It’s that time of year again when Nutritional Outlook asks flavor houses and experts to predict which flavors will most appeal to consumers in the coming year. Experts agree that in 2017, consumers will share a desire for natural flavors, both those familiar and those more unusual. As beverage-development firm Flavorman (Louisville, KY) says: “The flavor forecast for 2017 is shaping up to be all about seeking healthy and clean oldies-but-goodies [as well as] a bit of the exotic.”
Spice It Up
Above all, experts interviewed for this story agree on one thing: spicy flavors are hot. In a press release, Comax Flavors (Melville, NY) cites Technavio market research reports that the U.S. spices and seasonings market is forecasted to grow at a CAGR of 6.72% during 2016–2020. “Driven by globalization and the growing multicultural population, spices that were once exotic and unfamiliar are becoming familiar and ubiquitous,” says Comax. “Spices are now mainstream and accessible.”
Greg Kaminski, corporate research chef for Synergy Flavors (Wauconda, IL), highlights the spice cardamom in particular. “While ginger has dominated in recent years, cardamom is the epitome of a true, universal flavor, growing 300% in U.S. product launches in the last five years,” Kaminski says, citing Mintel research.
Cardamom spans the globe in everything from Scandinavian sweets and Indian curries/sauces to coffee in the Middle East. “Thanks to its versatility and complexity, cardamom pairs well with both sweet and savory dishes, and enhances various other profiles,” says Kaminski. Formulators can get creative with cardamom. Kaminski offers just a few examples: a cardamom-and-grilled-pineapple protein drink; cardamom, orange, and cinnamon taffy; and a cardamom, coconut, and ginger Indian curry shortbread cookie.
Other curry spices are hot, as well. In addition to cardamom, Kaminski points to tamarind, lemongrass, ginger, kaffir lime, cinnamon, and clove.
Beverage developer Flavorman points to the growing use of spicy flavors in beverages. “Hot and spicy flavors have risen in popularity in beverages over recent years due in part to the ongoing interest and exploration of ethnic cuisines across the United States,” the company said in a press release. That includes alcohol, said Flavorman, adding that major distillers are extending their lines with “spicy versions of rum, bourbon, and whiskey.”
Comax Flavors offers its Spice Is Nice collection, which includes such flavors as cinnamon caramel, cocoa curry, and ginger mandarin cardamom, for everything from coffee and tea to dairy and alcohol. “Consumers are now open and willing to experiment with spices to experience new flavors,” said Catherine Armstrong, Comax Flavors’ vice president of corporate communications, in a press release.
Turmeric's reputation continues to grow, not only as a spice but as a healthful ingredient. Flavorman ranks turmeric as “the top trending flavor for 2017,” noting that it is now found in “teas such as cold- and flu-fighting apple green tea and cleansing smoothies like carrot, beet, and turmeric.”
Megan Trent, marketing representative for Gold Coast Ingredients (Commerce, CA), pegs some of 2017’s hottest spices as sriracha, jalapeño, chipotle, ghost pepper, and harissa. She says nutraceutical makers are turning to spices as a way to add excitement to their products. “In 2016, spicy (heat) flavors innovated the nutraceutical industry,” such as in sweet and savory nutrition bars. “We predict more experimentation in 2017 as companies find new and exciting ways to add heat to their products,” Trent says.
Spices have the added benefit of appealing to younger consumers, points out flavor supplier Kerry (Beloit, WI). “Indian, Thai, Japanese, Filipino, and Korean flavors are particularly favored by younger generations,” the firm says, especially Asian spices and flavors like cardamom, togarashi, dragon fruit, yuzu, shiitake mushroom, chutney, szechuan, miso, maitake mushroom, shishito pepper, turmeric, and gochujang. “Look forward to these spices popping up on non-traditional items such as chips and fries, which creates an approachable dish for consumers to try these spicy and unique flavors,” the company says.
Florals, Fruits, and Veggies
Floral and fruity notes are also becoming more popular with consumers, experts say. “In 2015 and 2016, there was an increase in products with sweet (fruity, honey) and subtle floral flavor notes,” says Gold Coast’s Trent.
Flavor supplier Virginia Dare (Brooklyn, NY) predicts that tropical fruit flavors will fare well. “Professional chefs expect Hawaii-inspired cuisine, like poke, to be a top-growing trend. In 2017, we predict that the most popular new fruit flavors will also be tropical, like jackfruit, lychee, and new varieties of mango,” says Bob Verdi, PhD, business director of health and wellness, Virginia Dare. “These fun and delicious flavors are new to many consumers.”
In addition, although coconut has been popular for several years now, demand isn't waning, says Flavorman, who says the company expects to see more interest in coconut in 2017.
One of the trendiest fruits in 2017 could be cucumber, numerous experts predict. Firmenich (Geneva, Switzerland), for instance, has named cucumber the company’s “2017 Flavor of the Year.” According to a Firmenich press release, “At first glance, the cucumber may appear to be just a simple salad staple, yet it is gaining traction around the world, with a 392% increase in the use of cucumber as a flavor globally between 2011 and 2016” according to Mintel. “In recent years, cucumber has appeared everywhere from potato chips and confection to yogurt and dumplings,” Firmenich notes. The company says consumers are drawn to cucumber’s “lighter, refreshing ‘green’ flavor”; the soothing, nourishing refreshment it provides “in a busy, stressful world”; and the fact that cucumber is clean and healthy.
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