points toward growing interest in street food from around the world, particularly Mexican antojitos (loosely translated as “little cravings”) and Indian chaat (small plates of savory snacks). A recent Datamonitor survey shows that 41% of European and US consumers have tried new and exotic flavors in the last 12 months. There is, however, one interesting caveat among all of this emerging cuisine. Datamonitor’s study also shows that, in the past year, 20% of surveyed consumers purchased more grocery items on the basis of nostalgic appeal. Given this “polarization of flavor preferences,” those seeking to create successful flavors apparently will have to simultaneously look forward and back.

Novel Meat Flavors

A number of organizations have also identified artisanal and alternatively sourced meats for unique flavor profiles. McCormick & Co., in its annual flavor list, noted the combination of allspice and exotic meats. American Culinary Federation member chefs noted prosciutto and other aged meats, buffalo, ostrich and venison as being of particular interest. Meanwhile. Flavor & The Menu magazine cited cedar-cured salmon and craft bacons as hot items.

The Lists

A few recently issued lists provide interesting looks into where flavor may be heading over the next year or two. The American Culinary Federation member chefs’ survey is the most detailed, breaking down flavors by category, as follows:

  • Fruits: pomegranate, dragon fruit, fig, passion fruit, prickly pear/cactus pear
  • Grains/legumes/nuts: quinoa, fresh pasta, couscous, bulgur wheat, nuts (pecans, walnuts, macadamia, peanuts, etc.)
  • Breads and doughs: flatbreads, ciabatta, whole grain bread, focaccia, low-carb dough
  • Deserts: sorbet/gelato, cheese plates, fresh fruit, chocolate, sweet/savory crepes
  • Alcoholic beverages: craft/artisan/microbrew beer, energy drink cocktails, martinis/flavored martinis, mojito, artisanal/microdistilled liquors, organic wine
  • Nonalcoholic beverages: flavored/enhanced water, espresso/specialty coffees, bottled water, tea, filtered water
  • Sauces/condiments/special ingredients: salts (sea, smoked, colored, kosher), aged meats, infused oils, balsamic vinegar, lemongrass
  • Preparation methods: braised, pan-seared/sautéed, grilled, slow food

Meanwhile, McCormick has taken a different approach by issuing a rundown of forward-looking flavor pairings:

  • Oregano and heirloom beans
  • Vanilla bean and cardamom
  • Chile and cocoa (echoed by Flavor & The Menu magazine’s citation of “sweet meets salty, savory, floral, herbal” in desserts)
  • Coriander and coconut water
  • Lemongrass and lychee
  • Red curry and masa
  • Orange peel and natural wood (smokiness)
  • Poppy seed and rose
  • Rubbed sage and rye whiskey

Finally, Datamonitor’s Productscan Online has issued a list of its favorite new product innovations of the year. Of note is JT Fragra functional water from Japan, which is intended to freshen the breath. The beverage includes 1% juice and contains linalool, which is responsible for the drink’s freshening action. In addition, the list includes KidKupz candy-coated medicine dispensing cups, which feature sour cherry and watermelon flavors, and Pur Flavor Options water filtration system flavor cartridges, which adds sugar- and calorie-free flavors such as peach and raspberry to tap water. The list also includes:

  • Swiss Miss Pick-Me-Up Hot Cocoa Mix
  • Organic Batter Blaster Pancake & Waffle Batter
  • Popsicle SlowMelt long-lasting pops
  • Tetley’s Twistea Tea on the Go
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