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Floral ingredients are being incorporated into dynamic flavor combinations in the world of food and beverages. Florals tonalities can offer new experiences, aromatic escapes, healthy connotations, culinary inspiration and enhancements such as color and texture to certain flavors and applications. With consumers on the lookout to try new flavors, florals are popping up more frequently in taste NPD across the globe. FoodIngredientsFirst spoke with some key flavor suppliers who gave their insight on floral flavors for spring.

Consumers’ desire for clean, natural and real ingredients has fueled the use of floral flavor applications in the food and beverage industry. A growing number of products communicate the natural infusion of floral flavors targeting low-sugar and low-calorie demands or target seasonal goods by associating flowers with the time of year. For example, Innova Market Insights reports a 31 percent increase in average annual growth of food and beverage launches with lavender flavor (Global, 2013-2017).

According to Erika Faden, Regional Marketing Manager for Taste at International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF), flowers and other garden ingredients often play a starring role in many restaurants’ signature dishes and drinks. Restaurants often showcase “in season” ingredients to highlight the freshness and nuances of the flower. And for the spring, fresh flower blooms like cherry blossom, orange blossom, lilac, violet, garden rose, lavender, elderflower, geranium, orchid, honeysuckle, chamomile and the ever-popular hibiscus are featured in cocktails, water-based beverages, chocolates and confectionery, desserts, bakery and ice cream.

Combining fruits and botanicals can add uniqueness, differentiation and sophistication to a product. When fruits and botanicals are compared on a molecular level, there are several individual components and main constituents that are familiar to both structures, says Faden. “Consequently, several fruits naturally pair well with flowers, including lime and rose, blueberry and lavender, as well as apple and violet,” she adds.

Butterfly Pea Flower could also be in the spotlight for 2019 and beyond, according to Faden. “It is high in antioxidants and naturally changes color from deep blue to a deeper shade of purple when acidity is added, making it a staple featured item on Instagram.”

Faden says we can expect to see more new twists on traditional fruit flavors with the addition of top notes including florals, herbs and spices that elevate fruit to a more unique and sophisticated taste experience. “Seasonal and limited edition launches pose a great opportunity to provide the unique flavor experiences consumers are searching for,” she notes.

In December 2018, Firmenich tipped hibiscus as its “flavor of the year” for 2019 based on the growing appeal of florals and botanicals in food and beverages and the trend towards consumer curiosity in consumption.

According to data from Innova Market Insights, there has been a 50 percent average annual growth of new product launches tracked with hibiscus flavor (Global, CAGR 2014-2018 YTD), and this trend shows no signs of slowing down.

Noémie Loiselle, Marketing Director at Foodarom, agrees with this notion. “Hibiscus will be the star flavor this spring, closely followed by lavender, rose, cherry blossom and elderflower. The healthy vibe they give products can partially explain the popularity of floral flavorings. They also provide a unique taste experience while adding a touch of sophistication. Plus, they’re very ‘Instagrammable,’ which is a powerful factor contributing to their growing popularity,” she tells FoodIngredientsFirst.

All kinds of beverages, waters, teas, cocktails will benefit from these flavors. “Functional beverages, as well as beauty drinks, are excellent matrices for flavorings with floral notes. We’re also seeing these flavorings coming out in the dairy and non-dairy segments (yogurts, plant-based milk, ice cream, dairy and plant-based dairy desserts), as well as in bakery and dessert products and confectionery products including chocolate, sweets and gummy sweets,” she says.

These flavorings are very often paired with fruity notes, such as raspberry-rose, watermelon-hibiscus, strawberry-cherry blossom, blueberry-lavender and blackberry-elderflower, Loiselle notes. “They have a more accessible image when combined with notes that are already familiar to consumers. Floral and fruity combinations give consumers the taste experience they’re looking for: adventurous versions of tastes they already know and feel comfortable with.”

Things like a vanilla-lavender latte, a honey-rose flavored iced tea, rose gummy sweets and chocolate flavored with hibiscus will start becoming more popular, according to Loiselle. “Floral flavorings will also make their way into snacks. I would bet on caramel-lavender flavored popcorn,” she claims. “Vanilla-lavender, rose-honey, rose-lychee and violet-lemon can also be expected to be popular,” Loiselle adds.

For Florian Buttmann, Product Management at Archer Daniels Midland’s (ADM) Wild Flavors and Specialty Ingredients Business Unit (WFSI), there are several floral flavors which have the potential to meet consumers’ increasing demand for exciting new creations, but “elderflower is definitely one to highlight.”

“It has natural, fresh, berry, light and floral flavor notes and, therefore, meets the consumers’ desire for exciting new taste experiences,” Buttman notes. Elderflower also harmonizes very well with lemon. “Nevertheless, all kind of flavor combinations are possible. The most important aspect is that there is always one unexpected, exciting flavor in combination with a known, usual type of flavor to give the consumer a kind of comfort,” he continues. “By considering this, almost everything is possible. Therefore, ADM’s portfolio incorporates popular flavors while also creating buzz with unexpected flavor accents; popular kinds of fruit with a spicy-aromatic hint that comes from natural extracts of popular kinds of herbs and flowers.”

“In 2019, we will see botanical flavors as a major trend for beverages as well as for sugar confectionery and dairy products,” he adds.

Smitha Sunder, Flavorist at Austria Juice, highlights that although floral flavors are not an entirely new concept on a global scale, they have gained popularity in Europe and the US. “Flowers are linked to healthiness and naturalness in terms of consumer perception. Florals easily fit into the booming botanical category and also add a premium touch to more every day and regular flavors,” she says. 

Sunder notes that floral flavors are commonly used in beverage products like soft drinks, iced tea and energy drinks: “They are slowly getting into other categories of foods like confectionery, yogurts, ice cream and also baked goods,” she adds.

Flowers that have a pleasant and delicate flavor profile can be combined well with citrus, apple, red and berry fruits. “Florals that have an intense and bold profile can be used either in combination with exotic and tropical fruit flavors or added to flavors to provide complexity and depth,” Sunder continues. “Some florals blend well with herbs and spices that can further be blended with other flavors or simply used as a standalone flavor.”

Sunder also says that floral flavors like chrysanthemum, cherry blossom and lotus are favorites in Asia, but not very common in Europe. “These floral flavors suggest an opportunity as the next phase of floral trends we can expect to see throughout 2019,” she concludes.

By Elizabeth Green

Source: Stepping into spring: Increased “blossom appeal” in flavor NPD, while hibiscus and elderflower reign supreme