Future trend: Kokumi

In the past few years, consumers have become more and more aware of umami as the fifth taste. The savory flavor is abundant in high-glutamate foods such as tomatoes, meat and soy and has even showed up in restaurant names, such as Umami Burger.

“Meanwhile,” Mintel said, “Umami's lesser known sister taste, kokumi, has not yet entered the mainstream.”

Kokumi, translated from Japanese as “delicious,” provides a sense of balance and harmony in foods, Mintel said. The taste concept is associated with flavors achieved by slow-cooking, aging and ripening. It may be defined as a sense of richness, heartiness and complexity.

Ippudo, a New York-based ramen restaurant, offers a Miso-Glazed Hoku Hoku Potato dish that is high in kokumi. It includes potatoes, avocado, eringi mushrooms and tofu tossed in a spicy miso butter sauce all topped with a poached egg and cilantro.

“Kokumi can work synergistically with umami flavors as well as improve other attributes,” said Stephanie Mattucci, associate director of food service for Mintel.


Convincing consumers to accept the kokumi flavor profile may come down to how it is described in the menu, Mintel said, as 44 percent of consumers said they would be motivated to try an unfamiliar flavor if it has a detailed flavor description on the menu.

In the next five years, Mintel expects more chefs and scientists to turn to kokumi to create complex flavors. Yeast extract and fermented soy are kokumi-boosting ingredients that may be added to replicate the flavors of slow-cooking, add oiliness and richness to lower-fat foods and retain the salty sensation of a reduced-sodium snack.

“Operators should think about ways they can boost the overall deliciousness of their dishes while creating healthy offerings consumers are craving,” Mintel said. “We will see further research provide future operators with more tools in their arsenal to create the taste and mouthfeel of slow-cooked foods without the time investment.”