Mango, cardamom and floral flavors make the shift from ethnic niche to household name.
While some food manufacturers clamor to be the first to market cutting-edge flavor concepts, clever bakers are also keeping their eyes on cultural phenomena for cues on where to direct research and development. Flavor assimilation, for instance, is a good place to look for “new” flavor concepts. Products that were edgy and exotic only a few years ago are being assimilated into the American palate.
“Mango has made the transition from ethnic to mainstream flavor. It is not exotic anymore; in fact, it is a household name,” says Lynn Dornblaser, director, CPG trend insight, Mintel Research, Chicago. “You occasionally see mango in baked products, especially in Danish pastry and other sweetgoods, but I wonder if bakers are missing the boat on the fact that mango is now part of the mainstream.”
Cardamom is another flavor that has become common in the United States, and it offers a lot of opportunity for bakery products. “This is a versatile flavor and can be found in several different ethnic cuisines, but because it can be sweet or savory, that positions it to go far,” Dornblaser says. “It's a unique flavor, but it is easy to get used to.”
Some flavor trends are newer and haven't yet experienced assimilation. Floral flavor profiles, for instance, are still gaining momentum. Lavender was the first of the florals to have an impact in baking, and now rose and rosewater are doing the same. Bakers primarily pair rosewater flavor with dark chocolate products, especially brownies. “Last year's major floral trend was lavender, and it was paired with chocolate, too,” Dornblaser says. “It was a very feminine flavor pairing that took some getting used to, but it was successful. Rose could be the next lavender.” Another floral that bakers should keep their eyes on is hibiscus. It is almost exclusively used in Asian or Caribbean food preparation, but as other florals are included in baking applications, the idea of flowers as food flavor becomes increasingly conventiaonal. Hibiscus might be three to four years away from being regarded as mainstream, however.
“At this point, bakers have a couple of opportunities with the floral flavor combinations. One opportunity could be to use floral flavor combinations to convey a more premium positioning for a product,” says Emil Shemer, director of food solutions, Sensient Flavors LLC, Indianapolis. “Another opportunity could be to use a hint of a floral flavor profile to create a more signature flavor profile of a bakery product.”
It has been repeated ad nauseam, but the economy-spawned nostalgic flavor trend is still going strong. The trend refers to both flavor and form, as a good portion of the nostalgic reaction to food is visual. But bakery is well positioned to capitalize on this trend, perhaps more so than any other food category. The economy won't recover overnight, so comfort food will remain the most important flavor trend affecting bakery in 2010.
Sensient Flavors' Top 10 flavor predictions for 2010:
- Black garlic: Popular in Asian cuisine, black garlic is a type of fermented garlic that offers a sweet, syrupy flavor.
- Caja: Native to Brazil, the caja fruit offers a tropical citrus profile and has a high carotenoid content.
- Corbezzolo honey: Native to Sardinia, corbezzolo honey is a bitter honey from corbezzolo (strawberry) bushes.
- Elderflower: Found throughout warmer parts of Europe and North America, elderflower offers a light, sweet flavor.
- Japanese Seven Spice: Also knows as Shichimi Togarashi, Japanese Seven Spice offers both heat and flavor with a variety of notes, including orange peel, cayenne and ginger.
- Kumquat: Originating in China, kumquats offer a variety of flavors, from sweet to sour to salty.
- Maple: Produced from the sap of the maple tree, maple offers a sweet and comforting flavor to most foods that feature it.
- Papalo: Widely used in Mexican cooking, papalo has a pungent and bold flavor.
- Ras el hanout: Used in Middle East and North Africa, ras el hanout is considered the best spice blend. It typically includes a variety of Indian spices, cardamom and saffron.
- Varietal cinnamon: From Vietnamese to Indonesian to Ceylon to Chinese, varietal cinnamons offer subtly different blends of sweet and spicy cinnamon flavors.
Making sense of the flavor trends
Baking Management asked Lynn Dornblaser, director, CPG trend insight, Mintel Research, Chicago, about Mintel’s 2010 flavor predictions (listed below.)
Mintel's flavor predictions for 2010
Cardamom - Known to be intensely aromatic with a strong, unique taste, cardamom will find a home in more than just ethnic fare. Cosmic Chocolate recently launched a chocolate bar flavored with cardamom and oranges.
Sweet Potato - Candied, fried, baked or boiled...sweet potatoes are one of the most diversely prepared vegetables. Aside from being a delicious snack or side dish, they also will become known as the new functional food, as they are rich in dietary fiber, beta carotene and vitamins C and B6.
Hibiscus - Commonly seen in teas, the USDA has said that consuming hibiscus tea can lower blood pressure. In the future, expect to see it become a common ingredient in the beverage market. Premium Essence Water from Hint now offers Hibiscus-Vanilla flavored water.
Cupuaçu - The taste of the Amazon...cupuaçu is the next big superfruit. And when we say big, we mean big! It contains more than 10 vitamins and antioxidants, as well as essential fatty acids and amino acids. Musselmans launched a lime and cupuaçu flavored apple sauce showcasing this unique flavor.
Rose water - Rose water is no longer just a fragrance. You can look forward to finding it as a common flavor in ethnic foods or, like Ghalia Organic Desserts in Los Angeles discovered, you can add it to your brownie recipe for a subtle rose water flavor.
Latin - Latin spices will be heating up our palates next year, and you won't have to dine out to get these exciting flavors. Whole Foods Market now offers a Mayan Ceviche; meanwhile, Icelandic Salsa Shrimp Cocktail features a spice packet loaded with the popular Latin flavor of cilantro.
Baking Management: How do you approach your consumer surveys?
Lynn Dornblaser: One thing we do on purpose when coming up with this, we don't talk about things in five years, we purposely look close in. Also, the list we arrived at is very much a US list, retail differences are too strong from country to country.
BM: What kinds of flavors do you look at when discussing emerging flavor trends?
LD: There are quite a few emerging ethnic flavors, and we include flavors that haven't been ethnic, but have turned into everyday common flavors –flavors that are not exotic anymore. Sometimes they have a functional benefit in addition to a flavor profile, a functional ingredient. We keep an eye on marketplace fads and trends to see what's attached to flavors, but you have to be careful not to get too caught up in a fad. These are the things we're thinking about when we come up with the flavors for a list. It's partially an art, partially a science. What do we know that's on consumers’ minds, what new products are out there, and with that information, we can predict and come up with a list.
BM: Deescribe some emerging flavor trends.
LD: Cupuaçu is a superfruit that’s emerging, but superfruits are beginning to fade. It has its own taste, but it’s definitely citrus. That’s a product that’s probably a little bit down the road for the baking industry. The whole concept of superfruits, it seems like consumers are less lightly to eat them at home as a regular fruit. Their exotic looks make them intimidating, so they are better off used as a finished produict, often in a juice, but also as, perhaps a pie or Danish filling.
BM: How about mango?
LD: Mango has made the transition from ethnic to mainstream flavor. It is not exotic anymore; in fact, it is a household name. So people do buy mango at the store. You occasionally see mango in baked products, especially in Danish pastry and other sweetgoods, but it’s primarily with more ethnic bakeries. I wonder if bakers are missing the boat on the fact that mango is now part of the mainstream.
BM: Why Cardamom?
LD: Cardamom shows up in sweet and savory products, so a lot of bakery products could use it. It also shows up in ethnic foods and beverages, though not exclusively. This is a super versatile spice, attached to several different ethnic cuisines, but because it can be sweet or savory, that positions it in a place to go far. It's a unique flavor, but it isn't very difficult to get used to. Very subtle, so this one has legs. We just saw a Wrigley Eclipse gum featuring the flavor.
BM: Why sweet potato?
LD: Sweet potato is about flavor combined with functionality. It contains fiber and beta carotene, so it’s a food with a purpose. Also, there’s a certain level of wholesomeness and nostalgia wrapped up with the sweet potato.
BM: You mention hibiscus and rosewater. How do they apply to bakery?
LD: Hibiscus is another item that bakers might want to keep an eye on, though where it is now is where mango was three to five years ago, it isn’t quite there yet. Some flavor trends are newer and haven’t yet experienced assimilation. Floral flavor profiles, for instance, are still gaining momentum. Lavender was the first of the florals to have an impact in baking, and now rose and rosewater are doing the same. Bakers primarily pair rosewater flavor with dark chocolate products, especially brownies. Last year’s major floral trend was lavender, and it was paired with chocolate, too,” Dornblaser says. “It was a very feminine flavor pairing that took some getting used to, but it was successful. Rose could be the next lavender.” Another floral that bakers should keep their eyes on is hibiscus. It is almost exclusively used in Asian or Caribbean food preparation, but as other florals are included in baking applications, the idea of flowers as food flavor becomes increasingly conventional. Hibiscus might be three to four years away from being regarded as mainstream, however.
Again, these flavors are usually introduced as finished products, as drinks or gum, prior to people knowing and recognizing them.
BM: How is Latin American food trending?
LD: Argentinean food, Chimichurri, and the whole meat eating culture, is popular now. American’s are going back to being big meat eaters. Pisco is a Peruvian cocktail, distilled spirit specific to Peru. Pisco Sour is similar, only with a citrus component and egg white, so it’s a little foamy. Also, ceviche is gaining momentum. So the Latin trend probably applies the least to bakery, at least in terms of flavor.
BM: Where should bakers focus?
LD: One important are for bakery products to be focused on and stay focused on is nostalgia, whether it's flavors or forms.
These days, with the economy as it is, the biggest sellers are any flavors that tie in with nostalgia, flavors with a retro appeal. Bacon is the prime indicator of this phenomenon. I think when looking at the list, most items have a bakery application. Bacon means nostalgia. We’ve seen bacon lip-gloss, I mean, it’s popping up in unusual places. If there's a place for bacon in bakery, clearly in crackers and those things, but the two main flavor components are saltiness and smokiness. That’s where bakers can capitalize.
One thing I keep seeing is a million of variations on whoopee pies and moo pies. It's amazing to me how all the sudden they seem to be upscale and unusual flavors, but they have the same old form and size, brown, creamy filling, so on that they are consistent. This kind of traditional, recognizable and nostalgic item can serve as a vehicle for interesting flavors because the form is so familiar. It’s old fashioned, and people like it. We notice an uptick in supermarket wholesale baking applies. Just as the deli has the roasting chicken smell, same kind of thing needs to be capitalized on in the bakery aisle. Make use of the aroma.