2016 Flavor and Fragrance Trends

Now a few weeks into 2016, many people may already feel disheartened by their resolutions to go to the gym every day or to learn a new language. We have made our own resolution: to explore exciting new flavors and potential industry trends in the coming  year. Take a look at some trends we are reading about in the industry.

Several companies have released their flavor predictions for 2016 and, as in recent years, they demonstrate the variety of consumers’ ever-broadening tastes. FONA International has produced an in-depth report, forecasting a number of newcomers to the market, from sea buckthorn (Vitamin C-rich berries from Asia) to cupuacu (a fruit from the Amazon rainforest). They name a number of South American fruits that may become more familiar to diners. Among their “up and coming” trends, we see a return to some ingredients that might be considered a little old-fashioned now: lavender, juniper, and elderflower. Rhubarb and figs are among those expected to become more mainstream, while the once-exotic curry, along with bourbon and smoke, are now considered “everyday” flavors.

FONA also draws attention to the growing taste for tea, particular those with a stronger flavor, such as Japanese matcha or South African rooibos. They note recent new desserts and alcohol products flavored with tea. This also ties into their predicted rise in café-related foods and drinks as consumers expand their love of flavored coffees and seek ice creams or snacks to match.

Meanwhile, Firmenich has announced its flavor of the year for 2016: coconut. Since coconut water appeared on the market almost ten years ago, the appeal of this refreshing ingredient has grown. Firmenich describe it as modern, a great team player suitable for both savory and sweet dishes.

All of the predictions share some commonalities. They represent an increased desire for global tastes. Consumers want to expand their flavor palates and are venturing into everything from South American fruits and African spices to new ways of rediscovering out-of-fashion (but closer-to-home) favorites. The predictions also fit into the market demand for natural ingredients, alternatives to refined sugar, and less salt and fat.

The desire for natural foods is an issue that manufacturers will continue to grapple with, particularly within the ever-changing landscape of labeling regulations. With concerns about the GMO tag and what it means for our food supply, regulatory bodies like the FDA are under pressure to require food producers to provide more information about sources, origins, and any genetic engineering that might have been used. At the same time, the definitions of “natural” and “organic” are coming under greater scrutiny.

So, will we see many of these new, predicted flavor trends in supermarkets and restaurants by the end of the year? Or will perceived customer demand fizzle as quickly as our best intentions to make it to the gym? Looking back at our Trends edition last year, we reviewed which trends held true and accurately predicted the popularity of maple syrup (now a common alternative to white sugar). Is anyone willing to bet on how the predictions for 2016 will conclude?

What flavor trends do you think will be popular this year?