Find inspiration with our 2020 flavor trends
The consumer love affair with trying novel flavors is still going strong into 2020 as demand for taste innovation continues to grow. According to the recent Technomic US Flavor Consumer Trend Report, 66 percent of consumers like trying new flavors, while close to 40 percent define “new” as simply a twist on the familiar. We’ve compiled the trends below for your inspiration as you develop applications in 2020.
An extension of the nostalgic trend of the past decade, childhood favorites and child-adulthood hybrids will be popular going forward. These profiles are associated with happiness, positive taste memories, and childhood bliss. Our Forever Young flavor theme draws on this, with flavor collections that include Candy Classics, Lemonades, Cereal Milks, Carnival Classics, and Upscale Desserts. From fruity cereal milk to gummy bear to PB&J/s’mores fusion, we have a portfolio to please your inner child that’s here to stay.
You can’t go wrong with the classics. Similar to the practice of merging familiar flavors with unique or exotic flavors, elevating a classic adds a sophisticated twist to popular profiles like vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, caramel, banana, maple, and coffee. Upgraded examples include vanilla tarragon blackberry, espresso chocolate crunch, maple chai spice, strawberry mint rosé, and caramel banana flambé.
Spiced to Sell
Spiced profiles are not just for seasonal launches! Sweet spices begin to move beyond limited-time offers to year-round options, paired with chocolate, vanilla, maple, and fruit flavors for added complexity. Think chai apple cider, clementine cardamom, spiced cranberry lime, vanilla anise, maple cinnamon, grapefruit allspice, and spiced rum caramel.
These nuanced flavors bring complexity with supporting background notes to your formulations. Toasted coconut and marshmallow flavors, brûléed grapefruit, smoked cocktail mixers, barrel-aged condiments, creamed honey, and spiced energy drinks offer new product options that build on the familiar.
Consumers not only enjoy the flavor of fermented foods – they view these products as healthful and natural. This soaring trend, along with bitter, sour, and tart profiles in general, is emerging in categories beyond flavored vinegars, varietal citrus, sour berries, and fermented drinks. We predict more tonics, cocktails, beers, condiments, sweet treats, and savory foods blended with a touch of sour. A few flavors ideas are sour blueberry-cherry shrub, cranberry ginger switchel, pomelo limoncello, and mango mojito kombucha.
These subtle flavors – which include florals, spices, and herbs – are continuing to develop with more mainstream opportunities. Our Taste Improvement platform offers nuanced botanicals that pair well with fruits in seltzers, cocktails, waters, fermented beverages, frozen desserts, and other popular categories.
Follow the Functionals
As consumers seek ingredients that promote cellular repair, support different body functions, and naturally ease symptoms, a liking for the inherent flavor of those ingredients typically follows. The popularity of turmeric, matcha, açaì, and ginger will continue. Our research indicates a bright future for elderberry (high in antioxidants), nutty and fatty profiles (healthy fats from nut oils, coconut, avocado, and chia), mints (such as peppermint for digestion and allergies), and all things fermented and sour (associated with gut health).
Flavor profiles that celebrate the earth and other natural elements is a new trend for 2020. These tastes bring awareness to climate change, loss of species, and sustainability. Mushrooms, beet, tea, figs, pine, and turmeric to name a few. An adjacent trend is the development of products inspired by the planet’s natural phenomena: ice cream mudslides, chocolate lava-flow cake, pop-rock earthquake shakes, chocolate-covered cherry magma, and layers-of-the-earth cake.
Hybrid and fusion flavors are limited only by our imagination. Category crossing continues to create exciting, complex flavor experiences, especially in beverages and desserts. We predict more growth in cream liqueurs (fused with spiced rum to plant-based cream), sparkling wine kombucha, carbonated coffee, functional dessert dips (like a black bean brownie batter), and sweet floral fusions, such as chamomile crème brûlée.
Vegan Latte Love
The plant-based dairy category continues to mature with new products. We expect new varieties of oat-, almond-, and coconut-based RTD coffee, tea lattes, and creamers – both liquid and powdered — in 2020 that feature both classic and exciting flavor profiles, from botanicals to unique dessert inspirations. We’ve developed a range of vegan coffee or tea lattes including a London Fog latte (oatmilk, black tea, bergamot, vanilla, lavender), a rose mocha latte (coconut milk, cold brew, cocoa, rose blossom), a maple masala chai latte (cold brew, maple, chai spice blend), and a keto-friendly avocado matcha latte (matcha, almond milk, avocado oil, MCT oil).
Low/No Alcohol RTD cocktails
Driven by mindful consumers, the demand for and innovation of low alcohol beverages and zero proof cocktails continues in 2020. A newfound love for prosecco, cava, and cuvee extend to the low/no alcohol sector, similar to rosé. Ready-to-drink zero proof cocktails offer unique flavors and functionality, such as a sour shrub spritzer, ginger and tonic, or a botanical Bellini. Both our Taste Foundations and Taste Improvement platforms offer flavors that provide a kick without alcohol.
To reduce plastic consumption, eco-friendly and convenient canned ready-to-drink beverages will continue to crush it: flavored and unflavored water, seltzer of all kinds, and coffee and tea concoctions. Bet on more re-sealable can innovation, too.
There are several new canned coffee cocktails and spiked lattes on the market with both traditional dairy and plant-based dairy – we expect this category to flourish. Cold brew, nitro, and specialty brews with enticing flavors can be a hit with coffee and alcohol drinkers alike; salted caramel bourbon macchiato, maple spiced rum latte, and a hazelnut liqueur moccaccino are a few of our ideas. Similarly, RTP and RTD cream liqueurs begin their elevation with more sophisticated flavors, such as fruit and cream, cocoa cardamom, chai horchata, and Meyer lemon poppy cake.
To Niche Their Own
We anticipate an increase in lifestyle and targeted nutrition with hyper-personalized and customized products in 2020. The functional fruits, spices, and botanicals in our Taste Improvement platform can improve sensory impact and achieve preferred taste for products that target specific nutritional needs.
Following an upscaling in recent years, marshmallow enters its third wave! Providing a neutral canvas that adapts well to unique pairings, usage of both animal-gelatin and plant-based marshmallow will intensify. We expect more artisanal varieties and plant-based options to take hold in functional applications (keto snacks), nutritional delivery systems (fortified creamer mallows), and added to desserts for textural pleasure. Side note: s’mores is a great innovation platform: three textures, three flavors, and memories associated with childhood, social gatherings, and fun! We see the flavor profile continue its category crossing and note opportunity for customization – strawberry marshmallow, vanilla bean white chocolate, sandwiched between waffle cone crackers anyone?
Consumers continue to search out foods and flavors with a focus on well-being. We predict sports nutrition will continue to expand to mainstream products as consumers gravitate toward food-not-pharma in search of holistic health products. Grain-free, microbiome gut health, whole food powders, shakes, and supplements are expected to increase throughout 2020.
It’s Nut What It Seems
Plant-based innovation will remain strong this year, providing more vegetable alternatives such as mushroom jerky, nut cheese, and legume seafood. These newly created categories help mainstream consumers eat more healthful foods and offer more choices for vegan and vegetarian consumers.
We’re wishing everyone a happy and prosperous new year as we head into our new Roaring Twenties. Virginia Dare is committed to leading the way in flavor trends and delivering preferred taste for our customers. Contact us to learn how our expert flavorists and food scientists can help you develop delicious applications that capitalize on these trends.