Article: Finding Favor with Flavors -- October 2010
Cheryl Leach and Jacqueline Beckley, The Understanding & Insight Group LLC
After slow growth in the mid-2000s, the markets for flavoring products, including seasonings, spices and ethnic foods, are making comebacks. Flavors, it seems, are back and bigger than ever. Mintel (2010)
But, it is not just about value. A growing popularity of ethnic foods, and the awareness of health benefits of common herbs and spices found as ingredients in many ethnic foods, create the trifecta of opportunity for flavors. Most consumers know flavors can bring both excitement and, sometimes, benefit their health. There has also been new research supporting the existence of high levels of antioxidants in spicy and hot foods.
Spicy and Pungent Flavors Come of Age
As early as 2003, The U&I GroupÆ initiated research reported at this yearís IFT convention in Chicago. The research suggested ìDrivers of Consumptionî (which was part of the Getting ItÆ process for consumer understanding) and showed 63% of people were influenced by aroma, mood, flavor intensity and flavor impact, when asked about spicy and pungent flavors. Only 13% did not like spicy or pungent foods. The most frequent behaviors of these individuals included ìfamily orientedî and ìcurious about the world.î
As the more sophisticated researchers have found, researching and testing the area of spicy and pungent is ìvery tricky.î
Ethnic Foods Market
The flavor market has been boosted by international travel, as Americans are seeking to replicate their global culinary experiences. In the more prosperous years of the last decade, restaurants provided this cuisine; as the recession settled in, home chefs have become more common. 84% of those surveyed cooked at least one ethnic meal at home in the last month.
Medicinal Flavor and Seasoning Markets
ìSpices and seasoning will be the next generation of Superfoods.î
A recent article in Food Quality and Preference, by Reinbach, et al.,
The Fifth SenseñUmami
Over the last decade, the scientific community has accepted the idea of umami, which is defined as the fifth sense. This recognition has gone a long way to assist the food designer and chef in understanding the simple combination of the ìoriginal basic tastesî just gets better, when it is rounded out with the tastes of ingredients, such as mushrooms, meats, condiments and cheeses, to name a few.
So, what do companies like Archer Farms Chips and Frito Lay know about flavorings and taste? Over the last five or so years, both of these potato chip makers have been crafting flavors that allow consumers to travel to mysterious (Doritosí X-13D in 2007 and ìmystery flavorî in 2008) or foreign lands (Archer Farmsí General Tsoís and Greek-inspired potato chips, and Layís Chinese Beijing Duck or Canadian Fries & Gravy).
Rule of Five
It is important to gauge whether the new flavor or taste a developer has created is dovetailing with the hearts, minds and tongues of their consumers. These writers have developed a guideline called ìThe Rule of Five.î
1. Three times is the charm. Give the participants the opportunity to have three trials of your product. This means providing them with three servings, packages or tastings during successive days, during the time they are being denied their usual product. Remember to keep things realistic. For example, do not give someone three crackers, when testing crackers; give them three boxes. The goal is to promote use and reuse.
2. Understand, if you are there. Find out what the participants thought about the product, following the three-portion/-day/-event or -trial. Listen very well to what they are actually saying. If there are no fatal flaws, move on to step three.
3. Do I miss you? Does the absence of a particular taste or flavor make people think about it positively? Did the developers create something memorable? Or, is it too common or too much like the less-valuable brands on the market?
4. Do they want it again? Will people want to purchase or use the product two more times? If so, the product may have enough ìstickî to perhaps become the next Meyer Lemon or Chipotle flavor.
5. So, the ìRule of Fiveî is: After five experiences with the product, consumers either hate it (or they hated it on the first try and never got to two), or they really know how they feel about this product; they like it and want more.
While there is a lot of observational and behavioral science supporting the ìRule of Five,î it also has the benefit of being a good, fast way to predict the most important reason for creating new and interesting products-repeat purchases. John Prescott, a leader in the study of flavor, has emphasized that, when trying to understand tastes and flavors, a cognitive/perceptual interpretation of measurement is important. Thus, as one looks to make and design compelling flavors and tastes, keep the concept of desire for that taste in mind. pf
The Under-standing & Insight Group is a product, strategy and business development firm dedicated to measurably increasing brand and product value by understanding deeply-held consumer motivators and deftly integrating them with pertinent business knowledge. The company specializes in the front-end development of consumer-desired products and services. Jacqueline Beckley, left, president and founder, excels as an innovator, insight integrator and new business developer. Cheryl Leach, project manager, concentrates on consumer product research. They can be reached at: 973-328-9107, Cheryl@theuandigroup.com or Jackie@theuandigroup.com; website: www.theuandigroup.com.