Last Updated on November 24, 2020 by Novotaste

With traditional festivities set to look very different this year, nostalgic and comforting flavors will take center stage and lift spirits this holiday season. Key flavor players speak with FoodIngredientsFirst about their festive insights on classic winter notes and the surprising twists expected in NPD.

According to Coralie Garcia Perrin, global strategic marketing director for Sweet Taste at Kerry, seasonal flavors never fail to have their day, and this winter, consumers will “gravitate toward traditional options that bring a strong sense of comfort to stressful days.”

Nostalgia traditionally emerges during troubling periods. “The desire to relieve stress may also push people to indulge in comforting flavors and foods, especially comforting and nostalgic flavors. In these uncertain COVID-19 times, consumers want to feel comforted.”

During winter, consumers crave comfort foods like cookies, cakes, and other sweets while they bundle up and keep warm. “Sweet memories of roasted marshmallow, grandma’s creamy hot chocolate or buttery cookies tempt consumers to try and to buy more new products. Additionally, spa-type and relaxing flavors, such as lavender, hibiscus, rose, chamomile and honey, are trending as consumers seek enhanced well-being,”.

For Louise Wisdom, marketing manager for Snacks at Mane, comforting flavors provide pleasure and sentimental value, and they tend to be associated with childhood and home cooking.

“This can remind us of better times with family and friends for whom many consumers have not been able to meet with during 2020.”

“Nostalgia is an important aspect to many celebratory meals, such as Christmas, the taste of which makes us feel good, hence why we see many of these well-known, comforting flavors on snacks,” she explains.

The premiumization of snacks
“Limited time offers (LTOs) will gain traction as a way to allow these consumers to experiment with new flavors in all categories, but mainly snacks,” says Garcia Perrin.

Snackification” – trying small bites of new flavors – is a way for people to try something novel without committing to a full meal, she notes.

For Wisdom at Mane, innovative savory snacks are already appearing on the market, featuring flavors inspired by popular tastes and dishes eaten during the holiday period.

“With consumers seeking familiar seasoned snacks, turkey, ham, and a variety of hard and soft cheese-style flavors will continue to be perennial. Classic favorites in combination with other well-known tastes such as stuffing, sweet or spicy glazes, cranberry, chutney and herbs,” she explains.

Premiumization will continue through the use of profiles such as truffle, specific herbs, botanicals and alcohol to provide that extra special taste consumers expect at this time of year, adds Wisdom.

Winter flavors win over consumers
Classic winter flavors have been among consumers’ favorites previously and this year is projected to be no different.

Gold Coast Ingredients expects to see pumpkin spice, peppermint, gingerbread, cranberry orange, and eggnog continue to make a positive impact in the F&B landscape.

“Classic flavors will always evolve because we as consumers love adding variety to satisfy our taste buds,” says Juliann Bodnar, marketing representative at the company.

This winter season, we can expect to see dessert-inspired flavors like s’mores, sugar cookie, butter caramel, hot cocoa with marshmallow, and candy cane trending in the beverage, bakery, 

Mulled wine with fruity variants such as blackberry or blueberry with a touch of orange can bring new taste sensations to consumers.and nutraceutical categories, she explains.

“As the weather cools down, consumers crave comfort foods like cookies, cakes, and other sweets while they bundle up and keep warm. We expect to see these flavors even more so as we enter the holiday season.”

According to Gerd Diefenthäler, innovation and market intelligence manager at Austria Juice, classic winter tastes such as vanilla, cinnamon and clove are firmly here to stay.

“Brown and spicy flavors will dominate,” he adds. “In alcoholic beverages, next to classic mulled wine, fruity variants from blackberry to blueberry with a touch of orange can bring new taste sensations to consumers. Thanks to mulled wine, the combination of wine flavors with berry flavors or citrus will command attention. In this segment, alcohol-free variants will also expand.”

This year, given the circumstances around COVID-19, consumers will want to hold on to something familiar, such as tastes and flavors they are used to and feel comfortable with, Diefenthäler further highlights.

For Hélène Moeller, global director for product marketing at ADM, seasonal flavors will remain popular during the colder months, as consumers seek escapism from the current environment.

“People often associate seasonal flavors with feelings of comfort and nostalgia, particularly around the holidays,” she comments.

ADM anticipates that warm flavors such as cinnamon and allspice will increase in popularity this winter, as heat-inducing ingredients can also prompt physiological stress reduction.

“We expect people to seek comfort in familiar, warming flavors like chocolate, vanilla, caramel, nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, coffee and tea,” adds Moeller.

Emerging taste combinations
According to Megan Byrnes, marketing manager at Gold Coast Ingredients, marshmallow flavor is on the radar to be trending in 2021.

“With s’mores flavor proving to be a lasting trendy flavor across many food categories, companies are starting to innovate with alternative marshmallow flavor pairings,” she explains.

“We’ve seen peanut butter marshmallow flavor introduced in nutraceuticals, banana marshmallow flavor in dairy applications and chocolate marshmallow flavor flourishing in the bakery sector,” Byrnes notes.

According to Gold Coast Ingredients, marshmallow flavor is on the radar to be trending in 2021.Bodnar at Gold Coast says classic flavors are “evolving into new combinations,” such as eggnog French toast, white chocolate gingerbread, cranberry dulce de leche, pumpkin spice coffee, caramel pumpkin spice and candy cane brownie.

“Bakery and beverage applications will see the most innovation with winter flavors,” she claims. “Coffee, tea, and hot cocoa products stir up winter-inspired offerings, while bakery products such as cookies, brownies, cakes, and cheesecakes also pair well with winter flavor trends.”

Additionally, botanical and fruit flavor pairings have taken the spotlight in recent months, Bodnar notes.

“Trending flavors include blackberry thyme, strawberry hibiscus, elderflower lime, cardamom chili, rose grapefruit and honey lavender,” she continues.

These flavors have been a hit in beverage products such as sparkling waters, hard seltzers and other cocktail mixes. Gold Coast predicts these flavor pairings will move into more confectionery and dessert products in the new year.

Also new on the flavor on the horizon this winter season is red velvet hot cocoa flavor, Bodnar flags. “We’ve seen red velvet hot cocoa appear in beverages, and we predict it will move into other food sectors soon.”

Moreover, Moeller at ADM sees continued interest in combinations of sweet and umami like apple pie and cheese or cheese popcorn with caramel.

“The combination of comfort from both the umami and sweet is popular. Sweet and heat combinations will also be popular, such as chocolate and ginger,” she asserts.

What’s next for seasonal flavors?

Bakery and beverage applications will see the most innovation with winter flavors, according to Gold Coast.
Simond at Foodarom maintains that seasonal flavors are crucial for consumers. “They bring a sensation of comfort along with tastes consumers know and trust. Seasonal flavors create the urge to try and buy new products,” she explains.

“They also help consumers to feel the warmth of these popular periods of the year. Nothing will replace the pumpkin spice flavored coffee latte in fall, the delicious gingerbread flavor of Christmas, the sweet notes of key lime pie in spring or the refreshing tropical mango and strawberry flavored lemonade in summer,” Simond beckons.

For Agneta Hoffmann, marketing manager at Bell Flavors, although seasonality among flavors has been less desired amid the COVID-19 pandemic, traditional summer and winter taste varieties will still prove to be successful in the years to come.

“Strong interest in international, on-trend flavors can be a good way to offer consumers a way to travel from home and experience familiar products reinvented.”

“Hence, these global taste varieties can further be associated with seasonal topics – with light, fresh and more exotic profiles for the summer season and bold, intense and spicier notes for winter,” she explains.

Simultaneously, the most appealing, exciting and authentic flavors of 2021 will be the ones addressing indulgent cravings based on traditional taste profiles and the need for emotional well-being and health attributes, Hoffmann underscores.

“As such, ginger, hemp and various citrus fruits will be successful during the upcoming period, just to name a few,” she adds.

Furthermore, Janie Page, senior director of marketing and new business at Beck Flavors, says seasonal flavors will continue on an upward trajectory.

“We’re always asked what the next pumpkin spice will be, and while we can’t always see that in the trends, we have seen an increase in development for maple, honey and ginger flavors,” she notes.

Source: Festive delights: Nostalgic and comforting flavors at the fore this winter