While, combined flavours such as spicy and cheesy might be traditionally thought less than appealing, they have emerged to become a major trend.
Backed by its new intelligence tool Panoptic, flavour experts at IFF have found that this is especially so for younger consumers in the region, who tend to seek out more tantalising experiences compared to their older counterparts.
“Combination flavours are a really big trend here today, and there tends to be an element of spice to this as well – so although there are more familiar combinations like sweet-sour, now the combinations are more contradictory per se such as spicy and sour,” IFF Greater Asia Regional Marketing Leader Michelle Lee told FoodNavigator-Asia at the recent Fi Asia Bangkok show.
“It is the younger consumers that are really driving this as they tend to want something familiar yet exciting in their food purchases – so for example in sauces they would want to have chilli to tantalise the tastebuds, but combine this with citrus so there is both a burst of flavour yet a refreshing twist to it.
“Savoury snacks are seeing much the same thing with chilli and spice being very important, but also requiring that exciting element of newness and uniqueness such as the addition of sourness to it.
“Cheese is often part of the combos for snacks too, tending to elevate these into the indulgent space, but cheese alone now tends to not be exciting enough and there needs to be an element of spice such as nacho cheese or jalapeno cheese.”
Lee also highlighted that being able to play around with flavours has opened up a new door to increasing the health benefits of various food products by satisfying consumer taste buds with the use of less sugar and salt.
“Older consumers’ concepts of healthier products is to either eat less snacks, ensure food safety and hygiene and they tend to choose familiar products and flavours as a result – but younger consumers need that excitement when making their purchases,” she said.
“So flavours can come in here to help bring out the appeal of these foods and beverages by allowing for sugar and sodium to be reduced whilst not losing the taste – it’s a matter of reimagining wellness and modulating such that the mouthfeel and flavours are released in a way that can compensate for the lack of sugar or salt.”
Keeping up with the flavours
There are certain tried and true flavours for which demand will always remain steady, but the food sector still needs to keep things fresh in order to maintain consumer interest, Lee added.
“The basic flavours will always be there such as chocolate, vanilla and strawberry in ice cream – but it is up to the industry to keep things exciting or consumers will move to more interesting products,” she said.
“So taking ice cream as an example, combinations are still important here such as combining the familiar vanilla with refreshing citrus, and there’s also the need to bring in novel flavours that also give that element of familiarity such as local tropical fruits, for example.”
With flavour trends being so dynamic in this region, firm has turned to technology to keep up such as via the Panoptic framework to predict trends in advance.
“Panoptic is a trend tracker that can identify current market trends based on consumer trends such as sensorials, indulgence and health; lifestyle developments and societal changes – this is very important to us to make predictions for further down the road, especially with so many consumer mindset changes after COVID-19,” Lee said.
“Even with such technology though, there is a need to ensure that insights are specific and localised to each specific market as products need to be created near the targeted market segment – with the tropical fruits as an example, some can be considered more familiar in certain regions where in others they are new and unique, so this must be taken into consideration.”