Hispanic flavors made particular headway in terms of product launches and store sales in recent years, not in the least due to a growing Hispanic market, which accounts for $863 billion in spending power, according to Erin O’Donnell, marketing manager with David Michael, who spoke at the company’s Innovation Roadshow. Foods authentically catering to Hispanic flavor expectations have room to grow in convenience and healthier options, but, most importantly, O’Donnell stressed that “Hispanic” encompasses much more than Mexican fare. Quoting Prepared Foods, she cited South American cuisine’s preference for green peppers, onions, tomatoes, coriander and annato in seafood, poultry and pork. Central American cuisines implement tomatoes and onion, with a sparing use of chilis. Instead, raisins, olives, red pimentos, hard-boiled eggs and chocolate are key flavor profiles in these dishes. Caribbean dishes, meanwhile, incorporate root vegetables (yucca, malanga, yam, okra and black-eyed peas), as well as seafood, pork and poultry--roasted, grilled or fried.

Emerging Flavor Trends

The sixth edition of David Michael’s Innovation Roadshow saw an in-depth examination of the emerging trends facing the food and beverage industry. In the process, O’Donnell identified the top 30 flavors in foods and beverages, based upon September 2007-September 2008 data from Mintel GNPD. Food launches included such tried-and-true staples as chocolate, strawberry, vanilla and apple, along with less-traditional flavors, such as chili pepper and mango.

Among the trends impacting flavors specifically in recent years has been the Superfruit/Superfood phenomenon, namely incorporating flavors associated with health. Blueberry, cranberry, pomegranate, açai, goji, redcurrant/blackcurrant and dragonfruit have all been marked as Superfruits popular with consumers. Emerging Superfruits include yumberry, lingonberry, mangosteen, camu camu, acerola, noni and jujubes (red date) in the near term. Looking ahead, she expects baobab, chokeberry (aronia), bilberry, cloudberry, hawthorn, longan, Indian gooseberry, barberries and sea buckthorn to come into prominence a bit further down the road.

At the same time, the emergence of varietal and exotic citrus flavors has seen yuzu, Meyer lemon, cara cara oranges, kumquat, blood orange, pomelo, key lime, bergamot and kaffir lime leaf in recent launches.

Beverage introductions have seen a similar diversification in flavor. While the mainstays of orange, apple and lemon reside in the top three spots, mango has surged to become the fourth most-popular flavor in new beverages, according to Mintel GNPD. Pomegranate finished a surprisingly low 13th, only 10 introductions ahead of the seemingly mature cola flavor. Standouts in the top 30 included passionfruit/maracuja (with 326 introductions), mint (243), blackcurrant/cassis (204) and carrot (180). Many of those beverage flavors have an aura of positive health benefits, a topic that O’Donnell also explored.

Some 69% of Americans are following a “preventive” lifestyle, she has discovered, with particular attention to immunity, fiber and gut health. The latter had been behind the growth of probiotics, but that is an area expanding to include immunity and other health benefits.

In terms of product claims, Mintel GNPD finds “no additives/preservatives” far and away the leader among claims in new products launched between September 2007-September 2008, some 7,600 launches ahead of second-place “kosher.” “Low-/no-/reduced-fat” items took third, with “organic” a close fourth. Green/environmentally friendly product introductions comprised a sizable contingent of launches, with 19,000 touting “no additives/preservatives,” 9,000 organic items, 7,500 all-natural products, 6,700 vegetarian ones and 2,700 in “environmentally friendly package(ing).”

Consumers are concerned about the environment and are expected to remain so, but an economy in recession is likely to be their chief purchasing influence for the near future. At the time of the show, O’Donnell explained, Americans were spending an extra $100 per week on groceries, and restaurants were reducing the portion sizes on their dishes (an effort at controlling costs, certainly, but also a move that obesity experts had been demanding for some time). However, most importantly to the majority of manufacturers, an economic crisis may well force consumers to curtail their dining-out expenditures and increase their at-home cooking. pf

--William A. Roberts, Jr., Business Editor

For more information:
David Michael • Philadelphia
Erin O’Donnell • 215-632-3100, ext. 1425
eodonnell@dmflavors.com • www.dmflavors.com