When people think of flavors for dairy, sweet flavor profiles such as chocolate, strawberry and blueberry typically come to mind. Fruity and chocolatey flavors have traditionally ruled the dairy aisle, turning yogurt, cottage cheese and cream cheese into indulgent treats and popular breakfast options.

The era of sweet flavors having a monopoly on the dairy category, however, is quickly coming to a close, as more spicy and savory flavors are making their way into the dairy aisle.

Why might this be? Most of the major flavor trends we’re seeing across categories are being driven by millennials, and this one is no exception. While a blueberry yogurt isn’t going to excite millennials, a pineapple chili or peach chipotle will.

Consumers are growing increasingly adventurous, so they’re not looking to buy standard flavors that have been popular for decades. With millennial consumers, eating is all about the experience. Ethnic flavors, for example, offer them the experience of another culture, while super-spicy flavors such as ghost pepper, offer them a challenge. It’s not just about eating anymore; it’s about experiencing, which is why these flavors that are not your typical dairy flavors have been popping up more in the dairy aisle.

While it might take older consumers a while to come around on savory and spicy flavor options for dairy, they typically tend to follow millennials’ lead and adopt these more adventurous options. They, too, are looking to shake things up and try new things, inspired by millennials’ desire to discover what’s new and what’s next.

The eating occasions surrounding dairy products are changing, too. Consumers are gravitating more toward snacking throughout the day instead of eating three full meals, so dairy products that are typically associated with breakfast — for example, yogurt — need to adjust to stay relevant with consumers.

Enter savory and spicy yogurts that can be used as dips for veggies, chips and crackers. These flavors take dairy out of the breakfast daypart and into the anytime snacking occasion.

From a technical standpoint, our dairy seasoning expert, food scientist Alyssa Chircus, notes that spicy flavors in dairy are really unique because fat is a good way to neutralize lingering heat on your palate.

“With a profile like habanero, it can deliver on heat upfront, while the fat from the base, like cheese, sour cream, yogurt, can cool off the palate right after. This could help make a spicy product more craveable with less burnout,” she explains.


Ethnic-inspired profiles

So where are we seeing the most potential for savory and spicy flavors?

Over the past few years, consumers have become more interested in the foods and flavors of other parts of the world. Millennials, in particular, are becoming more globally conscious citizens; they want to know what it’s like in Thailand, even if they’ve never been there. This trend has pushed Latin, Mediterranean and Asian food into the spotlight in recent years, and flavors from these regions translate particularly well to dairy.

More mainstream options such as pesto, cilantro lime, and Sriracha have been making appearances in yogurts, dips and cheeses, while more adventurous options such as harissa, gochujang and chimichurri might be on the horizon as the next big hits with millennials in the dairy aisle. We’ve even been seeing requests for spicy, ethnic inspired flavors for ice creams and milkshakes.


Fruit and pepper combinations

Although super-spicy flavors have been gaining in popularity, there are still consumers who shy away from spicy flavors. The best way to engage these consumers? Offer sweet-heat flavor combinations.

In dairy, sweet-heat flavors mix the familiar (fruity flavors) with the adventurous (spicy flavors), forcing consumers to step out of their comfort zones a bit, but not too much. We expect fruit and pepper combinations such as mango habanero, peach chipotle and apricot jalapeno to see gains in the coming months.


Light and ‘healthy’ flavors

A growing number of consumers are seeking out snacks and dairy products that meet certain requirements or claims, as they perceive them to be healthier. Whether or not these products actually are healthier is another story.

Certain spices such as turmeric, cumin and ginger, which have some possible health properties, have been popping up more and more in dairy. Similarly, other flavors and ingredients that are perceived to be healthy, including avocado, kale, citrus and sweet potato, have been increasing in menu item mentions and new product introductions in dairy and beyond.

Flavor trends are always changing and evolving. To stay in the know, follow Fuchs North America’s flavor trends blog.