Core flavors peak in uncertain times, but consumers open to “twists” on classics, says Synergy Flavours
30 Mar 2023 --- For many consumers, core flavors offer a sense of nostalgia. Many grew up with flavors such as chocolate, strawberry and vanilla, which can offer a sense of contentment and familiarity.
FoodIngredientsFirst speaks with Paola Bassi, marketing director for Europe at Synergy Flavours, who discusses the evolution of traditional flavors amid economic pressures and why twists on these tastes are essential to innovation.
Synergy Flavours expects to see continued popularity of traditional flavors during times of economic uncertainty, but Bassi also flags that it is likely that consumers will new flavor combinations or experiment with flavors from different global cuisines to “enjoy new and exciting food and beverages during a time when purse strings are tightened.”
“Traditional favorites such as vanilla, chocolate and strawberry will continue to bring consumers comfort now and in years to come and there is no sign that demand will decline,” Bassi details.
“However, it is important that manufacturers stay one step ahead, and continued innovation with core flavors means ensuring that quality is upheld and consumer interest remains high.”
“This could include offering new and exciting twists on traditional core flavors or working with flavor specialists to ensure that new products deliver the very best flavors that consumers have come to expect.”
For example, Cadbury launched its Darkmilk chocolate bar at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, which “was met with intrigue and enthusiasm by consumers,” states Bassi, adding how this twist on traditional chocolate was well-received despite its release during a time of crisis.
However, that is not to say that consumers will be less adventurous in their tastes, she underscores. “During the peak of the 2008-9 economic crisis, private label drove increased launches of European food and beverage products, which saw a 22% rise in 2009.”
Popularity of “staple” flavors
Historically, Neapolitan ice cream has been a staple in many UK and US households, featuring the three most popular flavors of chocolate, strawberry and vanilla, all in one tub.
Meanwhile, in beverages, citrus flavors such as lemon and orange have maintained popularity, so many users associate these flavors with a sense of normality.
Bassi notes that “it is not to say that core flavors have to be boring, and their continued popularity could be down to several factors.”
“These could include consumers returning to favored childhood flavors for comfort, or manufacturers innovating in fresh new twists on traditional flavors to offer consumers an elevated and updated flavor experience.”
Dairy continues to lend itself well to core flavors, particularly in terms of desserts, with items such as ice cream, cheesecake and mousse offering an ideal format for consumers to enjoy creamy strawberry, vanilla and chocolate flavors.
“Sports nutrition is another area of application, as items such as whey protein shakes can possess creamy/dairy notes which also work well with more indulgent core flavors,” adds Bassi.
Bakery can also benefit from core flavor innovation, and Synergy Flavours frequently sees vanilla and chocolate flavors appearing across sweet baked goods such as cakes, pastries and biscuits.
“Single flavors done well”
One trend Synergy Flavours has seen across all categories where sweet flavors are used is “single flavors done well,” Bassi outlines.
“Although manufacturers innovating with new and exciting flavor combinations are seeing real success in NPD, products that rely on just one flavor continue to perform well in supermarkets.
For example, a product may showcase provenance claims such as ‘British strawberries,’ ‘Belgian chocolate,’ or ‘Madagascan vanilla’ to position itself as more premium.”
According to Bassi, core flavors are “retaining popularity” in various ways, one of which is by offering twists on traditional flavors and through exciting flavor combinations.
“We’ve discussed how some manufacturers may look at offering ‘single flavors done well,’ where single flavors are elevated to more premium positioning through provenance claims,” she explains.
“Provenance and species can also allow manufacturers to offer consumers a spin on core flavors such as vanilla, as different geographical varieties of this ingredient can present different flavor experiences due to their unique aromas.”
Variations of vanilla and chocolate
Madagascan vanilla, or Madagascan Bourbon vanilla as it’s commonly known, is the variety most consumers will be familiar with and possesses sweet, creamy, rich and tobacco-like aromas.
Indonesian vanilla, meanwhile, is less sweet and creamy than its Madagascan cousin, with more woody and smoky aromas. Bassi says Mexican vanilla offers a “deeper and creamy, sweet, profile with warm spice notes, while the Vanilla tahitensis species has distinct perfumed and floral notes.”
Ugandan vanilla has more earthy and chocolate notes. “By harnessing the different notes each regional vanilla can offer, manufacturers can offer consumers a classic vanilla flavored product with a unique angle, depending on which region the vanilla flavor is sourced from,” she elaborates.
“For example, the chocolate notes in the Ugandan vanilla could work well within an indulgent hot chocolate product, while the light floral notes in Vanilla tahitensis could perform well in light pastries.”
Equally, manufacturers will also see success in offering unique and fun twists on traditional flavor favorites such as chocolate.
“Chocolate flavor combinations are not new by any means, with classic combinations such as chocolate orange or mint chocolate retaining popularity year on year, but more recently, we have seen unique twists,” Bassi reveals.
For example, Ritter Sport released a cherry and almond chocolate bar, while Cadbury has seen popularity with its Easter-inspired hot cross bun flavored Dairy Milk chocolate bar.
“A recent competition also hosted by Cadbury saw even more interesting flavors paired with milk chocolate – including rhubarb and custard, and blue raspberry slushie to offer consumers an exciting variation of a traditional favorite.”
Indulgent flavors rise in sports nutrition segment
Dessert flavors see continued success within the sports nutrition space, according to Synergy Flavours, and this again comes back to consumers looking for nostalgia and indulgence in their F&B choices.
The nutrition aspect of these products means that many consumers view sports nutrition as a “healthy indulgence.” Many manufacturers have leaned into this with flavors like sticky toffee, butterscotch, millionaires’ shortbread and cookies and cream across NPD.
“However, as well as consumers reaching for the more indulgent, dessert-like flavors, we have also seen an interest in other areas, such as cold brew teas, which are popular with Millennials,” notes Bassi.
“The increasing popularity of clear whey protein powders offers an ideal format for these lighter and more refreshing flavors, and we see an increase in flavors such as peach tea. Other flavors with the potential for growth in popularity include chai latte, jasmine tea, matcha or white tea and guava.
Bassi believes that sports nutrition is a space where consumers seem “more willing to push their flavor boundaries, as 25% of UK consumers said they found yuzu an appealing flavor in a sports nutrition drink, compared with only 10% in soft drinks.”
“With this in mind, tropical flavors continue to rise in popularity, and we may start to see flavors such as pandan and coconut, lychee and dragonfruit appearing across NPD as consumers branch out from traditional mango and passionfruit offerings and broaden their horizons with new tropical tastes,” she states.
Interestingly, Bassi adds that not all is sweet in the sports nutrition market, “as 90% of sports nutrition consumers have shown an interest in some form of savory protein or energy bar.”
While this is still a small segment of the overall market, she concludes that the concept is being introduced to wider audiences as a range of high-profile wellness and nutrition brands.
By Elizabeth Green
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