Flavor is, on average, the single most important factor in consumers’ food and drink choices. Interest in novelty and variety is also high, says a new report from Innova Market Insights revealing that three-quarters of global consumers ‘love to discover new flavors’. It is therefore little wonder that innovators continue to experiment and innovate with taste profiles and to use flavor as a valuable marketing tool.

Such is flavor’s importance in food and drink development that many of Innova’s Top 10 Trends for 2020 are having a clear bearing on its evolution. For example, more detailed flavor descriptors and an emphasis on provenance reflect the No.1 trend ‘Storytelling: Winning With Words’ theme, while growing diversity in the produce and botanicals used in flavorings is part of the No.2 trend ‘The Plant-Based Revolution’. ‘Hello Hybrids’ is another major theme, with more and more flavors familiar in one category crossing over into others. Also edition and seasonal flavors can help to invigorate brands and are a good way to test new tastes on the public (‘Brand Unlimited’).

Generationally, Millennials are the most adventurous in their attitudes to flavor, while Boomers are the most conventional. Perhaps surprisingly, Gen Zs are also less interested in mixing it up when it comes to taste. “When asked if they like new, mixed or seasonal flavors, Gen Z agreement was generally at least 10 percentage points lower than that of Millennials,” said Lu Ann Williams, Director of Innovation at Innova Market Insights. “But there is still an element of boldness when it comes to genuine novelty, with 45% of Gen Zs agreeing that ‘the crazier the flavor, the better’, a much higher percentage than is found among the over 45s and over 55s.”

Looking ahead, flavor innovation will remain an essential part of food and drink NPD and key themes will include the diversification of authentic international flavors, further exploitation of the wider plant world, ‘permissible indulgence’ in the health and wellness arena and ongoing hybridization. Meanwhile, sustainability and the sourcing of flavors, including the raw materials that go into them, will also become a more important issue and could well impact on future consumer choice as well as industry practice.

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