Synergy Flavors’ Chris Whiting highlights the key drivers of future taste trends and what to look out for this year.
The food industry is heavily influenced by a number of sources – travel, social media, global events, culture, celebrities, the list goes on. Trend tracking technology and processes are important to identify emerging trends. However, how can manufacturers work to stay several steps ahead of consumers to predict what they might want next?
Synergy Flavors does extensive research every year to predict the rising stars in flavors. Consumer buying habits, bloggers, food writers, and futurologists all helped inform the research, which is also compared to real world data from product launches and global search trends. Here we explain the influences that will determine future taste trends and look at the trends that will take the top spot in 2021.
What influences innovation?
Staying one step ahead of the curve has always been the key factor between success and failure in the food industry. However, in today’s world of social media, this is even more acute. The impact of social media and blogs on the food industry creates a wealth of data that researchers can use to analyze and draw from trends. There are 377 million Instagram posts that use #food and 39.5 million for #foodblogger. This shows how much engagement there is on these platforms for food. According to data, millennials spend five days a year looking at photos of food on Instagram, while 33 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds in the UK use social media platforms to share pictures of food.1
The relationship between brands and consumers has changed forever. With easier access to their favorite foods and beverages through social media, the general public has more say than ever about the market. This is why understanding the success of a product has become so important.
Since the beginning of the global pandemic, more emphasis has been placed on foods and beverages that could help boost immunity
There are also other aspects to consider, e.g. B. the convenience. As food from around the world becomes more accessible, many customers are opting for on-the-go options that are either ready-to-eat or cooked in minutes. These days, you don’t even have to get up from your sofa as groceries can be delivered to your door via ps like Deliveroo, which has seen significant sales growth of over 650 percent per year since its inception in 2013.2
In addition, manufacturers need to be aware of other challenges and pressures facing the food industry, such as the renewed demand for options with reduced sugar, fat and salt. Reducing these ingredients (or removing them altogether) can create challenges in terms of both taste and formulation. Reduced fat can affect the structure of products like cakes and cookies, while reducing salt / sugar affects taste, which is why flavors are so important in maintaining the taste that consumers love.
While researching upcoming trends likely to affect the industry, flavor companies have to work a year in advance – however, we couldn’t predict a global pandemic. The food industry was one of the first to feel its effects. Supermarkets panic buying and restaurants had to close their doors. Since then, things have settled into the „new normal” but consumer buying and eating habits have changed – perhs forever – and this will affect trends for 2021 and beyond. In addition to accelerating trends that are already emerging, we will also see new trends that result directly from the effects of the pandemic. Below are some of the trends we expect to see in 2021.
1. Immunity and Wellbeing
Since the beginning of the global pandemic, more emphasis has been placed on foods and beverages that could help boost immunity. This includes a surge in vitamin C and general fortification with vitamins and minerals – citrus fruits remained the most sought after fruit during the pandemic as consumers wanted to boost their immune systems. Although consumers are more interested in the connection between their diet and the immune system, there is still limited (and conflicting) evidence that certain foods can boost immunity, and the general advice is to eat a balanced diet.
Gut health is increasingly being linked to holistic health and immunity, and sales of kefir products rose nearly 50 percent in the four weeks leading up to the UK lockdown.3 There is a growing trend towards digestive health claims and nuanced food claims, as opposed to just claiming fiber. With digestive health increasingly recognized as a key element of general wellbeing, this trend is likely to focus more on mental wellbeing in the current crisis and for many years to come. Some consumers look beyond this and are considering other natural sources that offer perceived health benefits. 72 percent of consumers are also interested in nutritional products that contain “health-promoting” herbs and plant substances.4th
Such ingredients have roots in Chinese medicine, where spices and herbs like turmeric have long been used to treat common ailments and symptoms, with the belief that products made from natural sources would provide medicinal benefits. There is also a growing global interest in vitamin and mineral supplements – either through csules or through food and drink fortification.
It is even more important for manufacturers today than it was before 2020 to highlight healthy ingredients in products.
2. Holistic health
A survey by Mintel found that 39 percent of consumers have eaten comfort foods in the past 12 months to manage stress, and this has also been seen in recent times of uncertainty. Chips, chocolate and ice cream saw sales increase across Europe in the weeks following the introduction of the blocking restrictions. However, we can assume that consumers are looking for healthier options to improve their overall health as things slowly return to normal. Reduced fat and sugar options will overtake goodies like cookies and cakes, and many consumers are looking for vitamin-rich foods to improve their diets. For example, in Asia there has been an increase in sales of perceived health foods and beverages (such as fresh foods, bottled water and dairy products) and a decrease in sales of normally unhealthy options such as alcohol and snacks.5
The events of 2020 have made people more focused on their physical and mental health. A high percentage of consumers cite the health of their family and friends, as well as their own physical health, as primary concerns. 71 percent of Britons rank family health as a top concern amid the pandemic.6th Increasingly, consumers are looking for ingredients that promote mental wellbeing through stress relief, rest, sleep promotion, and comfort. As such, botanicals and herbs that have perceived wellness-promoting properties have seen steady growth in a number of snack and beverage categories.
3. Sofa surfing
In 2009, at the height of the last economic crisis, more European food and beverage products were introduced than in the years since. In particular due to the introduction of private labels, which increased by 22 percent in 2009,6th Manufacturers can potentially immerse themselves in the widespread travel restrictions and their impact on tourism, which will directly impact many consumers who are unable to travel the world for many months.
Sweet tropical flavors (like salted mango, pomegranate, guava, and star fruit) and cuisines like Janese and Korean are likely to benefit from this change in the way we seek overseas flavors.
4. Imagination and nostalgia
With these global upheavals and uncertainties in 2020, it’s no wonder consumers are looking for some slight relief too. It all started with the unicorn trend in 2017, since then there has been a wave of fantasy-inspired product launches that offer a way out of reality. While it sounds like a niche, many mainstream brands are resorting to this idea of the imagination, thematizing product launches from fairies and elves to mermaids, dinosaurs and dragons. From gin to cupcakes, candy, ice cream and frpuccinos, smoky blood oranges, pine lemonades or creamy coconuts can be used in these products.
Nostalgia also plays a role, with a penchant for nostalgic explosions from the past. There has been a revitalization of the flavors associated with candy stores and fairgrounds, and this trend is opening up a new area for manufacturers to innovate in a number of products. From the recent launches of sweet-inspired ice lollies like dip-dab and flump to whey protein-flavored products like drumsticks and love hearts, the nostalgic influence won’t build until the coming months as consumers seek solace in the sentimental flavors associated with their childhood.
At the forefront of innovation
The flavor industry has always been at the forefront of innovation, but the ever-growing consumer looking for exciting flavors is encouraging an even more dynamic arena to operate in. While demand has increased, it also has the ability to track and anticipate certain trends. Flavor companies are therefore in a strong position to be quick to respond and provide customers with the latest innovations in new products.
Chris is Category Manager for Synergy Flavors. As part of the Carbery Group, Synergy is a provider of flavor solutions for the food, beverage and nutrition industries.
1. How COVID-19 has affected media consumption, by Generation Visual Citalist, https://www.visualcitalist.com/media-consumption-covid-19/
2. About us, Deliveroo, https://deliveroo.co.uk/about-us
3. Pandemic Triggers Increased Demand for Gut Health Products, The Grocer, July 2, 2020, https://www.thegrocer.co.uk/dairy/pandemic-triggers-increased-demand-for-gut-health-products/603605. items
4. COVID-19 Will Radically Change Specialized Nutrition, Mintel, March 2020
5. Consumer behavior in Asia may change forever after Covid-19, Inside Retail Asia, April 16, 2020. Https://insideretail.asia/2020/04/16/asian-consumer-behaviour-may-change-forever-after-covid- 19 /
6. Food and beverage brands can learn from the 2008-09 recession, Mintel, through 2020