Kerry expects social media’s audacious flavor combos to shape innovation in 2024

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Consumers are demanding bolder and more 'out-there' innovations and flavor combos than ever before. Pic: GettyImages/WeAre
Consumers are demanding bolder and more 'out-there' innovations and flavor combos than ever before. Pic: GettyImages/WeAre

Related tags Kerry Taste & Nutrition flavor trends

Researchers from the global taste and nutrition specialist annually conduct a deep dive into market and consumer trends using tech like artificial intelligence (AI), natural language processing (NLP) and social media to track the flavors predicted to influence product development in the year ahead.

While familiar pairings (think chocolate and orange), adding spice (‘hot’ honey) and the pucker of citrus (yuzu beer) are gaining popularity across multiple markets and applications, social media is driving audacious combos like bacon milkshake, coffee & black garlic, vanilla ice cream & soy sauce, nachos with sweet toppings and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos & marshmallows.

“The global exchange and dissemination of tastes and flavors through social media and travel is still in its infancy, and globalization in food, beverage and cuisine development make this a truly exciting time to be in the industry,” said Soumya Nair, global consumer research and Insights director for Kerry.

“Although rapidly changing times can present great challenges, they also provide an unparalleled opportunity for brands to catch an emerging trend on the rise.”

Using tech like AI and NLP – along with traditional platforms like social media and traditional consumer observation tools – the Ireland-headquartered specialist’s year-long research into flavor has produced a series of incisive, interactive charts created for 13 individual regional markets.

Cuisine crossover

People from around the world Getty amphotora
Pic: GettyImages/amphotora

Of course, there is an uptick in the increasingly inventive crossover of international cuisines, such as the marriage of Filipino and American dishes (adobo chicken, ube burgers), the  union of East and South (such as the yuzu-infused beer in South Africa) and the appearance of Korean and Indian touches with everything (kimchi devilled eggs, kimchi poutine, making chaat from Cheetos, kebab hot dog).

All of which can be reimagined and adopted by the snacks sector. Snacking is getting adventurous. Not so long ago, prawn cocktail seemed vaguely exotic. Now producers are being pressurised to come up with phantastic flavours for the thrill-seeking consumer. Such as the Paqui Tortilla Chips, which were flavoured with two of the hottest peppers in the world – Carolina Reaper and Naga Viper – and even sold individually in a coffin-shaped box for those wanting to dare the shocking pleasure of intense heat and pain.

Tracking flavors, ingredients and lifestyle

Kerry Taste Charts - US Ingredients

However, staying on top of the latest snack crazes isn’t always easy, so that’s where Kerry’s 2024 Global Taste Charts come up to the plate.

The charts are an online resource that can be mined by product and menu developers worldwide, with a unique book of charts tracking flavor adoption and evolution in 13 different regions, from the US to Asia Pacific, Sub-Saharan Africa to New Zealand.

The taste charts are broken down as expected – sweet, savory, salty snacks, beverage, cuisine and ingredients trends – but taken a step further into four categories of advancement: the top flavors of the past five years; the key flavors of the past five years; the fastest growing over the past three years and the fastest growing over the past 12 months.

Applewood smoke, vegemite and fish masala

Kerry Taste Charts - Europe savory

For example, in the US, while BBQ, buffalo and lime have been trending in savory snacks over the past five years, teriyaki, basil and jalapeño were the loudest shouters. Going forward, product developers shouldn’t ignore the growing popularity of truffle mushroom, elote and lemongrass. Thinking outside the box: applewood smoke, furikake and peach BBQ.

Going down under, vegemite, chimichurri and finger lime are winning over Aussie snackers, while fish masala, Worcester sauce and yayi (a spice blend of peanuts, sea salt, cayenne and onion) is resonating in sub-Sahara.

On the sweet front,​ peanut butter, salted caramel and cookie dough continue to dominate in the US, tiramisu, taro and rum & raisin are popping up in Oz and cotton candy, cream soda and matcha are making their way into Africa.

Kerry Taste Charts - NZ Sweet

The classics

chocolate and orange Getty Nicholas McComber
Pic: GettyImages/Nicholas McComber

But Kerry’s Tast Charts are not only focused on being on the cusp of carefree exploration and stay grounded with such very familiar flavors. Orange has been a powerhouse flavor over the past five years – given a boost as consumers turned to vitamin C to stay healthy during the pandemic – but in many different tonalities. In 2019, bergamot and blood orange dominated, while in 2023, consumers were getting wild about tangerine and mandarin. In 2022, there was a 17% growth in Aperol sales, thanks to its bitter sweet connection.

Chocolate, too, is a mainstay in developing dessert-style applications​, ranging from the creamy sweetness of milk to the intense bitterness of dark. According to Kerry, truffle chocolate is the fastest growing flavor tonality in the past five years, while ruby chocolate – which first emerged in 2020 – is winning consumers the world over.

“We are seeing many unique flavor intersections in foods and beverages,” said Nair, adding the charts are designed to “help customers navigate the emerging taste environment for products being developed in 2024.” 

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