Sour is the new sweet spot in product development.  Sour is not only a trending flavor; it’s also linked to health and wellness. From kimchi and kombucha to fermented or pickled foods, consumers feel they are enjoying something good when it features sour. See how America’s palates are changing and how to tap into this growing trend.


Tangy, Tart and Sour Flavor Trends

It’s time to pucker up.  Consumers are embracing foods and beverages that are more sour and less sweet. Tart, sour and fermented flavors have become a mainstream trend, according to flavor firm Flavorchem.  New York flavor house Virginia Dare also named “sophisticated sour” as a soaring flavor trend and predicts it will impact tonics, cocktails, beers, condiments, sweet treats and savory foods.

Sour is a favorite of mixologists and craft beverage makers who are turning to tart cherry, quince, tamarind, yuzu, pickle brine and other sour elements to achieve the desired tartness. Shrubs and switchels are enjoying a resurgence. These old-fashioned drinking vinegars were popular in Colonial times when refrigeration wasn't available. Now they’re used for cocktails or sipped like a soda.


Serving Sour on the Menu

Sour is not only a big trend among product developers, tartness also is taking a more prominent place on restaurant menus. Based on 4,800 restaurants representative of the U.S. restaurant census in 2020, Datassential reveals that “sour” is featured on 63% of restaurant menus and ranks in the 90th percentile for future growth potential – predicted to grow +3% on menus in the next four years.

In the last 10 years, sour has experienced a 44% increase in menu penetration, according to Datassential’s MenuTrends.


The Unique Power of Sour

Sour is not simply a pleasing flavor, it also has connections to health and wellness, according to FONA International.  With 80% of sour’s top growing claims related to a functional benefit, there’s an opportunity to create a product that is functional and flavorful.

Sour fruits have gained popularity due to the taste and health combination—especially yuzu, dragon fruit and tart cherries, also called sour cherries.  Tart cherry is a flavor that Synergy Flavors says is starting to appear in significantly more products and has the potential to go mainstream in the near future, particularly in the sports nutrition market.


Bold Trajectory for Tart Cherries

Tart cherries have benefited from a convergence of trends – from the demand for sour flavors to functionality, including scientific research demonstrating benefits for sleep, exercise recovery and heart health.  New foods and beverages featuring tart cherries have increased 113% during the last five years, according to Mintel’s Global New Products Database. 

Snacks made with tart cherries -- including nutrition bars, energy bites, trail mix, granola, jerky and other meat snacks – experienced the largest growth of new tart cherry products (35%).   Beverages with tart cherries are also increasingly popular (28%).  Many of the drinks highlight sour flavors, such as tart cherry kombucha, drinking vinegars, sparkling waters and lemonade.


Increase Purchase Intent with Tart Cherries

New research from Datassential reveals that tart cherries can help increase purchase intent thanks to their appealing sour flavor and functional benefits.  A majority (55%) of consumers said they would spend more for products made with tart cherries, with health-conscious shoppers (70%) even more likely to pay extra if they saw tart cherries on the label. The description of “superfruit” also positively influences purchase intake, especially among millennials and health-conscious consumers.

While tart cherries are increasingly featured in functional or health-positioned foods and beverages, they’re still a favorite ingredient in confectionary products and baked goods. In fact, the Datassential research indicates that the superfruit status of tart cherries can help product developers leverage the trend of permissible indulgence. Nearly 70% of consumers would feel better about purchasing an indulgent food made with tart cherries.

Montmorency is the variety of tart cherry grown in America, a meaningful attribute for consumers who increasingly care about food origins and want to support local agriculture. Datassential research indicates that 85% of consumers would prefer to buy U.S. grown tart cherries vs. imported tart cherries.

To learn more about tart cherries and the sour flavor trend, and to download the Trend of Tart report, visit