"As a result, it is perhaps no surprise that functionally flavorful concepts are increasingly focusing on health and natural ingredients," said Innova Market Insights.
"The search for something new, different, and exciting is also driving flavor developments in food and beverages. Adventurous and re-imagined options are sought by trend-conscious consumers, who also enjoy an element of surprise on their plates and palates. Consumers are on a large-scale, broad journey of discovery, moving out of their comfort zones to explore new food and beverage experiences, with flavor playing a major part in this."
While Innova highlighted that consumers' increased interest in out-of-box flavors often translates into global flavor exploration, an interest in products of local origin is also strong with consumers increasingly interested in brands using local ingredients.
Harnessing the power of the plant 'queendom', emerging sparkling botanical beverage brand Petal sells a range of floral-infused beverages from lemongrass dandelion to its signature rose water beverage.
As a result of consumers' interest in more novel flavors that they perceive as 'better-for-you', botanicals are seeing rising levels of consumer interest. Floral flavors are the most obvious interpretation of this trend, but spice, seed, and herb flavors are also becoming more popular in formulations.
According to Innova, one in two consumers associated floral flavored drinks with freshness and herbal flavored drinks with healthiness.
Brands 'green up' portfolios
"As eating green is moving mainstream, brands are also ‘greening up’ their portfolios in order to attract the growing health-minded consumer group. This has seen ‘earthy’ flavors spread across the industry with ingredients such as matcha, seaweed, and mushroom. On the other hand, bitter flavors are also on trend as consumers seek to reduce sugar intake and increase consumption of green vegetables," said Innova.
Duckweed, a high protein aquatic plant strain with a natural vibrant green color, is gaining traction, according to new brand Mankai.
Flavors such as spinach, kale, celery, and brussel sprouts are increasingly becoming more popular alongside bitter-toned beverages.
Mystery flavors, unexpected twists
Innova notes that outside of functional and healthy products, brands are also increasingly launching mystery flavors, as well as reinventing classics with novel twists, alongside developing new and more unusual flavors and combinations. This trend has played out in incorporating bright or unusual colors into products.
Every year, Mondelēz International releases a mystery flavor of Oreos with this year's flavor revealed to be Churro Oreos.
According to Innova research, colors also play a role in consumers' quest for discovery. The top color for food and beverage launches featuring colors in North America were red and brown, while the fastest growing colors over the 2014 to 2018 period were red and yellow in North America.