Kerry North America Releases 2018 Flavor Charts

As current flavor trends grow stronger or lose steam, a few surprising new ones are gaining attention in the food and beverage market

 Kerry’s 2018 Flavor Charts are part of a future-focused review of currently trending flavors and the most anticipated flavors of the near-future. Our predictions for 2018 characterize the large movements and subtle trends shaping the food and beverage flavor landscape of America.

At the end of each year, we conduct an annual review of the food and beverage flavor landscape, utilizing sales performance, consumer trends, foodservice influences and endorsements from our internal culinary experts to predict flavors for the coming year. The favor charts program has a rich heritage, spanning over a decade, of providing the industry and our customers a proprietary view into our predictions for sweet, beverage, savory and salty snacks. What can you expect when you download the 2018 Kerry Flavor Charts?

Authentically Ethnic Flavors
This year will bring further specificity to the origin of flavors as consumers seek truly authentic flavor experiences. Consumer thirst for authentic experiences has generated a surge of unique flavors and blends that are true to the cuisine. Simmering over the last few years, Asian cuisines including Korean, Filipino and Indian are now primed to take America by a storm. Flavor blends unique to these cuisines will offer consumers a new level of authentic sophistication. For example, Korean Gochujang saw a 100% increase in launches between 2016 and 2017 and Indian Tandoori spice has grown 133% in the last year, according to Mintel. Moroccan Za’atar, a blend of hyssop, sumac, sesame and salt, and Ethiopian Berbere, which is made of chili peppers, garlic, ginger, basil, korarima, rue, ajwain or radhuni, nigella and fenugreek, are other flavors that have made their way into the American hearts.

Functional Health through Adaptogenic Herbs and Fungi
Consumers are looking for new and natural methods to achieve nutritional and emotional balance through food and beverages. Super herbs and functional ingredients will answer this need in the coming year. Turmeric is the super spice with multiple medicinal benefits—it’s anti-inflammatory, contains antioxidants, is a mood elevator and more. Turmeric has seen 176% growth on menus over the last four years, according to Datassential, and Nielsen reports a 117% sales growth in turmeric-infused beverages over the last two years. Ginger has experienced similar growth in beverages, worth almost $200 million in sales in the last year alone, says Nielsen. Maca is another adaptogen growing in popularity, thanks in part to its marketing as having a positive effect on hormone balance, energy levels and health. Other ingredients with health benefits are emerging, especially in beverages. These include moringa, ashwagandha, ginseng and holy basil.

Flavors are Heating Up
Heat has piqued American taste buds for over a decade, slowly creeping up in importance on menus. The coming year we will see a myriad of hot flavors of exotic origin. While Sriracha was all the rage a few years ago, it has become a key spice across many product categories, with a 54% growth in launches over the last two years, according to Mintel. Sriracha has paved the way for new and exotic spices to take center stage in 2018. Mintel reports Filipino adobo had a 133% increase in launches in the last year alone, and piri piri experienced a 67% increase in launches between 2016 and 2017. Heat is even growing as a surprise flavor in beverages and sweet as well, from black peppercorns in desserts to ancho chili in cocktails.

Comfort from Nostalgic Flavors
Smoke is nostalgic, bringing with it a sense of comfort along with bold new flavors and techniques. While natural hardwood smoke remains the mainstream smoke flavor of choice—worth almost a billion dollars in retail products alone in 2017, according to Nielsen—hickory and applewood smoke are gaining popularity on menus. We predict more chefs will push the envelope on this nostalgic favorite by using tea and coffee when smoking meats. Smoke has also made its way into desserts: There’s been a 150% growth in launch activity in the last year, according to Mintel and a 27% growth in smoky cocktails on menus, per Datassential.

Clean Label Extends into Flavors
With over 75% of consumers curious to learn more about the ingredients used in food and beverage products, clean label has delivered a new challenge to the food industry: To meet consumers’ desire for organic, GMO-free and artificial-free food and beverages. This movement toward real and wholesome ingredients and flavors has created high interest in coconut as a flavor, a base and an ingredient. Coconut has established itself as a mainstream flavor in beverages, experiencing a 10% growth over the last two years in launches according to Mintel, and a 26% sales growth in savory foods over the last two years, as reported by Nielsen.

Learn more about our authors

Related content: