Firmenich: Consumers are hungry for more interesting and complex flavors in botanical form

By Mary Ellen Shoup

- Last updated on GMT

Photo Credit: GettyImages / ivstiv
Photo Credit: GettyImages / ivstiv

Related tags: Firmenich, Flavors, botanicals

Botanicals continue to be a strong force for new food and beverage product development as many consumers regard the category of ingredients as healing and revitalizing, according to global fragrance and taste company Firmenich, which named “Magical Botanical’ as its 2022 Flavor of the Year.

"Growth in products that announce botanical on front of pack has been exceptional, with over 1,300 launches expected this year and accelerating growth of 29% CAGR since 2017,"​ said Firmenich global head of human insights, Jeff Schmoyer.

Now in its tenth year of annual flavor predictions, Firmenich said “Magical Botanical”​ embodies the spirit of the times and period of radical societal transformation of consumers’ perspectives, priorities, and expectations. The flavor is also partly influenced by Pantone’s Color of the Year 2022 – Very Peri – described as a periwinkle blue with a vibrant red-violet undertone.

"Like Pantone Very Peri, Firmenich's Flavor of the Year aims to capture the emerging themes we're seeing in the world around us, by translating new trends and consumer emotions into positive sensory experiences,"​ said Mikel Cirkus, global creative director, Taste & Beyond.

Magical Botanical flavors were designed around a variety of botanical ingredients and culinary herbs of natural origin and traceable sourcing known for their healing and immunity-supporting powers, which Firmenich flavor experts paired with complementary ingredients to create “great-tasting flavors​” designed to inspire new creativity in a wide variety of applications across sweet goods, savory foods and beverages, said the company.

'Brands are calling out botanicals across an exceptionally wide array of categories'

"What is particularly noteworthy is that brands are calling out botanicals across an exceptionally wide array of categories. Hot drinks, alcoholic drinks, and baked goods are the most common applications, and we also see substantial numbers of brands talking about botanicals on pack in applications from sauces and snacks to juices, dairy and nutritional drinks,”​ commented Schmoyer, who noted that even before COVID, food and beverage companies were accelerating their investment into new product development featuring botanical ingredients. 

“Now even confectionery and desserts are making new forays into using botanical blends as flavor and as ingredients, as a way to connect with consumers' desire for natural, healthy transformations to their diets. In sensory terms, this is driving growth in the use of flavor notes that we classify as flowery, herbal, and tea tonalities within our AromaSphere flavor description system, across these same categories," ​said Schmoyer. 

In the most recent global consumer tracking research conducted across 22 countries, three consumer behaviors emerged including a major improvement to their cooking abilities,  becoming “more passionate about food overall,” ​and increasing the use of herbs and spices.

"While we've seen a slight slowdown in the launch of multiway blends during COVID as manufacturers focused on single hero ingredients with benefits (such as our 2021 Flavor of the Year, ginger), there are clear indicators that consumers themselves have become considerably more creative at home in the kitchen, and are hungry for more interesting and complex flavors outside the home as well,"​ said Schmoyer, adding: "All of this points to a surge in intentional consumer creativity, and interest in learning to work with and combine nature's most aromatic and culinarily relevant plants to create unexpected food and drink experiences for the future.”

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