“In the past year, we have seen trends shift and accelerate due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Leigh-Anne Vaughan, global strategic marketing director. “A taste for nostalgia has emerged, with consumers gravitating toward comforting and familiar food and beverages such as cotton candy and cookie dough. Seasonal tastes also offer comfort, with consumers expecting limited time offers during seasons or holidays.”
The following top trends were identified through the research:
- Nostalgia – Consumers are drawn toward comfort food and beverages amid the pandemic. In the US nostalgic and classic flavors such as apple, brownie, caramel, cheddar, chocolate, churro, mac & cheese, mixed berry, peanut butter, pizza, pumpkin pie, s’mores and strawberry are heightened.
- Seasonality – Seasons and holidays bring about an expectation of limited-edition flavors associated with the time of year. In the US, consumers look forward to flavors such as apple, barbecue, cherry blossom, ginger, hibiscus, lavender, mango, maple, orange, peppermint, pumpkin spice, salted caramel, smoke, watermelon and yuzu each year. Especially during the pandemic, seasonal favorites can help consumers break free of day-to-day monotony.
- Enticing Eats – As the social and digital marketplace grows, visually impactful foods and beverages have given rise to new flavors, textures and ingredients. In the US new favorites include boba pearls, chia seeds, matcha, miniature baked goods, plant protein, ruby chocolate, sprinkles, taro, toasted glutinous rice powder, turmeric and whipped coffee.
- Taste Exploration – Without the ability to travel far during the pandemic, consumers are even more interested in discovering international flavors and cuisines at home. In the US, consumers are drawn to Cajun, calamansi, cotija cheese, curry, dragon fruit, harissa, hatch valley pepper, Irish cream, Korean BBQ, lychee, masala, miso, soursop, yuzu and za’atar.
- Novel Flavors – Unfamiliar flavors pique consumer curiosity whether from fantasy flavors, mystery flavors or getting acquainted with unfamiliar flavors in product extensions or limited-editions. In the US, Kerry suggests trying out adobo, birthday cake, black garlic, cardamom, cotton candy, ghost pepper, hibiscus, lavender, lemongrass, orange blossom, rose, salted egg, Takoyaki, tamarind and taro. Consumers are interested in new ways to engage with their food and beverages that can bring newfound excitement.
- Acceptable Sweetness – In the constant battle between craving sweet treats and cutting down on sugar consumption, consumers are increasingly on the lookout for products that tout lower sugar, reduced sweetness and clean-label sugar alternatives. In the US, consumers are interested in flavors such as banana, brown sugar, coconut sugar, dark chocolate, dates, erythritol, fig, honey, jaggery, maple and monk fruit.
- Healthy halo – More than ever before, consumers are searching out foods that not only provide an enjoyable taste experience but also provides health and functional benefits. In the US ingredients that check that box include collagen, elderflower, ginger, ginseng, green coffee bean extract, lavender, maca, MCT, mint, plant protein, probiotics, reishi and turmeric. That desire for healthier foods has grown amid the pandemic, as consumers aim to support their long-term and short-term health.
Kerry’s report also showcases a number of bespoke concepts to inspire innovation for great products, such as plant-based ice cream, tempura nuggets and cold brew tea.
“Product developers need to leverage insights and a deep understanding of the market in order to create new products that are successful at launch,” said Vaughan. “The Kerry Taste Trends report is a great tool to provide food and beverage manufacturers with an overview of trends and Taste across categories to help accelerate new product development times. It makes it easier for food and beverage product developers to make faster and better decisions in selecting the right flavors during the brainstorm and development phase.”