In the coming year, product developers of meat and poultry products shouldn’t expect it to be enough to simply label an item as “Asian” or “Mediterranean” and expect consumers to be completely satisfied with the description. Consumers have become more educated about flavors. They recognized the specificity in flavor varieties and are looking for more healthy options.

Mintel International, Chicago, has named cardamom, sweet potato, hibiscus, cupuacu, rose water and Latin spices among the big flavors to watch in 2010. In addition, Lynn Dornblaser, new products analyst with Mintel, said bacon and mango are two other on-trend flavors.

“The overarching [flavor] trends we see are very similar from one year to the next,” Dornblaser says. “You see more ethnic flavors, you see stronger flavors and you also see flavors that have been niche flavors going mainstream.”

Cardamom is a spice used in many ethnic cuisines, including Indian and North African, but its applications are not limited to just ethnic cuisine. It also appears in both sweet and savory products – not just one or the other – and shows up in foods and beverages. All are reasons the flavor has broad applications.

Consumers also are still turning to the comfort of bacon.

Savory accents

“Bacon is showing up and becoming more popular again,” Dornblaser says. “We saw a lot of bacon four to five years ago. It fell out of favor, and here it is popping up again. For us, it’s on the list because it’s really indicative of consumers looking for strong flavors, looking for indulgence, looking for the anti-diet product.”
Dornblaser also attributes TV shows such as “Top Chef” to contributing to the popularity of bacon as it is often used on the program as a way of making any dish better.

Dornblaser says Latin flavors continue to be in demand, and the popularity is specifically in Argentinean cuisine, including chimichurri, and Peruvian cuisines.

With ethnic flavors, Dornblaser says the focus has shifted away from specific ethnic cuisines and more to an emphasis on general flavor profiles. For example, spicy curry is becoming a staple in Indian cuisine. Overall, she says, younger consumers are much more familiar with ethnic cuisines, and are interested in experimenting with the flavors they find interesting.

Andrew Bosch, technical sales manager with Gilroy Foods & Flavors, a division of Omaha-based ConAgra Foods Inc., says one of the biggest mega-trends he has seen with flavors is an emphasis on health and wellness. In addition, Bosch says he gets numerous requests for clean ingredient lines with fresh flavors with lowered levels of salt. New product developers don’t want their flavor profiles to have a long, complicated ingredient list.

Bosch says rib-eye and roasted-pork tenderloins have been flavor profiles he has been using to meet recent requests. He adds Mediterranean foods have become more popular as it goes well with the health and wellness halo. He says Mediterranean requests haven’t become too specific yet, although he is hearing some specific recognition of flavors from Morocco or Southern Italy.

Mediterranean cuisine has flavorful profiles, which Bosch says makes sodium reduction easier while maintaining flavor. Meanwhile, regional Asian flavors are increasing in popularity, with an emphasis on Thai, Vietnamese and Indian foods and flavors.

“We are getting exposed to more of the different regional profiles; we can tell the difference between a Vietnamese and a Thai [cuisine],” Bosch says. “We know the difference – our palates have been more educated to the different types of profiles.”

Bosch believes most flavors that may be tagged as healthy will continue to grow in popularity. While
superfruits are popular in beverages, he said it hasn’t taken as much of a hold in foods and savory foods specifically as these are foods where people look for familiarity. •

Allison Sebolt is Internet Editor of Food Business News, a sister publication of M&P.