HOUSTON — At this year’s SNAXPO conference, SNAC International’s annual meeting held March 19-22 in Houston, McCormick & Co., Inc., presented its Flavor Forecast for 2016. The Flavor Forecast is developed each year by McCormick’s global team of experts — chefs, culinologists, food technologists and trend trackers — and details the latest food trends of the year. Brian Jorgensen, category insights manager, and Nancy Farace, food insights strategist, presented McCormick’s report to snack producers as a way to incorporate these trends and ingredients into new products.
The Flavor Forecast identified six trends that focused on sophisticated spices, Asian flavors and better-for-you ingredients: heat and tang, tropical Asian, alternative pulse proteins, blends with benefits, ancestral flavors and culinary-infused sips.
Heat and tang is the future of spicy, combining chilies with tangy accents such as lime or rice vinegar.
“Chilies don’t have to be just hot,” Jorgensen said.
Consumers are exposed to more and more diverse flavors and expect heat with flavor, he continued.
This heat and diversity of flavor ties directly into another trend in the forecast: tropical Asian. This trend focuses on flavors from the Philippines and Malaysia. Both of these regions combine spicy with tart and layer a variety of flavors, providing consumers with complex profiles they are looking for. These regions feature ingredients such as coconut, vinegar, fish sauce, turmeric and lemongrass.
A little less exotic, but still gaining traction, is the ancestral flavors trend, which aims to bring native ingredients into modern-day snacks. Ancient herbs, which include old stand-bys thyme, peppermint, parsley, lavender and rosemary, can lend tradition and comfort to modern snacks. The ancient grain amaranth is high in fiber, protein and free from gluten and brings new texture and nutty flavor to the scene. And Mezcal is tequila’s more interesting cousin, a smoky Mexican liquor made from the agave plant.
Nutrition persists in the Flavor Forecast in the form of two trends: blends with benefits and alternative pulse proteins. Blends with benefits takes the flavor trend the extra mile with added nutritional benefits such as matcha, chia, flaxseed and turmeric.
“These herbs and spices add everyday versatility to good-for-you ingredients,” Farace said.
With the Food and Agricultural Organization naming 2016 the year of the pulses, McCormick thought it was no better time to include alternative pulse proteins to the Flavor Forecast. Pulses are dried beans, peas, chickpeas and lentils. They may be added to a range of applications, including trail mix, crisps, cereal and pasta, delivering their protein content to the finished product.
The final trend in the Flavor Forecast, culinary-infused sips, focused on beverages, which had little attachment to the snack industry. These trends took culinary methods such as pickling, roasting and bruleeing to beverages.
With this knowledge of the next big flavors and ingredients, snack producers can adapt to changing tastes and deliver excitement in their categories.