As a global Top 10 food and beverage flavor expert, T. Hasegawa stays ahead of emerging trends, to help analyze the latest in what consumers are looking for in packaged foods, beverages and foodservice.

Here, the company’s flavorists and insights experts share results of an extensive review on dairy product and flavor trends, tastes and more. Here are key findings:

Dairy categories must emphasize their health advantage. Both dairy and dairy alternative categories must reclaim the “it does a body good” messaging in order to compete with the increasing array of functional foods and drinks on the market.

Cheese relies more heavily on flavor innovation than any other dairy category. While cheese is the leading dairy category consumed, it’s one of the least popular among dairy alternatives, putting increased emphasis on unique flavors of traditional dairy cheese to keep the category fresh. 

Consumers want more variety in cheese flavors. The vast majority of U.S. cheese launches over the past two years have been unflavored. Cheese is enormously popular in the U.S., but as a mature category there is room for innovation in order to retail relevance among younger shoppers. Exciting flavors like dill, wine (port & red) and chili peppers (including pimento and reaper) have gained traction in recent cheese launches, as consumers begin exploring within the category.

Dairy is expanding with international varieties. Over 29% of U.S. adults in a recent Mintel survey cited interest in trying more internationally inspired dairy options, like Feta Cheese, Irish Butter and Ghee. This trend is even more pronounced among younger demographics, rising to more than a third of 18-24-year-olds. 

Flavored butters are transforming at-home cooking. With restaurant menus serving as inspiration, consumers are becoming more familiar with flavored butters such as garlic, honey, lemon and herb. These ingredient mix-ins can transform the plain base, saving time in the kitchen and encouraging wider experimentation. More adventurous butter flavors like Guajillo pepper, black truffle, maple and wasabi are appearing frequently on restaurant menus, indicating where the category is headed. 

Going beyond chocolate milk with more exciting flavors. The milk category is poised for growth, but it needs to venture outside of chocolate and vanilla to truly innovate. Eggnog and banana are growing in flavored milk launches along with exciting variations on familiar flavors, such as Belgian chocolate or vanilla bourbon.

Tap into the flavor potential of eggnog. Arguably an acquired taste, egg nog has seen four-fold growth since 2020 and the category is primed for flavor variations and upgrades such as pumpkin spice, cinnamon sugar or snickerdoodle. 

The sophisticated flavors of coffee creamer. The creamer category is driven by flavor innovation and over the last two years, traditional plain or vanilla creamers have been expanding with a range of exciting varieties – many of which are based on whimsical or seasonal flavors such as pumpkin pie or spiced, or based on finished products such macchiato (caramel & coffee) or caramel & fudge.

Access the report.