"I think the more exotic and harder it is to get, the more consumers want those flavors," Darren Loscalzo, Monin VP of innovation, told FoodNavigator-USA.
Loscalzo, who heads up Monin's innovation team of culinary experts, trained chefs, and 'mixologists', said the company has been receiving more specific flavor requests from its customers.
For example, a few years ago, blood orange was the hot new flavor used in juices and other trendy drinks, but Monin has witnessed a cooling off of blood orange replaced by new
citrus flavors such as yuzu citrus (found in Japan and Korea) and kaffir lime (from southeast Asia).
"I think when people started to see that blood orange was pretty mainstream it allowed the other exotic fruits to come into play. Now we’re looking at different fruits from all over the world. We definitely see the expansion," he said.
According to Loscalzo, the rise of the alcohol-free cocktail has pushed a lot of these flavors into the spotlight.
"The term mocktail or low abv is trending tremendously. We see, we hear about, we receive request for development on a weekly basis," he said.
In it 2019 beverage and culinary trends report, Monin lists up and coming flavors that the company's customers are using in more adult, low- to no-alcohol beverages such as a basil lime concentrate flavor, ginger concentrated flavor, 'exotic citrus' syrup, and yuzu puree.
Noting consumers' growing avoidance of artificial ingredients, Loscalzo said about 85% of its portfolio is 'clean label' defined by the company as free from artificial flavors and colors.
Monin is also seeing a rise in region-specific flavors, and says that using terms such as 'Asian' or 'Pan-Asian' has become out of date because now consumers are more up to speed with the differences between Middle eastern and North African cuisine or Vietnamese and Thai spices.
"We’re seeing everything from Thailand to Northern African spices and flavors. Everything is becoming more regionalized and I think the drive behind that is, is that people are experiencing local wherever they’re at. It almost gives them that experience of being in that local market," explained Loscalzo.
"As we’re looking into 2020, we’re really seeing a lot of these global trends come to light."
Roughly 95% of Monin's business is in beverage applications, but the company's flavor innovation team is experimenting with more culinary applications of its products such as in vinaigrettes and marinades to further tap into globally-inspired cuisine trends.
"Your most novice cook can buy a bottle of vinaigrette from the store and add another flavor (such as yuzu puree) to it. It helps elevate that culinary experience," added Loscalzo.
Instagram worthy flavors
The pace of flavor trends has accelerated with the rise of social media sharing and posting, and Monin has had to evolve to help create solutions for its customers that are "Instragram-worthy," said Loscalzo.
"I think the trends are changing very rapidly compared to five years ago. They’re all asking for that wow Instagram worthy development – it’s got to be something that someone can post online," he said.
"It might be milkshakes one week, and the next week it’s mocktails. it’s a lot driven by what’s happening from a social media standpoint."
Setting up an Instagram account and forming a digital media team has now become part of Monin's marketing strategy as a way to reach and engage customers.