It’s usually around this time of year, as the leaves start to change and the weather gets colder, that consumers begin engaging in more permissible indulgence, reaching for their favorite desserts and comfort foods. Although there’s certainly been a push toward health and wellness in recent years, consumers are still craving nostalgic, indulgent foods and flavors, especially in times of stress.

And let’s face it, 2020 has been stressful, making it even more likely that consumers will be seeking out these foods and flavors. Here, we break this trend down for you and serve up some seriously good flavor inspiration for translating this trend to dairy products.


Indulgently delicious

Standing in stark contrast to health and wellness trends, super-indulgent foods and flavors are on the rise. While this trend hasn’t received nearly the attention that the clean eating trends have, consumers have been gravitating toward a “treat yourself” mentality, where foods with super-indulgent flavors and ingredients are in demand.

For many consumers, snacking is meant to be a treat, so they’re looking for foods and flavors that really feel like just that. Unsurprisingly, dessert-inspired flavors are some of the most popular options for indulgent flavors, especially for ice cream and yogurt. Think strawberry cheesecake, red velvet cake and cookie butter.

Taking advantage of seasonal trends is a great way of adding an extra layer of nostalgia. Flavors such as apple pie, s’mores, pumpkin roll and sugar cookie allow consumers to both indulge and celebrate the season. From dairy-based beverages to cream cheese dips, these flavors work well in a variety of dairy applications.

Consumers are constantly seeking out what’s new and what’s different, so it’s important to stand out with unique product offerings. For example, take an indulgent dessert-inspired flavor for ice cream such as brownie, and pair it with other trending ingredients such as cayenne caramel brownie to grab consumers’ attention. This allows you to capitalize on ever-popular fan-favorite flavors while also bringing some innovation to the market.

It's not just desserts that bring indulgence, though. Look to confections and breakfast for more indulgent flavor options that are sure to delight consumers. Think peppermint patty for cream cheese dips and cinnamon roll for ice cream.


Comfort food favorites

Comfort food encompasses a wide range of dishes, and each region or country may have its own set of comfort foods. What is it that makes a food a “comfort food”? These are the foods that we grew up with, foods that make us feel nostalgic. They’re foods that feel inherently good because they remind us of home.

Perhaps that’s why we tend to turn to comfort foods in times of stress. For a while, comfort foods were trending primarily in fall and winter, but now we’re seeing comfort food items in retail and foodservice all year long. Consumers like products that turn eating into an experience, and comfort foods do just that by offering a nostalgic experience. Not only that, but because comfort foods are typically perceived to be homemade, they’re oftentimes perceived to be healthier they actually may be as well.

Comfort food dishes and flavors such as pot roast, chili with cornbread, and grilled cheese and tomato soup remind consumers of their childhoods. Consumers are looking for a modern, innovative take on these popular and iconic dishes, so consider offering a new and unique spin on a classic comfort food favor to truly delight them.

Deliver all the comfort consumers crave, but with trendier ingredients and flavors. There are entire restaurants, for example, that are dedicated to making modern takes on mac and cheese that include trendier ingredients such as sriracha, olives, Indian spices and Gruyere.

Classic dairy-forward comfort foods such as pizza, mac and cheese, and loaded nachos are particularly well-suited for dairy products such as sour cream dips, cheese and cheese-based sauces. Feature classic flavors as they are, but in a new and exciting application, or offer a trendy twist on them to attract younger trend-conscious consumers.

Comfort food is a hallmark of Southern cuisine. Consumers are continuing to seek out more regional dishes and flavors, so consider drawing inspiration from around the country.

It’s no surprise that foods and flavors such as shrimp and grits, biscuits and gravy, and chicken and waffles have been on the rise in foodservice and retail. These regional favorites can serve as inspiration for your next cheese rub or sour cream-based dip.

Feeling more adventurous? Globally inspired comfort foods are on the rise as well, and consumers are seeking out ethnic-inspired flavors in a variety of applications. Flavors such as Tikka Masala and Irish stew are a triple threat: They’ve got that comfort food factor; they’re globally inspired; and they’re particularly indulgent. Offer an ethnic comfort-food inspired flavor to elevate any dairy product comfort-food status.

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