2019 flavor trends and customer health preferences
Which flavors are trending in 2019? Leading flavor houses gave us their forecasts for which flavors customers will be looking for in food and beverages this year. The macro trend for 2019 rises again to be a balance between flavors that consumers find comforting and familiar beside flavors that satisfy their craving for a wonderful flavor adventure.
“People have begun to step out of their comfort zones with the thirst to explore authentic and unconventional taste experiences, there is also a unique balance between nostalgic taste and avantgarde experiences that consumers seek today.”
– flavor firm Kerry (Beloit, WI)
For most customers, the taste is critical when purchasing a product. But how can you evaluate whether the taste of your latest product is going to attract your target audience? Apparently, that’s not so easy to predict: about 95% of new food & drink products fail. So, before getting creative with new flavors, take a brief look at 2019 flavor trends to prevent product failure.
2019 is a year for specificity. This means global flavors from distinct regions of the world, naming pepper varietals in foods and a preference for not only clear label, but clean label.
We expect to observe even more region-specific flavors going global and beginning product growth and development as customers continue to travel the world and try different new foods. Regional characteristics and flavors that we are seeing show up on lists include the Middle East, West African, Pacific Rim, and Latin American.
The Director of Innovation at Innova Market Insights, Lu Ann Williams, says: “Millennials are an important consumer group, but ‘The Adventurous Consumer’ trend is larger and broader than just that. If you take Japanese restaurants, for example, they are often full of children. In the past, people made fun of eating raw fish, kimchi was a punchline of many jokes, but now there are so many foods and flavors which have gone much more mainstream, that we maybe never expected.” 
Big food producers will need to think like small companies if they are going to battle for the minds and hearts of consumers. And now that ‘adventurous consumers’ can fact check anything, everything needs to have a story behind it.
The plant-based market displays no signs of slowing down, and brands and companies are greening up their products to attract mainstream consumers who want to add more plant-based alternatives to their diets. For the mainstream customer, going plant-based is about reaching a healthy and sustainable balance between meat and vegetables, rather than utilizing an all-or-nothing way of consuming.
Customers looking for healthier, reduced-sugar drinks are also looking for flavors like hibiscus to substitute sweetness and to “help deliver sensorial impact and provide interesting and novel taste experiences,” said Jeff Schmoyer, Firmenich’s vice president of global consumer insight.
The trend for plant-based proteins is also expected to extend even more in 2019. More organizations are broadening their vegetarian and vegan options to attract flexitarian and other dieting customers. This means standard vegetarian options like the black bean burger are being touched by plant-based proteins created to look and taste like actual meat.
Or a broader flavor for nuts and seeds which are presumed as the biggest source of plant-based proteins for vegetarians and vegans.
These botanical flavors will often be matched with fruit flavors to conceive innovative notes, obscure tastes and new dimensions in food and beverage. Over the past three years, floral flavors have developed from a niche sector to a much larger one. Products emphasizing floral flavors have risen by 132% from 2015-2018. This trend has been attributed to customers wanting more natural products.
Plant-based proteins have advanced beyond meat and dairy alternatives, vegan nutrition bars, and protein-fortified drinks into mainstream products like pasta, chips, and frozen meals. This year producers can expect to see growth in nut protein-fortified products, as well as the rise of new proteins like lupin and water lentils.
Plant-based proteins are usually observed by customers as healthier than animal proteins, as plant-based proteins have come to be affiliated with the clean label movement. The generation of plant-based proteins available from ingredient suppliers has made it easier than ever for food and beverage producers to capitalize on both the plant-based and protein trends by adding plant-based proteins to their products.
The top plant-based proteins
Some plants have more significant protein content than others or proteins that are more easily extracted. And, of course, having a fabulous flavor (or at least a neutral character) can go a long way in spreading a plant protein. The top plant-based proteins in the market today include:
- Nuts – pistachios, peanuts, almonds and cashews
- Seeds – chia, hemp, and flax
- Grains – quinoa, wheat, rice, and amaranth
- Legumes – soybeans, lentils, fava beans, chickpeas, and peas
How Nuts fit with new customer eating habits
1- Premium food pairing
Nuts are prominently featured in fruit and seed mixes. These mixes are moving well ahead of the usual dried fruit accompaniments, such as raisins, and companies are now mixing nuts like almonds with less common single and mixed fruits, super-fruits and seeds.
As a handy ingredient, nuts are getting a rising share of new product launches in the ever-evolving global snacks class. Factors driving that growth include new research on nuts’ health qualities, higher availability of different nut type and technological boosts allowing for new coatings, seasonings, and packaging formats. When it comes to snack nuts, almonds fit particularly well with new customer eating habits, varying tastes, and different trends.
The range of snacks featuring nuts proceeds to extend beyond traditional natural or salted nuts to include smoked and caramelized variants that offer infinite potential. On-trend combinations for nuts only proceed to evolve the standard for flavor, pushing the limits of sweet and savory profiles.
Momentum in clean label
Nuts align seamlessly with today’s essential health claims like clean label, free from, and gluten-free. Moreover, clean label policies comprise more than just one claim.
2- Spicy Specificity
Hot spicy flavors are getting more special and intricate. Customers want more than just ‘mild’ or ‘hot.’ They want particular pepper varietals such as poblano, poblano, guajillo, and more. They are seeking for both flavor AND heat from these peppers and want to pair them with other sweet, tangy and savory flavors. Looking ahead, expect customers to increase their collective palette as they become more familiar with ethnic tastes and ingredients. Spicy flavors from Asia and Latin America – such as Chinese Five Spice, habanero, cayenne, and cardamom – will become attractive additions to more indulgent drinks, according to McHugh.
3- Smoked and Fermented
Increasingly, flavors in the smoked and fermented categories are finding more customer fans. As people become more interested in ethnic foods, fermented flavors have also noticed a rise in popularity. Providing probiotic features and umami relishes, fermented foods are showing up on restaurant menus and grocery store shelves more often.
Smoked flavors are making a comeback in a smoke-free way. Smokeless smoke flavors will be a massive trend in 2019. These flavors will be replicating the tang of wood-fired without the fire.
Smoke-type flavors are already found in snack foods, seasonings, meats, sauces, cheeses, honey, and salt. However, this trend will go beyond all of those regular products as the smoke flavor will be used in dessert, beverage, soups, and many other sweet and savory applications.
Clear Label Properties
Customer ideals on what should and should not be on a label are ever-changing. We’re observing more consumers prefer to see more transparency on labels. They desire to know more about processing methods, people and animal health, and what is being done to improve the environmental result in the production process. We call these types of data clear label properties or attributes as they are a development of clean label attribute.
There’s a globally increasing awareness of health and the role of how food can contribute to it. This is driving consumers to seek healthier choices and ingredients. No matter with what taste, snacking – especially healthy snacks like nuts and dried fruit – is increasing. Today, food is scheduled around life rather than mealtimes, increasing snacking even more.