January 2/Salem, Ore./Business Wire -- American palates now prefer sweet and smoky above other popular flavors, according to a Kettle Brand-commissioned national survey conducted in December. The company is predicting a new wave of flavor sensations for 2013, and this summer will launch at least one new flavor to appeal to the evolved consumer palate. Kettle Brand chief flavor architect Carolyn Ottenheimer, who has led innovation at the brand for 13 years, keeps an eye on the menus of the nation’s hottest restaurants, frequents specialty deli and food shops, and stays on top of international flavor trends. She sees five emerging flavor themes for the year ahead:

Sweet and Smoky (e.g., praline bacon with apple)
Hot (e.g., sriracha, habanero, wasabi)
Sweet and Salty (e.g., salted caramel, kettle corn)
Tangy (e.g., kim chi, pickles, kraut)
Floral (e.g., juniper, lavender, spruce shoots)

Results from Kettle Brand’s recent consumer survey show Americans agree. Some 58% of the nation prefers the combinations of sweet and smoky or sweet and salty, followed by 23% who crave hot flavors such as habanero or wasabi.

“Beyond these popular tastes, larger social trends are influencing the flavors Americans are craving,” said Ottenheimer. “There is a trend toward home-made, artisan and slow-cooked foods, as well as knowing where your food comes from, which impacts many of the up-and-coming flavor categories. Increased access to global flavors is also having a huge impact – what used to be considered exotic is now expected.”

Testing for Kettle Brand’s newest flavor is currently under way, and Ottenheimer predicts it just may be the next Salt & Fresh Ground Pepper.