American’s flavor relationship to food has not changed, but the relationship to flavor has. We have so many concerns about what food does inside our body that we’ve almost ignored why it gets there in the first place. We rarely ask, “How does food taste?” Modern day self-help weight-loss trends proclaim that we eat excessively because food is a delight to the palate. (Something that we are too afraid to admit!)
According to Mr. Schatzker’s book, “The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor”, the human body takes flavor very seriously. Our flavor-sensing system has more DNA than any other bodily network. “We would not be programmed to seek out flavors if they were our enemy,” claims Schatzker.
Over the years, the farm fields in the U.S. have become more productive, affordable, and disease-resistant, and yet they also keep losing flavor. American farmers grow tasteless products and the only things that can provide flavor are dressings, whipped cream, ketchup or barbecue sauce. While the U.S. crops and livestock are getting blander, the flavor industry is taking action on the matter by adding the very flavors that are disappearing. These dressings are produced in factories, and sprinkled on snacks or mixed into beverages.
Americans consume more than 600 million pounds of synthetic flavorings a year, according to Euromonitor International, a London-based market-research firm. The BBC research on global flavor and fragrance commerce estimates that the market worth is expected to reach $35.5 billion in 2019. The report notes that the North American market was $7.1 billion in 2013, and is expected to grow to $9.9 billion in 2019.
In recent years, American consumers have experienced a proliferation of flavored products. Hispanic and Asian markets are growing in number and influence, and new flavors are having a profound effect on U.S. food and drink manufacturers. As new flavors are introduced to the market, these products are moving from niche items to mainstream products with broad appeal. According to market researcher Mintel (2014), 57% of the population consider themselves adventurous eaters and 82% are open to trying new flavors.
There is a magnitude of opportunity available to food companies that successfully market to the Latino consumer population. Sabor in America, a marketing event sponsored by global flavoring company Symrise, highlighted the Latino influence in the modern American food system. Barbie M. Casasus, multicultural and Latino consumer expert of CEB Iconoculture Consumer Insights, explains that these are consumers that interact with food labels, but they are not reading labels in the same way as other consumers. Latinos are looking for cues that communicate the values of quality that they are looking for, and‒in addition to price and nutrition‒a delicious flavor is what they expect from their food.
Flavor has increasingly been a factor in purchasing behavior, but today it’s more important than ever. Mintel concluded that immigration and a growing non-White population are spurring flavor interest and the internet has allowed for free-flowing flavor information. The report details that Caucasian consumers are interesting in worldly, ethnic cuisines. African-American consumers would like to see more ethnic flavors that are tied to theirs roots. Other consumers gravitate towards spicy, multicultural, and unique cuisines. According to Mintel, millennials and Hispanics are driving the new flavor trends in food service.
Targeting the right audience for new flavors will have a positive impact for food marketers. The top flavor trends gaining in popularity are spicy, sour, bitter, tangy, umami (Japanese glutamic acid) and smoky flavors, all of which are exploding in mass market appeal.
In the U.S., there is an increasingly interest in hot and spicy foods with chipotle, jalape~no, and the incumbent habanero, according to Technomic’s MenuMonitor data. Millennials and their love for snacking and bold flavors are contributing to the proliferation of spicy flavors. Dorito Dinamita debuted in 2014 to carve out the niche in this flavor category. The beverage sector will start following the flavor trend with a variety of drinks. In 2014, Kalsec, an ingredient manufacturer, launched its Fusionary Heat line in response to consumer desire for foods and drinks with savory, sour, sweet and tangy flavors. Their drinks Tangy Sweet Ginger, Spicy Orange, Herbal Jalapeno, and Citrus Spice, among others, are a marketplace of variety.
Flavor is in our foods, detergents, and air fresheners. Beverage and multicultural aisles in supermarkets will start to become harder to distinguish from the many others in the store, and the reason is clear: Flavors are stirring up sales and attracting demographic groups that might not typically buy otherwise. Flavor still rules, and the trend seems to only be growing.