- Ingredients company Kerry released its flavor predictions for 2021, showing that consumers' pursuit of familiar and nostalgic tastes during the pandemic should continue in the coming year as people seek comfort from food and beverages.
- The Global Taste Charts for 2021 report focuses on flavors across sweet, beverage, savory and salty snack categories that are perennially popular as well as those that are emerging. Health and wellness ingredients and vegan alternatives are predicted to be popular this year, while mainstream flavor preferences should skew toward more indulgent tastes.
- After the coronavirus pandemic upended eating behaviors across the U.S., the magnitude of the change is anticipated to have ripple effects through the rest of this year even as consumers settle into more normal eating habits. While Kerry's analysis shows the lasting influence of comforting flavors, other trends that were popular prior to the pandemic, including global flavors and health and wellness, are continuing in the new year.
Following the uncertainty of 2020, Kerry is not the only company expecting consumers' embrace of indulgent, comforting flavors to last longer term. ADM said last fall that nostalgic, comforting flavors will become mainstream options for many manufacturers.
Kerry's 2021 report expects old standbys like cheese, garlic, barbecue, vanilla, chocolate and citrus to drive consumer choices. However, there are plenty of surprising flavors that are making an appearance.
In the cold beverage category, up-and-coming flavors include coriander, ancho pepper, smoke and cantaloupe. For hot beverages, Kerry highlights cardamom, soursop, elderberry, kiwi and fennel. In the savory foods category, popular choices will include cranberry, miso, kimchi and tahini, whereas salty snacks will see the emergence of pimento pepper, salted egg, nori and churro flavors. And emerging options such as hibiscus, pear, bacon and chili pepper flavors will appeal to consumers seeking sweets.
Many of the on-trend flavors serve double duty as both a taste and a functional ingredient — particularly in terms of their immune-boosting capabilities. According to the Innova Consumer Survey 2020, six out of 10 global consumers are increasingly looking for products to support their immune health. ADM identified immunity as a top trend for the next year. And WGSN, a trend forecasting company under Ascential, said ingredients with immunity claims including elderberries, turmeric and moringa are among those poised for further growth. McCormick has also identified functional flavoring ingredients as a big trend for 2021.
Kerry also highlighted botanicals like oranges and berries as on-trend flavor choices that play into the consumer desire for clean-label health and wellness tastes. As demand for citrus jumped over the last year, the Irish ingredients company launched a line of clean-label citrus extracts.
“Utilizing things such as sweet citrus, berries, and tropical fruits like mango and pineapple, can add both health benefits and rounded sweetness to otherwise savory dishes,” said Kerry Senior Food Scientist Kaylee Ryker.
Foods that help the microbiome are also on trend. The appearance of açaí, apple cider vinegar, black garlic and kimchi flavors on Kerry’s list reflects consumers' desire to improve their gut health through food choices.
Ethnic flavors feature in Kerry’s 2021 predictions. While demand for global flavors has been on the upswing in recent years, limited travel and dining out have left consumers searching for novelty through cuisine. As a consequence, the pace of global flavors appearing in food applications is expected to intensify in 2021. GlobalData called out matcha and moringa as well as elderberry, cinnamon and rhubarb as candidates to become prominent in the United States. Kerry also highlighted piri piri, rosehip, lemongrass, nori and jerk seasonings as flavors to watch.
Indeed, manufacturers' challenge in 2021 will be to continue to strike a balance: Deliver comforting, familiar tastes while satisfying consumers' hankering for new and novel flavors as the world slowly emerges from the health crisis that defined 2020.