Trending naturality: Citrus, berries and flavors for meat alternatives thrive amid COVID-19 pressures
13 Jan 2021 --- The staple trend of ingredient naturality is becoming more pronounced as the COVID-19 health crisis has prompted consumers to opt for more natural flavors – associated with perceived healthful attributes.
FoodIngredientsFirst speaks with players in this arena, who hone in on the trending natural flavors of 2021. Both traditional and novelty flavors have a place in the market, as COVID-19 amplifies consumers’ need for comfort foods and tastes that help them “travel” via their senses.
“Naturality has been driving consumers’ flavor preferences for years. According to our research, 50 percent of European consumers declare they read more of the ingredient list than five years ago,” says Dominique Delfaud, director of marketing, sensory and consumer research at Mane.
“When submitted with a list of flavor ingredient options, natural flavorings always rank first. In consumers’ minds, naturality is linked to health and wellness, to sustainability and to an authentic taste experience,” Delfaud highlights.
2021 is a new opportunity to experiment with flavor combinations both familiar and novel, as well as those that signal health and wellness benefits, according to Hélène Moeller, director global product management, ADM.
“Signaling ingredients, like natural flavors, elevates functional products and indicates to consumers that the food or beverage may meet their wellness goals.”
Silvia Soragni, global savory product manager at Lallemand Bio-Ingredients, explains that there’s a market need to reconnect with natural ingredients.
“In a series of webinars organized by Lallemand Bio-Ingredients, we had the possibility to interact with industry players from different regions. To the question ‘How relevant is natural flavoring declaration for you,’ 63 percent of respondents indicated a preference for natural and 29 percent highlighted naturality as a selective characteristic when choosing a flavor.”
Botanicals at the center of taste
Megan Byrnes, marketing manager at Gold Coast Ingredients, says that botanical and fruit flavors, as well as natural flavorings for meat substitutes, will proliferate in 2021.
Red Velvet Fusions is one popular category. “Red velvet is back in a new form. In past years, natural red velvet cake flavor took the spotlight and moved into other bakery applications (cookies, muffins, etc.), dairy and nutrition products,” Byrnes says.
“More recently, red velvet started making an appearance in hot beverages. As a result, in 2021, we predict to see natural red velvet flavor infused into some of our other favorite flavors like red velvet hot cocoa flavor and red velvet cookies and crème flavor to give products an indulgent twist.”
“Banana 2.0” is one more natural flavor for which the company predicts growth in 2021. Natural banana flavor has proven to be a consumer favorite for many years, and companies have taken advantage of the staple flavor in their product lines.
“In 2020, we saw high demand for banana cream flavor, banana bread flavor, and banana pudding flavor. Due to its success, we think manufacturers will experiment further with banana in 2021 with natural flavors such as banana caramel, banoffee, banana cinnamon, banana peanut butter and banana marshmallow,” Byrnes notes.
For botanicals and fruits, Byrnes says that throughout 2020 industry saw a boom in hard seltzer beverages, which also escalated the natural botanical flavor trend, including elderflower, mint, hibiscus and lavender flavors.
“We also foresee the botanical trend proceeding through 2021 with innovative botanical and fruit flavor profiles like raspberry rose, watermelon mint, citrus hibiscus, peach elderflower, and blackberry lavender.”
For Mane’s Delfaud, turmeric will still be top of the list as an immunity booster favorite, along with ginger and ginseng.
“Saffron, cardamom and tonka will keep rising in 2021 as mysterious flavor icons, delivering a distinctive, exotic and luscious signature to our F&B products”
Citrus links to health
“In terms of trending natural flavors, Firmenich’s global Human Insights show that Citrus, Tropical Fruits and Berries are playing a greater role during COVID and expect this popularity to continue to grow in 2021,” notes Jeffrey Schmoyer, global head of human insights, Taste & Beyond at Firmenich.
ADM’s Moeller says that during colder months, we see benefits of the health halo associated with citrus flavors like orange, lemon and lime, which reflect the natural occurrence of vitamin C and antioxidants of the actual fruits to signal health benefits such as immune function support.
“Consumers are gravitating to the regionality of fresh fruits, such as Sicilian lemon and Valencia orange, as well as Asian-Pacific offerings like yuzu and calamansi.”
Additionally, Moeller says she sees consumers continuing their interest in fermented foods, and this is carrying over into citrus in formats like black limes and preserved lemons.
Citrus profiles will be leading in many categories, occasionally in combinations with other tropical fruits, or combined with herbs or ginger, adding some slightly bitter and spicy accents. This is according to Agneta Hoffmann, manager of marketing of flavors at Bell Flavors & Fragrances.
“Rosemary, thyme and all types of mint are adding variety into mentioned classic profiles,” she adds.
“Another natural flavor theme we’re noticing centers around fresh berries including blackcurrant, Maqui berry, elderberry and cranberry. These fruits can signal health benefits and provide a natural color source for rich, bold shades of red and purple,” says Moeller.
“Timeless flavors are prevalent this year, too, from refreshing mint to comforting vanilla. Peppermint, spearmint and mint extracts lend an awakening flavor to both permissible indulgences like ice cream and brownies as well as better-for-you meal replacement bars and herbal tea.”
“Meanwhile, the delicate taste and enticing aroma of vanilla make it the world’s most popular flavor. Vanilla pairs well with alternative dairy smoothies, protein shakes, baked goods, coffee drinks and so much more,” Moeller details.
She adds that with the ongoing pandemic hindering travel, consumers are looking to excite their taste buds with exotic flavors from around the globe. “We see increasing adoption of kumquat, cardamom, ginger, turmeric, garam masala, amba and curry on all spice levels. Both sweet and savory foods provide a blank slate to experiment with unique natural flavors.”
Bell’s Hoffmann explains that in 2021, natural flavors that are associated with a feeling of comfort, emotional and physical well-being and even nostalgia will be driving the F&B sectors.
“Hence, classical brown flavor profiles including chocolate, cinnamon and caramel along with vanilla, will stand out,” she says.
Flavorings for meat alternatives
As more vegan meat substitute products enter the marketplace, flavor innovation will follow, Byrnes states.
“Manufacturers have spent the past couple years introducing new plant-based products to the market such as vegan beef, chicken, sausage and seafood. At Gold Coast, our most popular savory flavors include vegan hamburger, beef, chicken, pork and seafood flavors.”
Next, we predict the vegan market is going to spice up their offerings with natural, vegan meat and heat flavors like vegan jalapeno bacon, hatch chili hamburger, chipotle chicken and Cajun shrimp flavors.”
The pandemic strongly influenced the way consumers analyze and evaluate their purchasing decisions, according to Hoffmann.
“Environmental concerns and a focus on healthier food options have put transparency and sustainability at the top of consumers’ minds.”
“One of the categories most accelerated by the pandemic is the plant-based meat market, reporting significant growth in 2020. Consumers’ shifting perceptions on sustainability and food safety have caused an increased interest in plant-based options, which will be a driver of innovation for the future,” Hoffmann concludes.
By Kristiana Lalou
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