Taste is top of mind and palate for both brands and consumers across the food and beverage industries.
During Tuesday’s BevNET Live Expo in at Metropolitan West in New York City, suppliers and flavoring companies took over the conference floor to showcase their latest innovations. Reporters from BevNET sister site Project NOSH walked the floor to survey exhibitors on what they think are the top trends of the flavor world right now. Here’s what they had to say:
The desire for clean and natural flavors seemed to be the consensus among the expo brands. According to Michael Moses, of Nagase America Corporation, the flavor is not the only baseline expectation for consumers. Clean ingredients are in that category now, too.
“Consumers are looking at labels for things that not only taste good but things they recognize and are comfortable with,” Moses said.
iTi Tropicals, a tropical juice concentrate supplier, said it’s noticing an increased use of their fruit purees to add not only natural flavors but also coloring and more to products. “You can add dragonfruit for a beautiful color or acerola for acidity, and it allows you to still have a clean label,” Account Manager Dalia Pica told NOSH.
Still, as the demand for natural rises, some companies are concerned about the longevity of its supply chain. Katrina Neale, President of Global Essence, a natural essential oil and ingredient company, told NOSH that she has concerns about both brands and consumers understandings of how the environment and climate change affects the natural flavors world.
“Naturals are impacted by weather, they’re impacted by crops, they’re impacted by all sorts of things that potentially the synthetics are not,” Neale said. “The supply is not as easy outside of any natural impact occurring with crop disasters, weather failures, that sort of thing.”
Brian Zapp, of Applied Food Sciences, thinks health and flavor are not mutually exclusive.
Healthy, functional items like turmeric, cocoa and herbs are increasingly making their way into products for more than just their attributes, but also their added flavor. He said, in particular, the company’s pure ginger extract and turmeric are being used as functional flavors across both industries.
“Ginger is our No. 1 functional flavor, with the key word being functional,” Zapp said. “The biggest driver for a repeat purchase is flavor. Because of this, we’re seeing a lot of people come to us because solubility of these ingredients is important for a seamless and consistent taste profile.”
Zapp added that because brands and consumers are also becoming more aware of bio-availability, or the body’s ability to absorb a certain percentage of nutrients, he’s noticing that extracts rather than powders are on the rise for their ability to be measured more precisely in smaller amounts.
Meat flavors in plant-based proteins
Chris Milligan of Trilogy told NOSH the biggest trend he’s seeing in the flavor world is a gravitation toward meat flavors–without the meat, that is.
Plant-based proteins have been on the rise in the past decade, but in recent years its target consumer has shifted from vegans and vegetarians to health-conscious consumers who like the taste of meat, but are trying to reduce animal proteins from their diets. Brands like Beyond Burger and Impossible Foods have built their businesses on marketing to this demographic.
“We’re really seeing more of those added in snacks,” Milligan said. “For example, we have a ‘bacon’ that tastes like real bacon, but actually has no meat in it. But people like and crave that taste even if they aren’t eating the meat itself.”
Complex Combinations and Global Flavors
It’s not news that global flavors and complex combinations is a trend taking the food and beverage industry by storm. It makes sense that natural flavoring companies are getting more and more demands for flavors beyond the classic lemon or lime.
“Intense, more extreme and seemingly contrasting taste experiences are trending, as well as what we consider to be modern expressions and interpretations of the ‘bold’ flavor movement,” Stephanie Edgecombe, customer experience marketing manager at ADM, said. “Products like kombucha, cold-brew coffee, kale beverages, turmeric and ginger-based concoctions are all examples. Combinations and local variations seem to show no signs of letting up.”
IFT noted mango as one of the company’s top sellers. Milligan noted a rise in blood orange and fresh green ginger. Though global flavors are on the rise, Neale added she thinks the want for complexity also stems from the desire for personalization.
“If we are looking at a beverage maybe before we wanted a lemon beverage, now we’re looking at how can we differentiate ourselves,” Neale said. “Maybe it’s still lemon, but personalized with a little more range to it. I think there is more innovation as it comes to mixing different flavor profiles.”