The pandemic is driving great change as consumers demand innovative flavors and functionality in foods and beverages while placing a renewed focus on comforting, traditional tastes.

January 13, 2021

4 Min Read
kerry ingredient trends 2021

Kerry has released its annual Global Taste Charts for 2021, uncovering flavors and ingredients that are set to inspire innovation and taste excellence across the food and beverage landscape in countries across North America, Europe, Latin America, Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa over the coming year. 

A trend towards familiar and nostalgic tastes, which resurged during the pandemic, is anticipated to continue over the coming year as consumers seek comfort from their food and beverages. Consumers around the world are gravitating toward comforting and familiar tastes, where classic desserts such as brownie, s'mores and custard are featured as flavors in different categories, including those in the "sweet" and "beverage" (dairy and hot) charts. 

"Our Kerry 2021 Global Taste Charts provide customers with a concise, insightful guide on trending global consumer taste preferences," said Leigh Anne Vaughan, global marketing director of taste. "The charts are an excellent resource to help navigate a pandemic-influenced consumer world in 2021-one that is experiencing not only a renaissance of traditional comforting tastes and flavors, but also a heightened push for new taste innovations that nod to adventure as well as familiarity. Next year will be a challenging one for food and beverage developers, and Kerry's Taste Charts are available to help the industry steer a course to success during this time of great change." 

Through a consumer-focused, on-trend lens, each of Kerry's unique regional and country reports utilizes consumer purchase patterns, retail product performance, foodservice influences and endorsements from the company's internal culinary, beverage and mixology experts to predict tastes for the coming year. Kerry's Trendspotter, a proprietary artificial intelligence that predicts food trends from global social media content, was used to provide additional perspective, inspiration and validation of flavors and ingredients influencing the marketplace." 

"Our global team of Kerry Insights and Taste experts have provided valuable insights on mainstream, key, up and coming and emerging flavors and ingredients from around the world," adds Souma Nair, Director of Marketing Insights, North America. "This expert perspective into the flavors and ingredients shaping the industry-across the sweet, beverage, savory and salty snack categories-helps Kerry's customers craft a clear, research-backed roadmap for creating new products, or revitalizing existing choices in ways that will delight, surprise and excite consumers." 

US-specific insights

Sian Cunningham, senior marketing insights specialist at Kerry, expands on the changing tastes of American consumers in particular below.

How is the pandemic affecting consumers' food and beverage interests? 

During the pandemic, consumers have been gravitating more towards familiar and classic products and flavors because they provide a sense of comfort during these challenging times. They've also had a heightened focus on health and wellbeing, especially focused on immune boosting products (both inherent and added). 

With regards to comfort and familiar tastes, we see classic desserts being featured as flavors in categories within sweet and beverages dairy and hot. 

Some examples include:

  • Sweet Chart: brownie, churro, Boston cream pie, banana split and s'mores.

  • Beverages Dairy and Hot Chart: s'mores, snickerdoodle, pumpkin pie, ice cream and brownie.

Outside of sweet flavors, we are seeing interest in comforting and familiar meals and sides being featured as flavors in salty snack categories. Examples include pizza, taco, wings, mac and cheese and grilled cheese. 

Are the pandemic changes permanent or more temporary? 

Comfort flavors and products aren't new demands by consumers, and we can to a degree see consumers reaching for these types of tastes post-pandemic. Moving forward, we can expect to see comfort tastes take on different aspects to entice consumers—think international twists, classic comfort flavors in new categories/products—but remaining approachable. 

As for consumers' desire for proactively supporting their, their family's and parent's, health, prior to the pandemic, consumers had a growing interested in proactively managing their health and they showed great interest in added functional benefits. We've seen this accelerate during the pandemic, with a focus on immune support, and there is indication that this focus on added functionality can continue to a degree post-pandemic. 

What are the one or two most intriguing emerging tastes in your region? 

In the U.S., consumers want comfort foods, as well as food and beverages with functional benefits. In 2021 many of these products will provide umami or kokumi tastes, utilizing a variety of flavors and ingredients. In our Taste Charts you'll see ingredients like mushrooms and miso and emerging tastes like nori and soy sauce, which all provide the umami taste that consumers want. You'll also find ingredients and flavors like black garlic, nutritional yeast and butter, which all enhance sweet, salty and umami tastes, providing a kokumi sensation. These tastes help build a savory profile that impart richness and depth of flavor in applications like stocks and bone broths, prepared meals and even savory beverages. 

What was the most interesting finding among "Mainstream" tastes in your region? 

"Mainstream" marks the flavors that are most prevalent in categories, either by product launch, menu penetration, or dollar sales. From year to year, flavors in "Mainstream" don't change drastically. This year, we are seeing a stronger focus on comfort flavors as consumers turn to familiar favorites. One interesting finding outside the realm of comforting and familiar is chili peppers rising to "Mainstream" status in our U.S. savory chart. We continue to see heat, international cuisine influence and provenance driving flavor and ingredient selection, and chili peppers connects to these trends. 

The 2021 Kerry Taste Chart for U.S., Canadian, European, Latin American (Spanish), Brazilian (Portuguese), Asia Pacific, Middle Eastern and African markets can be downloaded here.

Source: Kerry

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