As 2021 begins, consumers often use the new year as motivation for a fresh start and an opportunity to embrace change, especially in their food and drink choices. Symrise delved into the emerging food and beverage trends of 2021 across savory, sweet, and beverage categories and analyzed what flavors you can expect to make an impact in the years to come in their annual North American Top Flavor Trends Report.
The Symrise Flavor North America team takes pride in identifying and analyzing the most compelling information available, through months of extensive research including interviews with trendsetting chefs and bartenders around the country, consumer surveys, menu tracing and the consideration of COVID-19 impact.
The ongoing challenges of the past year have changed consumers’ relationship with food in ways that fit into Symrise’s four TrendScope® trends: Healthy Lifestyle, Natural Goodness, Premium Indulgence and Emotional Discoveries.
Adopting a Healthier Lifestyle
Health is at the top of everyone’s minds, so in 2021 consumers will continue to seek out food and drinks with health-promoting, beneficial ingredients, especially those with immunity boosting properties like elderberry or ajwain. Brands and restaurants are responding to this need by adding vitamin-rich options, like dishes incorporating vitamin-C-packed citrus fruits, while trying to keep things fresh and interesting.
“People are also looking at being healthier,” said Jeffrey Schlissel, chef and restaurant owner. “They're looking at foods and beverages that are immune boosting, but they're also looking for menu items that are fun and full of flavor.”
Going hand-in-hand with a healthier lifestyle is the boom of the plant-based movement, and the introduction of protein options that were once inaccessible to those following a strict vegan or vegetarian lifestyle. Legumes are rising in popularity thanks to their naturally low fat and high protein and fiber properties while also being a versatile ingredient that can take many forms and preparations. While chickpeas may be a mainstream favorite found in everything from savory sides to decadent desserts, 2021 will see a lot of experimentation with lesser-known legumes – like mung bean – across categories.
Another aspect of the health and wellness journey that has become increasingly important after a chaotic year is mental health. Consumers are seeking out more ingredients that will nourish them from the top down to benefit their overall being. This has led to a renewed surge of chefs and brands incorporating Ayurveda – a form of holistic practice focused on promoting balance between the body and mind – into their food and beverage menus to help these consumers find delicious inner peace.
Embracing Natural Goodness
When exploring healthier lifestyles, consumers looking to make changes in their diets will likely switch out unhealthy items for better-for-you alternatives. Sugars have been under the health microscope for years, with manufacturers and brands moving away from refined sugars to more natural routes. According to Global Market Insights, Inc., “The demand for natural sweeteners is rising owing to increasing awareness regarding the adverse effects of excessive consumption of refined sugar.”
Consumers want to still indulge in their favorite sweet treats, but want to feel better about their decisions, so they’re searching for sweeteners and unrefined sugars that come straight from the Earth because they are seen as more beneficial to the body than processed sugars. This year, chefs are now looking beyond some of the familiar favorites to new and interesting sources of sweet like yacon syrup.
Experimentation is the name of the game in 2021. After a stagnant year, with many chefs and brands looking to incorporate new, up-and-coming unusual ingredients to inject more spice and variety to a consumer-base itching to get back out in the world and get back to trying exciting new flavors. Chefs and bartenders are increasingly experimenting with up-and-coming botanicals with brighter and earthier tones to enhance flavor as well as experience for consumers. They’re also putting their focus on Mexican herbs, like pipicha, known for their complex, unique, and robust flavor profiles, to appease a growing audience who isn’t afraid of spice.
Earning the Right to Indulge
After a year like 2020, consumers have earned the right to eat what makes them happy. Chefs are elevating indulgence in 2021 and not shying away from bringing their audience new experiences in everything from decadent textures – like whipped, foamy, and fluffy desserts – to comforting cuisine – like dishes invoking nostalgic childhood favorites-turned-adult and flavors that feel completely known, yet indulgent because they are presented in a new way.
This is especially true with Southern and Lowcountry cuisine (with a twist in 2021) that make up dishes packed with warm and soothing flavors that help to spark a sense of joy and comfort.
“I’m all in on barbeque right now,” said Phillip Foss, Michelin Star Chef. “Beyond that, fried chicken is having a day. Anything that speaks to the glutton inside of all of us.”
Feeling the Emotion
There are two avenues of trends that consumers are going down in 2021: one is finding and embracing comfort and the known, and the other is all about going boldly into the unknown to discover new flavors, a group that has been building more and more as the years ago by. This need for newness has led to a boom in global flavor demands in exotic dishes with stronger flavors and more authentic identifies. While many cannot physically do so, consumers are traveling with their taste buds by seeking out global, bold, and unique flavors, especially fermented umami ingredients and spices from the Middle East.
“People are becoming more comfortable with bolder flavors...stronger herb flavors and more comfortable with spice,” said Page Pressley, chef and supper club owner.
To meet this hot demand, more and more chefs are elevating meals and beverages with these bold, unique flavor profiles in everything from aioli to cocktails. For those still just searching for the comfortable, chefs are also bringing a sophisticated twist of different spices and flavors to popular profiles and dishes people know and love to give them a little bit of a different edge in 2021.
For more information on trending 2021 flavors with insights from industry experts and an in-depth list of ingredients to seek out in 2021, download the preview for our 2021 North American Top Flavor Trends Report.