“Food as medicine is a concept well-established and practiced in the east in countries like India and China for centuries,” said Keera Perumbala, a marketing associate for sweet and beverage flavors at Sensient Technologies, Milwaukee. “In North America, however, this is a rapidly growing trend for the past few years, as lack of trust in big pharma is driving more people to buy into it. There are many products focused on helping consumers de-stress, energize or tackle a plethora of other common symptoms of the modern life. Some botanical herbs and flavors are naturally poised to be positioned as such.”
“This is reflective in the increased discussion around gut health and the number of products with probiotics, rise in the popularity and use of ingredients such as turmeric, ginger and other adaptogens such as ginseng or tulsi,” she said.
Health also plays a central role in Comax Flavors’ 2019 flavor trend predictions.
“To address consumers’ growing demand for flavorful, better-for-you beverages, Comax created the ‘drink to your health’ collection for a variety of beverage applications,” said Catherine Armstrong, vice-president of corporate communications.
The flavors may be used in cold and hot applications, including still and carbonated waters as well as ready-to-drink teas, coffees, juices and mocktails. Flavors in the group include avocado daiquiri, blackberry lilac tea cooler and harvest spritzer.
Comax also identified the health halo associated with meatless meals as contributing to flavor trends in 2019.
“Comax recognizes the importance of plant-based meat alternatives without sacrificing taste and texture,” Ms. Armstrong said. “In response to consumers’ desire for tasty plant-based meats, Comax has created the meatless meals collection.”
Flavors spotlighted in the group include Asian stir fry, spicy fried chicken and street taco.
Kevin Cecilio, senior director of culinary innovation for the food service provider Sodexo, Gaithersburg, Md., also sees health playing a role in flavor development in 2019. He has identified fermented foods with perceived health benefits as a trend in the coming year.
“Building on last year’s rise in popularity, we are now seeing the fermented food trend move beyond traditional foods into cocktails, sauces, snacks and even frozen treats,” he said.
Examples Mr. Cecilio provided include kombucha cocktail mixers, miso dressings, hot sauces and kefir breakfast items.
Fermented foods were among the flavor trends identified by Comax, and specific tastes the company sees capturing consumer attention in the year ahead include five spice kombucha, pickled beet and onion, and pickled peach.
Mr. Cecilio also sees exotic citrus flavors and herbs as trending flavors. Fruit flavors identified include kumquats, pomelos, yuzu, ugli fruit, bergamot and Meyer lemons. Many of the fruits identified are mainly found in specialty retailers, but as access grows demand for such flavors may grow as well.
Sodexo forecasts that lemon verbena, savory and caraway flower are three herbs poised to become more prominent in 2019. The savory herb has a pungent flavor and pairs well with slow cooked meats, beets, eggs, potatoes and tomatoes, according to the company. Lemon verbena provide a lemon flavor and often is used for light marinades, dressings, even chicken and fish dishes. It may even take the place of actual lemons in teas.
The seeds and leaves of the white caraway flower provide a flavorful addition to several foods, including bread, cheese, cakes and sausage. The leaves may even be cooked like spinach or used in salads.
“Many of these trends bring new flavors and culinary experiences to our guests, who would not normally find yuzu or caraway flower in their local grocery stores,” Mr. Cecilio said. “Diners want to try new dishes, especially because of the variety of food they see on social media every day. They are very aware of what they are eating and where it originates. They want to try ingredients that wouldn’t have been on their radar previously.”
The world is getting smaller
The spirit of flavor adventure will remain a trend in 2019, said Roger Lane, manager of savory flavors for Sensient Technologies.
“I think the interest in global flavors will continue into 2019 and beyond,” he said. “Consumers are simply too tuned-in to what’s happening around the world for continued exploration not to happen. Some of the more commonplace flavors and regions are certainly losing popularity, but they’re being replaced by hyper-regional versions. For example, Asian flavors have been around for ages, but we’re seeing interest in Macanese cuisine surge. It’s the perfect fusion food as it combines influences from South America, Europe and Asia.”
Mr. Lane added that while consumers love to try new flavors and explore new cuisines, they do like a touch of the classic to be included to make it a bit more familiar.
“For example, Middle Eastern cuisine is blowing up, and the flavors themselves are actually fairly familiar, but taking those flavors and combining them with something like mayonnaise or ranch makes them more accessible to consumers,” he said. “Combining these cuisines with a format familiar to consumers can also be helpful. Why not create a Korean-style burrito using ingredients found in typical Korean fare, but wrapped in a tortilla for a format everyone knows?”
The beverage product developer Imbibe, Niles, Ill., sees the trend toward globally inspired flavors continuing. Ethnic flavors experienced an average annual growth of 20% between 2013 and 2017 and this will continue in the foreseeable future, according to the company.
As a result, Imbibe is forecasting spicy flavors like cardamom, ginger, Chinese five spice, cayenne, jalapeño, chili, and habanero will be popular in indulgent beverages, cocktails, coffees, teas and juices. Additionally, true-to-fruit flavors from Latin America and Asia will be widely represented on menus and in R.-T.-D.s next year. Flavors that have been appearing on a growing number of menus and in R.-T.-D.s that are expected to gain more momentum in 2019 are yuzu, Meyer lemon, blood orange and guava.
Imbibe also expects nostalgia to play a role in flavor trends during the year.
“These products may have more sugar, calories or fat, but the benefit of these products is that they bring consumers back to happier times and ease the mind,” the company said.
Products incorporating flavors that incite memories of childhood like cereal milk, s’mores, birthday cake, and cookie dough are popular in coffee beverages, protein shakes and cocktails. Other flavors like pumpkin spice, maple, eggnog and caramel apple are popular in limited-time offers because they trigger nostalgia inspired by season change and holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, according to the company.