At IFT 2018, flavor firms talk about the rise of floral flavors, plus the marriage of sweet and spicy, and more.
The biggest flavor trends of 2018 were on parade in the food and drink samples exhibitors distributed at the Institute of Food Technologists’ Annual Meeting and Food Expo in Chicago in July. Ingredient firms talked to Nutritional Outlook about trending flavors, including the rise of florals plus the marriage of sweet and spicy, and much more.
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Floral flavors continue to gain traction in food and drink products, and especially in beverages. “Florals are very popular,” said Nina Hughes-Likins, global marketing director, Prinova Group (Carol Stream, IL), at IFT.
“All of our research says you’re going to see more and more florals because that’s where the market is headed,” said Parveen Werner, director of marketing at Synergy Flavors (Wauconda, IL). “People are looking for more natural, clean-label botanicals and herbs because people can associate them with real food, with simple ingredients that are good for you.”
Elderflower, hibiscus, rose, violet, honeysuckle, and lavender are just a few of the florals suppliers say are gaining steam. Lavender lends a “calming” element, even through food, Werner said-something that some other florals can also do. Meanwhile, although hibiscus doesn’t contribute intense flavor, it does provide a “bright kind of pinkish/purplish color that people love,” she added. To exemplify the botanical trend, during IFT, Synergy provided samples of floral-flavored cookies and chocolates (salted cherry blossom and orange honeysuckle).
Whole Foods Market named florals as the retailer’s number-one flavor trend at the end of last year, Werner said. In November 2017, Whole Foods said, “Foragers and culinary stars have embraced edible petals for years, but floral inspiration is finally in full bloom. From adding whole flowers and petals into dishes to infusing botanical flavors into drinks and snacks, this top trend makes for a subtly sweet taste and fresh aromatics. Look for flowers used like herbs in things like lavender lattÃ©s and rose-flavored everything. Bright pink hibiscus teas are a hot (and iced) part of the trend, while elderflower is the new MVP (most valuable petal) of cocktails and bubbly drinks.”
To ease consumers into accepting florals in their food and drink, formulators often pair floral flavors with more familiar ones, Werner said. In fact, she said of many floral flavors, “You’ll never see it on its own; it’s always with a twist. So, you might see a floral with a particular fruit that people are more familiar with. It’s taking the familiar and adding a twist with something that’s a little more uncommon, because people are more willing to try when there’s some familiarity with the product.”
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Sweet Plus Spicy
Being sweet just isn’t enough these days; formulators are looking to give sweet a spicy kick. “People are not looking for overly sweet flavors anymore,” said Mukul Juneja, vice president, marketing, Archers Daniel Midland Company/Wild Flavors & Specialty Ingredients (ADM; Erlanger, KY), at IFT.
Sensient Natural Ingredients (St. Louis) calls this new trend of marrying sweet and spicy “sweet heat.” “Sweet heat is something we’ve been seeing in the past years as a trend,” said Kristie Hung, marketing specialist, Sensient Natural Ingredients. “People are looking for that spicy kick at the end of their flavors. And it’s also a very adult flavor. It’s something that’s exciting. It’s something new.”
Jalapeno and ancho chili peppers are among the spices giving sweet a kick. At IFT, Sensient sampled cake-pop dessert prototypes with jalapeno and ancho flavors added to the chocolate. Hung said that sweet heat is also a trend taking place in the yogurt industry, with marketers combining sweet yogurts with spicy, savory toppings. At Sensient, she said, “We’ve worked on a peach habanero, mango habanero, and pineapple jalapeno flavor.” She also pointed to the growing trend overall of Mexican chocolate, which often features chilis and spices.
Renata Ibarra, senior director of taste, Americas Region, Kerry (Beloit, WI), said her company has also done work blending sweet and spicy. “We have done some peppers, like habanero, but also some of the higher-intensity flavors-cinnamons, cardamoms, nutmegs-that complement some of the fall flavors as well.”
At IFT, Prinova handed out samples of a cardamom pear-flavored sparkling water prototype.
Again, ADM’s Juneja said, this adventurousness is all a reflection of the consumer’s broadening palette. “Those sensations of sweet and salty, or botanicals, definitely help broaden our palette a little bit. We’re also seeing quite a bit of activity around sours, too-sour beer, for example. We’re seeing flavors that are a little more complex from that perspective, as well.”
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Fruit flavors, including tropical notes, will never go out of style.
Varietals, mangoes, pomegranate, passion fruit, and dragon fruit are among the flavors that continue to see high demand, said ADM’s Juneja. “Tropical flavors have always been very popular, especially in beverages, but it’s evolving beyond that pineapple and coconut space now,” he added.
Mango and starfruit are always popular flavors, said Prinova’s Nina Hughes-Likins. At IFT, the company handed out samples of a mango rooibos tea targeting brain health.
Juneja said ADM is also still getting a lot of requests for darker berries, which he noted are often marketed for their antioxidant benefits. “A lot of projects we’re working on are trying to bring that healthy halo of darker berries-blueberries, raspberries, cranberries, etc.”
At Kerry, calamansi is a growing trend, Ibarra said. Watermelon is also emerging in sports drinks, she added. “I think the sports market is welcoming more of this type of refreshing summer flavor,” she said. Cucumber lemon is another example, she added.
“There’s more of those really juicy fruits, like watermelon and some underlying tones, or some tea notes behind some of these peach flavors or the watermelons. So, adding some complexity without interfering with the refreshing sense of a sports drink,” Ibarra said.
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Reducing Undesirable Ingredients: Salt, Sugar, MSG
In addition to the numerous companies showcasing zero-calorie sweetener options like stevia, flavor companies also demonstrated how their ingredients can help formulators cut sugar, salt, and other unwanted ingredients.
At Lycored’s (Be'er Sheva, Israel) IFT booth, the company, along with chef Charlie Baggs, president of Charlie Baggs Culinary Innovations, demonstrated how Lycored’s tomato-based flavor enhancers, Sante and Clear Tomato Concentrate (CTC), bring out natural umami and kokumi notes while at the same time enabling formulators to use less salt and cream, including in a prototype curry, carrot, and apple soup; a roasted red pepper sauce; and a Tom Yum soup. Both flavor enhancers are non-GMO and label as either “tomato concentrate” or “natural flavor,” depending on regional regulations.
“Sante is a flavor enhancer that allows a reduction in sodium from salt by 30% to 65% in some applications. It is the perfect solution for removal of MSG, yeast extracts, or artificial flavors while giving a great taste boost. CTC is a liquid serum that harnesses the balance of acidity and high Brix sweetness of tomatoes to bring smoothness and complexity to savory products,” Lycored said in a press release.
Sensient showed how SensaSalt 2G, part of the company’s SensaSalt yeast extract-based flavor enhancers for savory applications, allows formulators to reduce the level of salt by up to 50%.
Another IFT exhibitor, sea salt firm Salt of the Earth Ltd. (Atlit, Israel), highlighted a solution for reducing not only sodium but also replacing another undesirable ingredient, monosodium glutamate (MSG). At IFT, the company showcased a Ranch dressing using the company’s Mediterranean Umami ingredient, which is an all-natural sodium-reduction ingredient comprising vegetable extracts and sea salt. According to the company, the ingredient “keeps the ‘craveable’ flavor of Ranch dressing, without MSG, while reducing sodium at the same time.”
At IFT, companies also showcased their sugar-reduction strategies. Among them, Kerry highlighted its new TasteSense Sweet ingredient, introduced in the U.S. earlier this year and part of the company’s TasteSense flavor-modulating technology that can help mask off notes. The company describes TasteSense as “based on flavor-building blocks derived from natural botanical, fruit, and vegetable extracts, distillates, and essences” and says it labels as a natural ingredient.
At IFT, Kerry highlighted findings from a recent consumer research survey the company performed that found that 71% of consumers polled read ingredient labels to check a product’s sugar content, while 55% wanted a reduced-sugar product that still tastes as sweet as a full-sugar product, all while showing a preference for natural sweeteners. The company says TasteSense Sweet allows formulators to reduce their use of sugar to meet these needs while maintaining sweetness. The company showcased a beverage featuring TasteSense Sweet. “We can go as far as a 30% sugar reduction without adding in any high-intensity sweeteners,” Ibarra said. The survey was conducted on over 760 American consumers.
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The Origin Story
As tastes grow more sophisticated, consumers are wooed by the regional flavor nuances that can color the story behind an ingredient-for example, transforming a simple, standard orange flavor into an exotic “Sicilian blood orange” flavor.
Consumers increasingly want these provenance associations, said Roger Lane, marketing manager, savory flavors, North America, Sensient. "'Orange lavender’ sounds so much better than regular lavender,” he said. “We’ve actually polled consumers to ask them which they prefer, and they really like a natural extract with a provenance claim.”
Similarly, said Lane’s colleague, Kristie Hung, consumers want to know where their spicy ingredients originate. “It’s about calling out where that jalapeno and ancho come from,” she said, referring to the sweet and spicy cake-pop samples Sensient displayed at the show. She also talked about the popularity and uniqueness of the Hatch chili, which is grown in the Hatch Valley region of New Mexico. “You can only get Hatch chili peppers from there. It’s kind of like Champagne [in France]. It’s very, very specific to its growing source. I think consumers appreciate that information.”
And, above all, the origin of a flavor these days should be clean label. All of the companies in this story highlight natural, clean-label solutions that consumers demand as a given these days.
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