Vanilla still remains one of the most widely used flavors in the food industry. Dubbed the “queen of flavors” it’s versatile and its uses are broad, allowing for surprising and innovative flavor combinations. This is according to Kevin Bangratz, Marketing Researcher at Prova, who tells FoodIngredientsFirst, “it’s a flavorist’s mission to find the right balance between different ingredients for a successful association blend.”
“If we focus on sweet food, we observe that pairing sweet and salty is no longer the exclusive privilege of high-end gastronomy,” Bangratz notes. “The food industry is now actively surfing on this, clearly reflecting the expansion of what Prova calls the ‘swavory’ trend. For example, salted caramel is a flavor that will continue to soar in the coming years. Also, pairing sweet and salty often goes with premiumization. For instance, chocolates with a hint of salt are often packaged as premium treats,” he explains.
Meanwhile, hazelnut is one of the most popular nuts worldwide. It is also among the flavors pegged for significant growth in 2020, notes Bangratz. “However, consumers are asking for sophistication and they expect more than simply hazelnut-flavored products. That is why hazelnut praline, already a growing taste, will certainly continue to climb in 2020.”
Regional flavors are still leading innovation in the food industry. In this space, Prova is expecting to see an increase of new products flavored with specialties from all over the world, such as Argentine dulce de leche or Italian stracciatella. “Moreover, matcha is growing fast and not only in Asia,” continues Bangratz. “Canada and the US are in the top five countries where there are the most products launched with matcha flavor,” he adds.
The need for escapism leads to regional influences. Prova is aware of this consumer need, which is why the company has developed a project called “Routes of Taste,” aiming to create flavors inspired by all cultures and cuisines.
A quest for indulgence
The quest for indulgence is the number one driver for flavor innovation, according to Bangratz. “More than ever, consumers expect the products they eat to be flavorsome,” he adds.
Some products take indulgence one step further and play on combining flavors, offering multisensory experiences to their customers. “Flavor pairing is particularly trendy. This consists of mixing several tastes in one culinary creation,” Bangratz explains. “For example, a bakery product can combine brown and spicy notes. It is also possible to play on both flavor and texture to make a delicious, irresistible treat.”
Bangratz also highlights that Prova is “actively working on flavor pairing.” Numerous taste associations are possible, based on vanilla, cocoa and coffee. It is also possible to blend brown notes with alcoholic notes, such as the Irish coffee that mixes coffee and whiskey. This association could be used as a seasonal flavor for Saint Patrick’s Day, he says. “We have also created several concepts pairing vanilla and other notes, such as coconut vanilla or vanilla chai. The concept of dirty chai was obtained by blending chai and coffee. It is, therefore, possible to mix many flavors to obtain a complex bouquet, much to the delight of consumers globally.”
“Furthermore, in the last few years, we have noticed that the flavor claims ‘Madagascar vanilla’ and ‘vanilla bean’ have grown even faster than the simple flavor claim ‘vanilla’. This tendency can be explained both by the single-origin trend and the quest for natural products, which are going to continue throughout 2020. In the future, they could even become standards,” he affirms.
Nuts for nuts and chocolate innovation
Looking ahead to 2020, nuts and nut butter will inspire flavor associations, notes Bangratz. “On the shelves, we are going to see more and more flavors such as peanut butter & chocolate, peanut butter & honey, almond butter & chocolate, or macadamia & white chocolate. Caramel notes will be particularly trendy, with flavoring concepts like coffee & caramel fudge, caramel & almond and honey & salted Caramel,” he explains.
However, Bangratz further highlights that vanilla will be at the forefront in the field of flavor combinations. “Vanilla can inspire combinations with warm notes like for vanilla & almond or vanilla & caramel fudge. Vanilla can also be mixed with herbal or even floral notes, as is the case for vanilla & rose or vanilla & hibiscus,” he adds.
Chocolate can also be seen as a very creative category, especially regarding flavor innovation. Some brands offer products with dessert flavors such as crème brûlée, vanilla macaron, chocolate fondant, chocolate mousse, tiramisu, or nougat.
“It is also now possible to find functional chocolate, such as high-in-protein chocolate. In these applications, flavors may be necessary to mask unpleasant aftertastes due to vegetal proteins,” states Bangratz.
Due to the soaring trend of functional foods, Prova is observing a growing number of high-in-protein products launched worldwide. According to data from Innova Market Insights, the number of sweet products containing plant proteins is growing much faster than those containing whey protein.
“Consumers tend to replace animal proteins with protein substitutes such as vegetal proteins, heading towards pea and hemp,” Bangratz continues. Building on its know-how, Prova has developed flavors with masking effects adapted for vegetal protein. “More than ever, technology is at the service of taste,” adds Bangratz.
Consumers are expecting both original and natural tastes in the flavors space. “In addition, industrial products are increasingly inspired by gourmet food, resulting in the democratization of exquisite ingredients,” reveals Bangratz. Among these trendy ingredients, he predicts that the tonka bean is going to stand out from the crowd during 2020. Its aromatic profile – subtle and unique – can be described as “gourmet warm caramel.”
Tonka is well suited to various applications, notably confectionery, bakery, dairy and some beverages, according to Bangratz. “Prova can provide typical tonka flavors, outside of the US and LATAM, some of which are free from coumarin. They can be natural or synthetic and are available in liquid and powder forms,” he adds.
Consumer demand for flavors
Consumers from mature markets are particularly fond of flavor trends. “In the US, the variety of flavors that a brand can offer is remarkable. Flavors are key to build up a complete and diversified product range. In mature markets, consumers are willing to go further regarding taste innovation. In the US, bakery-inspired notes are particularly popular,” states Bangratz.
“Current tendencies include tastes such as Boston cream pie, Bananas Foster, or cinnamon rolls. In Europe, consumers are also looking for these notes. European consumers will appreciate flavors inspired by their own countries, such as Black Forest cake for German people or Paris-Brest for the French ones. In other parts of the world, flavor trends are also important, but to a smaller extent,” he says.
Last year, Innova Market Insights pegged “The Adventurous Consumer” as its number one trend for 2019. This insight is based upon a consumer survey, showing that 66 percent of US consumers “love to discover new flavors.” “These consumers are looking for a richer experience, excitement and world inspiration,” Bangratz continues. “This will surely continue in 2020 and beyond,” he concludes.