Tell us about some flavor trends you’re picking up
We’re seeing a lot of really intriguing flavor profiles in craft beers right now from crème brulee to banana nut bread.
We’re also starting to see a lot of well-designed cocktails in the retail market, while there’s also some interesting uses of ginger, for example in alcoholic ginger beer, where the ginger is more spicy. We’re also getting requests for apple ginger instead of apple spice in yogurts.
As for ice cream and desserts, there are some new twists on familiar fruits, so you’ll see spicy mango ice cream or strawberry paired with basil.
In general, consumers are looking for more ‘true to the fruit’ flavors that taste like the actual fruit, not like candy.
As for exotic fruits, we’re still getting a lot of requests about pomegranate and acai, and I think we’ll see more products with jack fruit hit the market in 2014.
We’re also working with companies developing nutritional drinks and sports nutrition products that have a lot of protein in to help them improve the taste as these products go more mass market.
What broader trends are you seeing on the horizon?
Two key trends I think will continue to grow in 2014 are the ‘farm to table’ concept and gluten-free.
With the farm to table trend, people are looking for fresh herbs and spices, basil, cilantro, lemongrass, things that are fresh-tasting.
Gluten-free is also a big opportunity, as products made without wheat flour have a very different flavor profile.
Take a red velvet cupcake made with rice flour and xanthan gum; you get some flavor from the cocoa, but it’s just not the same [as cake made with wheat flour], so we’ve got a great red velvet flavor in dry and liquid form that can help.
How do you keep up with trends?
I eat out a lot. I live in Chicago so there is just a slew of great restaurants. I talk to a lot of other chefs in the industry and subscribe to a lot of food blogs and magazines.
I also work closely with flavor chemists at Synergy to identify unusual flavor combinations, so we’ll look at what goes with blueberries, for example. What are the key flavor components in blueberries and what will they work well with?