2 Jan 2019
The world of flavours is a very dynamic one. In this article, Catherine Vermeulen, Flavour Expert at Puratos, zooms in on international and regional trends and her vision on the future of flavours.
As a Flavour Expert, Catherine follows all the trends and developments in the market closely. Because of the global scale of her job, she’s able to see both regional and international trends. Catherine: “Trends in China, Europe and the US can be quite different. But as people travel more and more, regional trends travel with them.”
Trend 1: Matcha
A good example of one of these ‘travelling trends’ is the international matcha trend. Matcha is a type of Asian green tea. In Japan, it’s served during ceremonies following a specific ritual. It is a premium product and very expensive, it has a delicate taste and it’s now popular in all regions of the globe. We see a lot of matcha-flavoured products in Europe now, like soft drinks, macarons, cakes and ice cream.
Trend 2: Sweet, indulgent recipes
Another example of a regional trend conquering the world are the sweet, indulgent recipes like the ‘tres leche’. This caramel type of product originated in Latin-America and is now found in many syrups, fillings and toppings that are sold outside this region.
Trend 3: Rose (Middle East)
Rose (the flower) is a very traditional and well appreciated flavour in the Middle East. It hasn’t really travelled to other regions yet, but it could very well do that in the coming years.
Trend 4: Black sesame (Asia)
Another trend that is still quite regional is black sesame. This flavour is booming in Asia. Catherine expects it to reach other regions in the future, as many people who travel to Asia want to experience it again when they’re back home.
Trend 5: Natural products
One of the biggest and fastest-growing trends is the willingness of consumers to consume natural – or even organic – products. Therefore, the demand for natural flavours is also high. Especially in mature markets that have the required legal framework and the financial strength to go that way. Indeed, natural flavours are usually more expensive, but in Europe and the US a lot of consumers demand them and are willing to pay the extra costs. It’s not necessary, because artificial flavours are as safe as the natural ones (read the article “Flavours: more than just taste” to learn more about the purposes of flavours), but it’s an innate perception that natural equals ‘healthy’ or ‘better for me’.
In China, it’s still different. As Chinese legislation doesn’t define the distinction between natural and artificial flavours, officially claiming “with natural flavours” on the packaging of a product is not an option. Therefore, Chinese food producers very often rather go for a safe and sustainable solution, i.e. a non-natural flavour.
Trend 6: Honey
The increasing popularity of honey is closely related to the ‘contagious’ and growing interest of people for health & well-being. Honey has such a natural, healthy and positive image that it is expected to remain very successful all across the globe for a very long time.
Trend 7: Herbs and spices
The use of herbs and spices for flavouring is also a real trend. Their popularity is often related to a defined season, special celebrations, a specific location or a defined moment of consumption.
Herbs and spices can be used on their own. Cinnamon, which is present in almost every Christmas-dessert, is a good example of this. And the same goes for chai, which was once restricted to India, while it’s now possible to get a chai latte at every Starbucks in the world.
Another trend is combining spices and herbs with more traditional flavours, like basil & grapefruit, rosemary & raspberry, ginger & pineapple and pepper & strawberry. This can be a good way of introducing spices in a softer way in some markets or applications, perhaps as an intermediate step towards a completely new flavour.
Trend 8: Influences from other product categories
Catherine also keeps an eye on trends in other product categories. She doesn’t focus exclusively on the bakery, patisserie and chocolate products which Puratos is actively involved with, but also on other, more dynamic segments like interior design, fashion and soft drinks. Catherine: “These segments can really inspire us. An example from the world of soft drinks is cucumber, which – even if it is not that ‘sexy’ – I expect to pop up in patisserie one day as well, because of its fresh taste.
Or take the violet colour, which was once selected as colour of the year in interior design. Following that, many Asian countries started to use purple Ube roots to get that colour in every product. Ube-based violet cakes or creams started to pop up on the Asian market and reached US kitchens, shops and patisserie catalogues very fast.”
Trend 9: Savoury flavours
This might not be the biggest trend at the moment, but it’s certainly upcoming, and Catherine expects it to get really big one day. “Many people prefer savoury above sweet, so I think that developing more savoury recipes could be a great opportunity for Puratos. There are some examples already, like savoury biscuits (e.g. wasabi or chicken-wing flavoured Oreo’s) and of course chocolate with fried onions, sea salt or chili pepper. Don’t these examples whet your appetite?”
Besides the savoury flavours, Catherine is convinced that the flavouring sector will keep coming up with new ideas and flavour solutions that Puratos will be able to capitalise on. “I think the role of flavours will keep on growing in the future,” reflects Catherine. “Our current standards may even change. I’m thinking about using insect flour, proteins or oil for example. This is already very normal in Asia and Africa, and I expect that it will come to Europe as well, triggered by sustainability concerns and positive health aspects. But the taste of insects, which is very particular, can be quite polarizing, meaning that either you love it, or you hate it. So, to be liked by the average consumer, the taste will need to be tweaked; it will need flavouring to mask the unpleasant notes and to boost the pleasant ones.”
With its global presence, its willingness to fulfil the needs of customers all across the globe, and the desire to predict and be prepared for the future, Puratos is very active in collecting and sharing consumer and customer insights. To do that, Puratos regularly organises events, meetings and tasting sessions with customers, to exchange ideas on what will be relevant by 2020, 2025, 2030 and so on. Puratos also regularly runs huge consumer surveys, called Taste Tomorrow, taking different snapshots in each region, interviewing bloggers, chefs, trend-setters and consumers from all over the world.
Puratos also uses Sensobuses, Sensovans and Sensoboxes: ‘mobile research centres’ inviting consumers to select their preferred recipe or product. These ‘centres’ allow Puratos employees to understand how consumers react to a new product before it is commercialised, thus making sure only relevant products are launched.
With all the insights that the surveys and the Senso-centres give, Puratos is able to not only respond to current trends, but also to actively analyse or define upcoming trends. This allows us to both continuously adapt the taste of products to local preferences, and always be one step ahead, selling or promoting the most promising concepts and innovations to our customers.