Although flavour localisation has become an increasingly important innovation trend in many food and beverage categories, artificial intelligence (AI) technology has recognised that in cocoa and chocolates flavours from far-away markets are gaining more traction.
According to ofi, this has been greatly influenced by consumers looking for novelty and adventure after being cooped up throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Traditionally American and Western flavours are definitely taking off in the Asia Pacific region - We put this down to increasing globalisation and a desire for adventure and new taste experiences post-pandemic,” ofi Asia Confectionery Category Lead Evan Kee told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“Consumers in Asia are becoming increasingly drawn to flavors like salted caramel and cookies & cream, as they are seen as more indulgent and premium than traditional Asia flavours like matcha and lychee.
“Interestingly, we see the opposite in the West, where consumers are experimenting more with Asian flavours.”
The popularity of flavours from across the world in both regions shows a uniformity in demand for tastes that are considered more novel and unusual, or essentially ‘imported’ flavours that are more exotic and harder to obtain locally.
“We carried out this research using an AI-powered predictive analytics tool that scans online recipes, restaurant menus, and e-commerce sites to capture some of the emerging and growing flavour trends popping up around the world [and] understand them before they hit the mainstream,” he added.
“[These findings were the basis for creating several] exciting product applications from a S’mores-style breakfast cereal to a full-bodied Black Forest frappe - It’s a combination of technology and human expertise that creates something special.”
There is also a corresponding demand for sweet-savoury combinations in many APAC markets such as South Korea, which again ties into the demand for novelty.
“The sweet and savoury mash-up trends are becoming more popular in regions like South Korea, [calling for chocolate brands to maximise] taste to satisfy consumers seeking adventurous flavours,” Kee added.
“We’re also seeing an increase in the demand for new product development related to Korean cuisines and flavours driven by the popularity of Korean culture and K-pop.
“For example, we are currently working on incorporating kimchi spice blends in white chocolate as well as chili lime spice.”
Healthier chocolate still in demand
In addition to flavour trends, the AI tool also highlighted dark chocolates as a continuing trend in China.
“Chocolate with high cocoa solids [is enjoying increasing] popularity in China,” Kee said.
“This has been triggered partly by the perception that higher levels of cocoa solids signal more premium products and by an increase in health awareness among Chinese consumers.
“Increasing the cocoa ingredients inside the formulation of dark chocolates [means that] manufacturers can also reduce the sugar in their recipes, because the product is perceived as sweeter, which [makes for the product to be perceived as healthier] as well.
“In Asia, we are working on new product development to meet the healthy pleasure trend, with consumers no longer focusing just on macronutrients such as sugar, fat, or protein, but also on micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals.”