Synergy Flavors has identified 17 flavors from North America and Latin America in its Flavors of the Future report that show promise in sports nutrition. Split into four categories – emerging, growing, mainstream and established with global potential – the list includes flavors like yuzu, mochi, tart cherry, speculoos, matcha, pecan and S'mores.
“The results of the research presents a guide for sports nutrition companies that will strengthen their competitive positioning by ensuring they remain on trend with their products,” the company wrote.
Protein pairing with pecans and speculoos
Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA, Alexandre Massumoto, marketing research lead at Synergy Flavors, said many promising flavors for sports nutrition drew inspiration from popular food and beverage categories such as ice cream.
Pecans were one good example of a very established flavor in ice cream, growing 400% in the last few quarters, that “could be transformed” for use in sports nutrition, Massumoto said.
“Sports nutrition companies look up ice cream flavors because it's a good base and has everything to do with protein powders.”
Lindsey Oostema, business development manager for food at Synergy Flavors, agreed: “Ice cream is dairy-based and a lot of the protein powders are still whey-based, so they can have that dairy note. Flavors that work well in ice cream can transfer really nicely into protein powder.”
Oostema said speculoos (a spiced shortcrust cookie) was another popular ice cream flavor that had plenty of potential to be transferred.
“With all the other nut butters that have come up, I even saw macadamia nut butter recently, speculoos is just different. Whilst it's a cookie, it's made into a creamier texture which is something people are familiar with and it also has a unique name. It could draw a lot of interest in the sports nutrition category,” she said.
By contrast, sports nutrition manufacturers producing pre-workout, high-acid beverages with ingredients such as branch-chain amino acid (BCAAs) could look to ready-to-drink products like tea and energy drinks, she said. Tart cherry was a good example of a transferable flavor already strong in energy drinks.
“We see all the time with flavor companies, it's about what we can draw from other categories and it can be even any industry (…) We're seeing beverage, food and flavor blurring across all categories,” she said.
A 'very innovative future' of flavors
Massumoto said there would be a “very innovative future for flavors” in sports nutrition, driven by use of emerging flavors like the Asian citrus fruit yuzu or Japanese rice cake mochi, as well as transfer of growing flavors like tart cherry, speculoos and matcha.
“Mochi is a very interesting flavor,” he said. “We've seen a lot of products being launched in the market and we see a lot of potential for it.”
He said protein powders and creams with a higher protein content were two good carriers for mochi, although use would require consumer education, as it remained ahead of the curve in the US.
Oostema said pairing with mochi would be the best formulation strategy, given it didn't have a particularly strong flavor profile on its own. “Utilizing a flavor like matcha, for example, gives it the visual interest and also a stronger profile – I think this is the route to go. It likely needs to be paired with a stronger flavor to help enhance it.”
Massumoto said mochi also paired well with strawberry, green tea or even mango. “What's interesting about mochi is the texture. So, consumers would relate better to it in a bar but we're combining it with other ingredients that would fit very well in a beverage application,” he said.
Oostema agreed it could work across several sports nutrition categories when paired. “Mochi in itself is a dessert so people might make a better connection to it in a bar but matcha is popular in beverages, so using other flavors could bridge the gap in either direction.”