Garlic, onion, parsley, chili... and yogurt? Sweet & heat is a hot new trend, says Sensient

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Is savory yogurt ready for prime time? Sensient on new flavor trends
Americans are tucking into hotter and spicier fare by the day, but how is the trend evolving? And will savory yogurt take off? Elaine Watson caught up with Michael Swenson, director of business development at Sensient Natural Ingredients, to find out...

How is the hot and spicy trend evolving?

Heat is in, but it’s getting more complex. We’re recently expanded our varietal chili collection to include chili peppers from India with different color, heat and flavor characteristics, such as Devanur, Byadgi and Teja.

Indian food continues to grow as a cuisine in the US, which is partly due to migration, but also the fact that younger people are getting more adventurous and they’re pushing up heat levels. Kids these days are going into stores and buying snacks that are a lot hotter than anything I had as a kid.

As to how our customers are positioning products with these peppers, it depends. In some cases, they will name the chili variety on pack to show that they are on trend with provenance, authenticity, or to highlight transparency in their supply chain and so on.

But in other cases, you get the opposite, where companies want to take a unique chili and use it in their products as a ‘secret sauce’.

What emerging flavor trends are you monitoring?

We’re seeing growing interest in what I call 'sweet and heat' applications, which is part of a trend towards incorporating savory ingredients into products that have traditionally been sweet, such as bars and dairy, where you see things like onions, garlic and vegetables starting to appear.

We’ve seen savory yogurts with carrots and bell peppers that are designed to appeal to more adult, sophisticated tastes. We talk to companies across a lot of different application areas, so we can see the big picture.

We’ve been working with one customer that’s using our garlic, onion, parsley and chili plus a couple of other flavors in a yogurt preparation for a very big company for a yogurt that's being tested outside the US, so it will be really interesting to see where this trend goes.

Are these herbs and spices gaining momentum in beverages?

We went to an event recently where we were shown something like 30 different cocktails and every one of them contained some sort of spice or herb. And lots of trends that start in mixology then move into other food and beverage categories very quickly.

Tell us about some more specific flavor trends you’re picking up in the market

Flowers, and non-traditional vegetables such as rhubarb are adding a different flavor profile to many products. Rhubarb has beverage and dairy applications, and also works well in alcoholic beverages such as vodka and gin.

Tell us about some ingredients you’re developing 

We’re building some more complex and interesting flavors around some of our core natural ingredients, things like smoked bell pepper, smoked onion, and smoked paprika. We use all-natural wood smoke, which brings out some really interesting flavors, and we’re seeing people use them in yogurt, hummus, cheese and breads.

The smoked red bell pepper works really well in ketchup and other condiments as it creates a barbecue-type flavor.

Which categories are the most dynamic when it comes to flavor innovation?

Obviously beverages and snacks, but there’s also a lot of flavor innovation going on in hummus, which is a bit of a blank canvas, like bread or a chip.

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