Consumers are looking for fun and excitement with their food and beverage choices after spending two years at home due to rotating lockdowns designed to curb the spread COVID-19. Exploring exotic flavours from around the globe offers consumers a travel-like encounter without the actual excursion. Confectionery is a great option for this type of flavour exploration. It provides convenient, bite-size formats to sample new flavours that may not be available in their original form locally, and for people who are typically not adventurous with their food choices.
“Exotic flavours bring taste excitement to confectionery. The relatively small size and assortment structure of confections make trying a new flavour a low-risk.”
Stefanie McCreary, research and development specialist, La Presserie, concurs, “People are looking for a change. They want to try flavours that they may not normally buy fresh at the grocery store or may not be available locally.”
Some early adopters are craving new and interesting. However, the trend of an exotic fruit-forward flavour along with a more traditional counterpart is appealing to a wider market. “Front-of-pack imagery can reassure consumers that the taste adventure may have familiar elements,” points out Jackson.
What are the popular exotic flavours showing up in confectionery? Jackson explains, “Citrus fruits remain popular, but blood orange offers a complexity that attracts consumers’ attention. The taste carries a subtly sweet orange base combined with notes of tangy red grapefruit, tart cherries, and sweet raspberries. We use Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD) to support our innovation efforts. Data from North America, Latin America, and Europe show that confectionery launches in retail featuring blood orange flavour doubled in the last year (off a small base).”
Dragon fruit, yuzu and lychee are fruit-forward options powered by global cuisine. Candy makers are experimenting with these exotic flavours as they go well with traditional sweet and sour confections.
Tracy Brenner, manager, candy innovation and product development, Dare Foods Limited, describes, “At a high level, I am seeing some confectionery brands use exotic fruit flavours like dragon fruit and starfruit either individually or paired with more mainstream fruits. Many of the exotic fruit flavours pair well with sweet and/or sour profiles, so candy is the perfect space to try them out. Further, flavourists can specially design fruit flavours that contain only the desired flavour notes. For example, if an exotic flavour has too many ripe or pungent notes, these notes can be reduced in favour of fruitier and/or fresh notes, as this will likely appeal more to consumers.”
The space offers several ways to defining a flavour signature and enhancing visual appeal. Jackson explains, “Dragon fruit is an exotic taste of interest to our customers. The mildly sweet flavour with notes of kiwi and pear has both taste and visual appeal for consumers. The novelty of a bright pink outer layer with clean white fruit and black seeds creates interest and excitement about the flavour. Conversations about dragon fruit candy are trending, up 30 per cent vs. last year in the United States. Another exotic flavour of interest is yuzu. This tart, lemon-like flavour is emerging in confections, especially in Europe. While the name is fun to say, the flavour of yuzu is the draw, pulling in tastes of grapefruit and mandarin orange. Retail launches across North America and Europe are stable, according to Mintel GNPD. In addition to monitoring launch data to support innovation, we also examine social chatter through the Tastewise platform to identify the flavours consumers are researching, preparing, or discussing. Social conversations about yuzu increased 17 per cent in the last year among Americans. Lastly, lychee has gained interest. It is a taste profile that’s challenging to describe. Some liken it to sweet citrus, while others pick up notes of watermelon or pear. People like the sweet-tart combination, however it emerges. Retail confection launches featuring lychee flavour increased 67 per cent across Europe and North America off a small base in the last year.”
A ‘healthy’ perspective
Consumers continue to take their health seriously because of the pandemic. Flavours, such as these exotic fruits, support this health and wellness trend. While flavour components are not a primary way to deliver functional health benefits, Jackson suggests, “Some exotic fruit flavours carry a ‘health halo’ that aligns with consumers’ growing concern about their well-being. The association would fit with consumer perceptions of confections infused with vitamins.”
Sour confections are a long-time favourite. This is a chance to bring both exotic and nostalgia together. Jackson describes, “Sour is a versatile framework that fits with many flavours. ” McCreary agrees with the interest in sour flavours. “La Presserie is getting numerous requests for blood orange, along with cranberry and kiwi,” she says. Brenner describes, “Dare recently launched two RealFruit Sours innovations with more mainstream flavours including cherry, peach, watermelon, orange, lemon/lime, and pink grapefruit. Other popular sour flavours include blue raspberry and green apple. Also, combinations of two flavours in one piece are of interest to the consumer.”
Consumers’ priorities to make fun food experiences are creating innovation opportunities for confectionery brands. Most importantly, the convenience of confectionery is key to trying new, exotic flavours. Exotic flavour exploration is expanding in confectionery to keep consumers interested and engaged.
This article was originally published in the April/May 2022 issue of Food in Canada.