Consumer Driven Flavor Development


Generally the flavor trends are cyclical in nature. The growing significance of ethical flavors and health centric flavors is a lucid example of this fact. In order to sustain in the highly dynamic flavors market, companies are focusing on improving the technologies that enhances shelf life, flavor potency and physical characteristics of flavor formulations to support the modern trends. The combination of trends and technological innovations will improve the end product, then customer satisfaction and sales growth that effects in market share.
Appealing the consumers:
Flavors have advanced in many ways. It’s not just the basic chocolate or vanilla flavors anymore. Now, it’s the combination of white chocolate with cranberries or Tahitian vanilla with honey. However, neither the industry nor the consumers seem to be quite satisfied with the existing range of flavors. The search of novel and exotic flavors seems to be a perpetual one. Emotions are playing a vital role in flavor choices. Only good taste can’t decide the flavor preference, but it has to appeal to the mood the consumer wants to feel. Marketers are trying to link the flavors into emotions like curry for thrilling, chocolate for pleasure, champagne for luxury and more. Consumer palates have become more sophisticated resulting in transforming flavor blending to become more advanced and consumer centric.
Appealing to the flavor demands of the consumer is a challenge that exists in the present scenario. Majority of the flavor companies are taking efforts towards better understanding their consumers. The manufacturers have realized that understanding consumer preference is the key to success in the market. Consequently majority of the companies are extensively engaged in doing their own internal research, surveys and consumer panels. They do a lot of flavor tracking from trade shows and exhibitions. Also they get specialized customer requests for creating new flavor blends. They do track the flavors currently selling in the market place and combine all of these with their long-term experience to predict future market and flavor trends.
Flavor trends:
Consumers are increasingly adventurous in their flavor preferences and involved in more flavor experiences. This resulted in the success of the following trends.
Exotic flavors
Exotic and unusual combinations of flavors are creating waves in the market and this is one of the major trends in the market for this year. This trend is driven by customer willingness to try new and unique combinations of flavors. It’s a challenging task for the flavor companies to understand their preferences and give them the right flavors at right time.
As per the flavor forecast revealed by McCormick, the global seasonings and flavor company, the top ten flavors of the season are Clove and Green Apple, Thyme and Tangerine, Tellicherry Black Pepper and Berry, Sea Salt and Smoked Tea, Lavender and Honey, Crystallized Ginger and Salted Pistachio, Cumin and Apricot, Toasted Mustard and Fennel Seeds, Wasabi and Maple and Caramelized Garlic and Riesling Vinegar. 
Ethnic flavors
Ethnic foods trend continues to gain popularity in United States. Sauces, condiments & dressings are leading the U.S ethnic foods category. Under this category, Chinese and other Asian ethnic foods are leading the way.  The modern consumers have started buying more ethical or socially responsible grocery items. This trend is likely to boost the innovation of many ethnic flavors in the market.
Health and Wellness
Baby Boomers are creating a huge opportunity for the health and wellness based food products as they are motivated to stay healthy and young. Traditional flavors are managing to retain their position based on the comfort mega-trend. Consumers seek flavors with positive and often nostalgic associations that increase emotional wellness. These types of healthy foods are necessary for young adults, who are living highly distressed lifestyles. 
The industry experts have rated ‘flavors from natural ingredients’ as the most important trend within health over the next 5 years. This fact will encourage the natural flavors manufacturers to provide more varieties and capture the prevailing opportunity. Blueberry, Grape, Aloe Vera, Pine Bark, Soy and citrus based flavors are the commonly used health flavors in the market.
Flavor choices:
Flavor choices are primarily influenced by occasion. The trend of Eating out has grown in the recent times and it is the key in exposing consumers to new flavors. The fact behind this trend is that the consumers are desired to taste new, experience new, exotic foods from a fine dining restaurant to a ‘grab and go’ kind of fast food outlet and even a convenience store. 
Eating out is becoming more established in US and forecasts are saying that there will be an increase of 8.8 billion extra out of home occasions and 7 billion snacking occasions relative to 2003 trend. There will be an extra 3 billion foodservice (profit sector) transactions in 2009 relative to 2004 in the US. The flavor manufacturers will consider this trend to develop the products that will match these occasions.
Flavor choices can also be influenced by life stage. Children’s flavor preferences are generically influenced by parents. This trend is expected to change as the modern age children are more exposed to modern food trends and they can take their purchase decisions on their own. They are likely to experiment some new flavors in the future. Generally adult’s preferences are influenced by cultural factors. Seniors are looking for more bold flavors are they are bored with the normal flavors.
The modern age consumers are venturing outside of their comfort zone and trying various new tastes and combinations. Flavor Innovations must meet the needs of consumers and deliver both value and fun. Adding new flavors in the portfolio to maintain a position one step ahead of the marketplace is a challenge all in itself. Incorporating a new flavor into a product line however, doesn’t automatically ensure its success. It then must be tested with the base it will be flavoring and adjusted if necessary. It should be a continuous process of enhancing the consumer’s tastes and preferences.
“The critical success factor is listening to consumer demand, viewing the current trends, and anticipating the needs of the future, which could include healthy indulgences and ethnic American foods.” 
Oleh : Sridhar Gajendran,
            Industry Analyst, Chemicals, Materials & Food 
            Frost & Sullivan

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