Consumer Flavor Trends

Posted by Patrick Maness +

It may seem as though there's no end to the number of food trends. Some, like fancy cupcakes with two to three inches of frosting, aren’t really surprising. Others, like the raw-food trend that ignited for a brief moment seven or eight years ago, are pretty confusing.  

For all the strange, delicious, novel and surprising concoctions that arrive on restaurant menus and grocery shelves, one thing is certain: Even though we live in a time when more flavors and more varieties of food are available than at any point in history, people are still looking for something new to eat. 

Much of what drives food culture is a desire to try new things. Increasingly, consumers are not only open to trying new foods, but think eating should be a fun experience. This is particularly true with millennials, whose curiosity with spices and flavors often drive fringe trends to the mainstream.

You might wonder what will be the next Sriracha, salted caramel or fish taco, and you might guess close once in a while. But there is something of a science to predicting what the next big food item will be.

A conference

Each year, the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) holds its annual meeting and food exposition. This year it was held in Chicago from July 16–19. Dubbed as the event “where science feeds innovation,” scientists, marketers and food professionals from over 90 countries met to discuss and explore what might be the next popular food or flavor.


Apples, oranges, berries and bananas are among the two dozen or so varieties that make up the majority of fruit sold and eaten in the U.S. Every now and then some hot new variety — such as acai or goji berries — makes an appearance. 

Some are predicting the next popular fruit might be soursop, a spiny, thick-skinned fruit that grows in many Latin American countries with a flavor similar to strawberry and pineapple, plus a creamy texture reminiscent of coconut.

Not only does it have a familiar flavor, but some believe this fruit may be an alternative cancer treatment. Though researchers dispute these claims, they may be enough to attract new consumers and promote sales.


America has come a long way from its bland Northern European culinary heritage. Discovering new spices, whether for flavor or heat, is a regular pastime for many people, and the food industry has responded. Enter harissa, a spice that has been generously used throughout the Middle East and North Africa for centuries, but only now is it reaching the kitchens of North America. Its spicy flavor profile is often combined with other spices such as cumin, coriander, caraway, mint and olive oil to create an aromatic paste primarily used in sauces.

Not just for drinking anymore

It’s not enough that people drink over a billion cups of coffee and tea each day; now, evidently, they want those same flavors in the food they eat. Coffee-flavored snacks, in the U.S. and Europe, continue to grow in popularity, particularly in ice cream and biscuits.

What many U.S. consumers may not realize is just how popular tea-flavored foods are. Last year, global launches of tea-flavored yogurt increased by 100 percent; tea-flavored chocolate grew by 93 percent and savory snacks with tea flavoring increased by 30 percent, according to Innova Market Insights.

Though this flavor profile is still growing, it’s important to note that coffee and tea flavorings tend to be restricted to snacks and desserts. They haven’t quite made their way into the main courses of restaurant menus.

In this series of blogs, we’ll take a look at some of the other growing trends and what the forecast is for some old favorites. The posts will cover:

What’s so hot about hot dogs?

If you were to make a list of the most iconic American foods, surely hot dogs would be on there. They are an essential part of being a kid, they play a role in any good baseball game and summer wouldn’t be summer without them. It's no wonder they are the latest craze. From all-Angus beef hot dogs to those served up by celebrity chefs, hot dogs are being reinvented to be more delicious than ever. 

Finding the new global inspiration

From pizza to Pad Thai, America has had a long love affair with international cuisine. Along with adopting the national dishes of many countries, we are also catching onto hot food trends around the world. We’ll take a look at some of these foods and how they can fit into your menu.

What’s going on in the bakery?

We’ve talked a lot about the kitchen, but what about the bakery? From well-established options, such as low-carb bread, to foods that seem like the stuff of science fiction, (think: 3D-printed pancakes), we’ll look at the weird and the wonderful innovations happening in bakeries across the country. 

Rainbow foods

Even if you haven’t heard of the rainbow food trend, you can probably imagine what it is. Multi-colored bagels, donuts, grilled cheese sandwiches and more have been making colorful, tie-dyed appearances throughout the country. Some are intrigued, others freaked out. Is this just a novelty or something to appeal to the kid in each of us? We’ll take a look.

These blogs will offer insight into many food-industry trends and prepare you to serve inspiring dishes that excite guests and get them talking — when they aren't busy eating.

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