Lori Dahm, technical editor
Familiar Excitement
The more things change, the more they stay the same, right?
We hear a lot about consumers being more food savvy than ever before, and that the culinary intelligence quotient of the public is increasing. Which leads one to believe that innovative new products must reflect the most exciting new flavor trends — exotic flavors like prickly pear and pomegranate.
In fact, if I had to name a flavor trend that is decidedly different, I would point to the pairing of hot and sweet. Or the “non-food” ingredients that are trendy flavors, like lavender or rosewater.
But do consumers really want an entirely new and different flavor? After conducting research for the flavors survey this month, I was struck by a comment from Paul Graffigna of Virginia Dare that consumers seek new flavors anchored in familiarity.
For example, dulce de leche has reached epic popularity because of its likeness to caramel. Or mango has become ubiquitous because of its similarity to peach.
And look at vanilla. It’s currently one of the most popular flavor introductions in fluid milks and dessert dairy products. The profile of vanilla is amazingly multifaceted; vanilla can mean ice cream milk shake vanilla or straight-ahead vanilla bean vanilla.
Conclusion? The most popular, nuanced flavor is one of the most beloved, tried-and-true flavors of all time. Even those trendy hot-and-sweet combinations are realizing the most success in the food most associated with comfort and familiarity — chocolate.
Although I’m an advocate of progress and change, this flavor reality check is an interesting twist. Maybe consumers want new and exciting, but only in small doses, or at least in a context of familiarity.