2019 Flavor trends for food and beverage

January 10, 2019

Which flavors are hot in 2019? Leading flavor houses gave Nutritional Outlook their predictions for which flavors consumers will be looking for in food and drinks in the coming year. As has been the case with Nutritional Outlook’s previous yearly forecasts (2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014), the macro trend for 2019 appears again to be a balance between flavors that consumers find familiar and comforting alongside flavors that satisfy their craving for a flavor adventure.

“Americans have begun to step out of their comfort zones with the thirst to explore authentic and unconventional taste experiences,” said flavor firm Kerry (Beloit, WI) in a recent press release announcing the company’s 2019 Taste Charts predicting 2019 trends. “There is also a unique balance between nostalgic taste and avantgarde experiences that consumers seek today.”

Here are some macro and micro trends formulators should keep in mind.


Florals and Herbs

Floral flavors have gained a following in recent years, and 2019 is no different. Firmenich (Geneva) has declared hibiscus as its 2019 Flavor of the Year “based on the growing appeal of florals in food and drink.”

“Hibiscus is a beautiful and tasty choice for 2019,” the company said in a press release, pointing to hibiscus’s appealing attributes, including its natural origin and “slightly tangy” profile. Firmenich points to global data from market researcher Mintel’s global consumer database indicating that the worldwide use of hibiscus in new food and beverage product launches has grown 300% since 2012. Hibiscus is becoming popular in yogurt, beer, tea, and chocolates, and is especially popular in the United States, Brazil, Mexico, and Denmark, with growth also happening in Spain and Italy.

Consumers are drawn to hibiscus for its many health benefits, says Firmenich, including its use in traditional medicine. “Hibiscus is more than just a pretty flower,” the company said. “Egyptians used hibiscus tea to lower body temperature and treat heart and nerve diseases. In African countries, the tea was used to treat cold symptoms, and pulp made from the leaves was applied to the skin to heal wounds. Recent studies show promise for both the tea and the hibiscus plant extract to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.”

Consumers looking for healthier, reduced-sugar beverages are also looking for flavors like hibiscus to replace sweetness and to “help deliver sensorial impact and provide interesting and novel taste experiences,” said Jeff Schmoyer, Firmenich’s vice president of global consumer insights, in the press release.

Currently, hibiscus’s most popular use has been as an infusion in beverages, but Firmenich expects applications to broaden. Fausto Carriles, a senior Firmenich flavorist in Latin America, pointed out that hibiscus has “a strong floral aroma,” alongside “a woody-astringent character” and “a subtle and delicate fruity undertone, even a hint of green like freshly cut mint leaves.” Hibiscus’s year-round appeal spans use in cold summer beverages to inclusion in “winter hot fruit punches,” Carriles added. Hibiscus is also popular in savory products. It is used in Mexican cuisine and ceviche applications and has been seen in savory foods such as enchiladas and dried hibiscus garlic chips, Firmenich says.

As mentioned, hibiscus also taps into a general growing appreciation for florals—driven, in part, by the visual appeal of florals, a powerful marketing tool. Of hibiscus, Firmenich says, “No doubt their ‘Instagrammable’ nature has helped propel them onto the mainstage along with their floral friends: lavender, elderflower, rose, and violet.”

Firmenich calls hibiscus “unusual but approachable,” noting that it balances new experiences with comfort—qualities that are infinitely sought by today’s generation of shoppers. Firmenich even likens hibiscus’s qualities with those attributed to Pantone’s 2019 Color of the Year: “Living Coral.” Pantone describes Living Coral as “vibrant yet mellow,” noting that it is a warm, lighthearted, joyful, and “nurturing color that appears in our natural surroundings and at the same time displays a lively presence within social media” and “provide[s] comfort.” The same can be said of hibiscus.

Like Firmenich, flavor firm ADM (Erlanger, KY) says that the same consumer interests that drove Pantone to select Living Coral as flavor of the year are also inspiring a trend toward all flavors pink—from rose to rosé, the company says.

“Currently, pink is considered the height of sophistication—even dominating the fashion scene—since Living Coral, or vibrant living pink, has been announced as Pantone’s 2019 Color of the Year,” says Marie Wright, vice president and chief global flavorist, ADM WILD Flavors. “Products covering an expansive range of pink hues are popping up all over the globe. Because of this, we predict bright, vibrant ‘pink’ flavors will increase to match this trend. Pink flavors include rose, rosé wine, hibiscus, elderflower or berry, watermelon, pink grapefruit, rhubarb, and berries.”

For instance, Wright says, this past summer her company observed an increase in global rosé wines, champagnes, and sparkling wines, and, subsequently, an increase in rosé-flavored and -scented products. “Because of this, we predict rosé wine–flavored and/or -fragranced everything will be an explosive trend in 2019—from rosé wine–flavored gummy bears to chocolate, ice cream, cakes and cookies, jelly, near water, cider beverages, cocktail and mocktail ready-to-drink beverages, candles, deodorants, perfumes, and more. 2019 will see rosé wine flavor going mainstream.” Wright also highlights global growing demand for pink gins today, often flavored with blends of rose, rhubarb, berries, citrus, and spices.

In the same vein, pink florals should do well in 2019, Wright says. “In 2019, we predict products will be blooming with the luscious flavors of rose, hibiscus, and elderflower. Oils, extracts and petals are used to flavor dishes and food products across many categories. Rose and lavender (not so pink) flavors are finding their way into cookies, chocolate, ice cream, lattes, and alcoholic beverages.”