The food and beverage industry is continually evolving to reflect what consumers desire by introducing new flavors, ingredients and product creations that resonate and advance category growth.
Studying trends that are shaping consumer patterns and predicting what the ‘next big thing’ will be in food and beverage categories is a focus for manufacturers.
While culinary trends in recent years were significantly influenced by the pandemic – for instance, increases in home cooking and demand for bolder flavors – price inflation and supply chain issues have played a larger role in shifting consumer habits over the past year. With these economic pressures straining food prices both in grocery stores and on restaurant menus, consumers are looking for value and heightened experiences, and the role of flavor is significant.
Each year, California-based T. Hasegawa USA – one of the world’s top food and beverage flavor manufacturers – compiles the latest in consumer trends research and publishes a report analyzing the findings. The 2024 Food and Beverage Flavor Trends Report highlights a focus on innovative and global flavors, health-conscious and sustainable ingredients, while predicting the flavors of the year.
“Analyzing food and beverage trends and publishing these findings is fundamental to the industry. Our team works closely with the biggest brands in each category, giving us a unique insight into upcoming trends,” said T. Hasegawa USA Director of Commercial Marketing, Doug Resh. “Awareness of the latest trends is the foundational step in our flavor development process, which combines experience with new technology to produce great tasting foods and beverages.”
Twisting tradition with comfort food
Comfort food will take center stage in 2024, providing a sense of nostalgia and familiarity as a respite from the fast-paced world. This trend gained momentum during pandemic lockdowns as consumers sought solace in familiar food flavors, and it has since evolved to feature new ingredients and a novel twist on tradition.
Over time, rising interest among consumers in nostalgic food is forming the foundation for innovative combinations that integrate novel flavors and new ingredients, especially in the dessert and confections category.
Ube: The 2024 flavor of the year
Ube, pronounced ‘oo-beh’, is a bright purple tuberous root yam known scientifically as Dioscorea alata , is highlighted in T. Hasegawa’s report as the ‘2024 Flavor of the Year’. Hailing from the Philippines, ube has gained international recognition for its exquisite purple hue and distinctive earthy, nutty and sweet flavor profile.
Fast becoming a mainstream ingredient in the US thanks to its trademark violet or lavender color, ube offers a multitude of applications. This ranges from savory dishes such as purple mashed potatoes, gnocchi and sauces to infusing a twist into desserts, baked goods and even beverages. Due to its growing popularity among foodies and culinary influencers on social media for providing a splash of natural color, experts agree that ube is poised to take center stage as a flavor.
“Ube has enjoyed a growing presence on restaurant menus and at trendy bakeries across North America for several years, so it’s poised for breakthrough as a mainstream flavor in packaged food and beverages this year,” explained Resh. “While versatile flavor is the key to ube’s long-term success, its bright purple color helps ube stand out and create highly sharable social media content that is driving awareness and demand.”
‘Glocal’ culinary adventures
It is no surprise that international flavors have been a growing part of food and beverage product development in recent years, as consumer interest in global cuisine surged during the pandemic years as a source of excitement. Food and beverages from around the world offer a tangible connection to different cultures and consumers are more interested than ever in broadening their understanding of the world through food.
A 2023 Mintel report shows that more than 46% of US consumers agree that indulging in international cuisines facilitates a connection with other cultures and that a connection through food offers the prospect for learning while providing a heightened enthusiasm for authenticity in the future.1
Still, data suggests that Americans are less likely to travel abroad than Europeans, Australians and even Canadians.2 According to a 2021 Pew Research study, 27% of US adults have never traveled abroad, and only 11% of American adults have traveled to more than 10 countries.3 These findings indicate that traveling abroad is not necessarily how US consumers are being introduced to international cuisine, and instead that discovery of new global flavors is happening domestically.
In 2024, a prominent trend shaping the culinary landscape is the rise of 'glocal' adventures, seamlessly blending global and local culinary elements to bring diverse tastes closer to home.
“The ‘glocal’ trend not only encourages cultural exploration but also introduces consumers to unique flavors, many of which are becoming mainstream in both sweet and savory applications,” explained Resh. “Whether it’s spicy-sweet global flavors or playful layers of taste, these internationally-inspired culinary adventures are redefining how we experience food.”
Highlighted flavors in T. Hasegawa’s report include sweet flavors like horchata, churro and acai berries and savory flavors like gochujang, kimchi, tahini and yuzu. Many of these diverse and exotic flavors are introduced through snacks, sauces, dressings, and condiments, which provide an accessible entry point for consumers to experiment with new tastes and elevate basic foods into exciting culinary experiences.
Dips and sauces are particularly effective pathways for flavor exploration since these are an inexpensive way to add robust flavor profiles to everyday dishes. Research shows more than 52% of consumers in a 2022 Mintel survey cited interest in trying new flavors in dips/sauces.4
Redefining healthy ingredients
While ingredients have always been a foundational part of developing compelling new flavors that taste great, consumers are looking for more value from food and beverage ingredients in terms of functional benefits, specific nutrition and premiumization.
There will be an increased focus on functional ingredients in 2024, as consumers seek health-conscious foods that align with increasingly specific wellness goals:
- Choline An essential nutrient, vital for brain and liver health, will find applications in foods, beverages and supplements aimed at supporting wellbeing and cognition.
- Astragalus An adaptogenic herb known for its immune-boosting properties is fast-becoming a favorite in functional beverages, wellness shots and supplements.
- Koji A versatile ingredient with an umami-rich flavor will add a bold savory profile to enhance plant-based meat analogs and fermented products.
- Allulose A low-calorie sweetener and sugar substitute will become more widely used this year as a more nutritious, natural way to preserve the taste of baked goods, beverages and confectionary.
“Alongside the focus on better-for-you ingredients that align with health and wellness goals, we anticipate a growth in demand for ingredients that offer a perceived sustainability benefit,” added Resh. “Pulses like chickpeas, Bambara groundnut and fava beans are poised for growth as plant-based proteins, while ingredients like seaweed will become more mainstream in snacks and condiments specifically because it supports carbon sequestration along with reduced land and water usage.”
Find out more by downloading T. Hasegawa’s 2024 Food and Beverage Flavor Trends Report.
1. Mintel. (2023). US Regional and International Flavors and Ingredients Market Report.
2. Pew Research Center. (2023). Americans who have traveled internationally stand out in their views and knowledge of foreign affairs.
3. Pew Research Center. (2021). Most Americans have traveled abroad, although differences among demographic groups are large.
4. Mintel. (2022). Trending Flavors and Ingredients in Dips and Sauces.