New flavours – there’s a first time for everything

"As we researched mega trends for the 2012 Sensient Flavor predictions, an underlying theme emerged which reflected a consumer desire for and interest in ‘discovery’," said Jim Shepherd, director of Beverage Solutions at Sensient Flavors.

"This move towards spicy and exotic flavours is also a trend predicted by global fragrance and flavour supplier Symrise."

"That is, consumers today are increasingly open to – and even seek – new flavour profiles in both the food and beverages they purchase."

Through their research, the Sensient team boiled down the ‘discovery’ theme into three separate categories, namely ‘new and novel’, ‘reinvention’ and ‘combinations of flavours’. Flavour predictions for 2012 include aji amarillo, a flavour which is native to South America, peach rosemary and spicy caramel.

These unusual flavour combinations have been picked up on elsewhere too. McCormick and Swartz’s Flavour Forecast for 2012 also identified exploration, a shedding of the "confines of the traditional rules", with flavour combinations that combine the everyday and the ordinary, such as blueberry with cardamom and corn masa, to sweet soy with tamarind and black pepper.

With consumers travelling more and sampling new flavours, Bell also predicted a movement of these flavours into consumers’ daily diets. Flavour predictions include black garlic (popular in Asian cuisine), paneer cheese from India and Harissa, a Tunisian hot chili sauce.

Fragrance and "hip" flavours

This move towards spicy and exotic flavours is also a trend predicted by global fragrance and flavour supplier Symrise. "Spicy and exotic are very interesting for the savoury category," said Gabriel Wachter, marketing director of the Global Business Unit, Savory Flavor and Nutrition at Symrise.

"Spicy / herbal combinations in the sweet categories are hip. Fruits are going local, but nevertheless tropical mixes are attractive."

For Bell Flavors & Fragrances, the theme for the company’s top ten flavours list for 2012 is "emerging cultures". The company predicts Korean cuisine will be making an impact on the market, along with Cajun and Greek, but reports that salty caramel flavours will make the largest impact on all food and beverage products in 2012.

"Natural products are also in demand in western markets, according to Innova, even though debate around what actually constitutes ‘natural’ is continually ongoing."

McCormick & Swartz’s Flavour Forecast for 2012 pinpointed six global trends, with the first focused around "honouring roots". The report stated: "Chefs are preserving these roots by applying a fresh perspective that balances modern tastes and cultural authenticity."

Flavour combinations include Korean garlic pepper paste with sesame, Asian pear and garlic and cumin with sofrito, plus authentic Hispanic foundational flavours.

"Consumer interest in ‘what’s next’ also influences the flavour creation of both savoury and sweet foods," said Emil Shemer, director of Food Solutions at Sensient.

"This year’s flavour predictions of lucuma and aji amarillo, for example, are for the most part new and novel to stateside consumers, while spicy caramel offers an unexpected, and even surprising, flavour combination."

A report from Kellogg’s showed that emigration, immigration and multiculturalism are influencing the breakfast palate towards more spicy unusual and flavours too, particularly in the UK.

The report was produced by an independent panel of experts, including TV food expert and top chef Guy Wolley. "In the future we will take breakfast much more seriously and it may become the main meal of the day," said Wolley. "We will also see some very different tastes and trends emerging. Seaweed, spices and fish will become popular in the morning."

Home sweet indulgence

While consumers are enjoying exploring the new, according to Bell, food that is familiar and comforting is going to trend highly, and they predict that sweet flavours will combine comfort foods with gourmet flavours. Sweet flavours which the company foresees as being popular in 2012 include chocolate soufflé, honey vanilla, coconut crème and ginger peach.

Symrise believes that caramel is going to feature heavily in the sweet categories, adding that "caramel and cocktail directions" as well as "local fruits" will be popular. The company sees indulgent compositions growing in popularity, as well as categories such as chocolate, ice cream, spoonable yoghurts and deserts in the premium segment.

For Innova, the premium category stands out in 2011, stating that despite the austerity measures, premium treats can be "justified as an affordable indulgence during difficult economic times, particularly if it can also encompass a better-for-you element."

Health boosts and superfoods

Health is playing a key role in 2012’s flavour trends, with flavours and products that are health-supporting predicted to grow in popularity throughout the year.

Innova sees a focus on seniors as companies address issues relating to the ageing population, and noted that EU labelling regulations should also help this demographic with more visible nutritional information. Innova’s webcast, where the report was presented, stated: "Keywords such as easy to open, easy to digest, reduced acid, easy to swallow, for strong bones and specially formulated can be found on more products."

The company also highlights an increase in the number of consumers in the 40-65 age range who are interested in products which will enable them to keep up an active lifestyle.

Symrise also noted an increase towards health from consumers, while the report from Kellogg’s showed that the emphasis on health is driving new superfood flavours. Experts are predicting that the next "superfood" craze will be for seaweed, and that seaweed breakfast flakes are "set to be the next big thing".

Location, naturally

"McCormick and Swartz’s Flavour Forecast for 2012 also identified exploration, a shedding of the "confines of the traditional rules"."

Natural products are also in demand in western markets, according to Innova, even though debate around what actually constitutes ‘natural’ is continually ongoing.

Marketing the ‘purity’ of a product is a one way around this, stated the company, reporting that the number of products using the word ‘pure’ in 2009 had doubled since 2008 and was higher more in 2011.

Where foods come from is also set to be big for 2012 – and Innova stated that interest in this aspect of food has never been stronger.

It said this move is being driven by "an interest in supporting local suppliers, a desire for ethnic-style lines, concerns over the quality and safety of imported products, or the demand for authenticity in terms of products from a particular country or region".

Symrise also noticed an increase in this area, particularly in the sweet category. "Consumers are looking for ethical products, such as Fairtrade and RainForest Alliance," said Wachter.