Tell us about some flavor trends you’re monitoring
- HEAT: There is an ongoing trend towards hotter foods; but people don't just want heat. I'm a big fan of Shishito peppers, for example, because they have got some heat, but it’s not overpowering, and we've developed some great concepts such as Shishito pepper margaritas.
- SMOKIN! Smoked flavors are very popular right now.
- RHUBARB: Rhubarb is something I’ve seen hitting a lot of menus lately, and not just in desserts, but in savory items as well. It also pairs well with ingredients such as basil and mint and works across multiple categories from candy to alcoholic beverages. What’s nice about rhubarb is that it’s a traditional flavor that’s also got an air of sophistication, so you can make a great rhubarb mint margarita.
- SPICES: Cardamom, nutmeg and cloves are popular at the moment.
- GINGER: Ginger is still a big trend.
- THAI AND SOUTH AMERICAN CUISINE: In terms of cuisine, Thai is pretty hot, but I also think we’ll see more segmented south American cuisine coming onto the market with the Olympics in Rio next year.
Which categories are the most dynamic when it comes to flavor innovation?
The beverage category is very dynamic as there is such a rapid turnaround. We’ll get a request for a flavor and see products on the market three months later.
There’s a lot of interesting stuff happening in the alcoholic beverages market in particular, where you see people using shrubs instead of say, citrus. The flavor profiles are getting a lot more sophisticated and you’re seeing that reflected in ready to drink products, which are inspired by craft cocktails.
In cocktails, I’m also seeing the Mad Men influence, people are looking for Old Fashioned, or a Manhattan. I’m also seeing a lot of flavored rums and tequilas as well as vodkas.
In non-alcoholic drinks, cold brew coffee is a big trend, so you’re seeing a lot of coconut and caramel flavors; we’re also seeing cold brew teas.
In food, there's a lot of innovation in hummus right now. We created a great green tomato and basil hummus for IFT.
Tell us about some flavors you’re working on
One new flavor we’re bringing out in the fall is an oak cask maple flavor, which taps into interest in ‘aged’ flavors. It’s nothing like Aunt Jemima’s [pancake syrups]; it has a far more sophisticated, distinctive flavor profile; something that would work well with cold brew coffee, or whisky, or truffles.
We're also working on a Marcona almond flavor for next year. Marcona almonds - Spanish almonds - are popping up on a lot of menus. They are sweeter and chewier than California almonds, but they are pretty expensive, so there is demand for a flavor that will work well in beverages and bakery applications.
Tell us about some projects you’re working on right now
I’m working with some folks on creating healthier popsicles and desserts for kids with fruit flavors, protein-enhanced fudge pops, and high protein bars.
Protein is a hot trend and everyone is experimenting with different sources from soy to insect powders, and this creates a need for flavor masking.
When it comes to protein powders and shakes and dairy beverages, companies are also starting to move beyond vanilla, chocolate and strawberry – finally!