These days, one-note flavors just aren’t enough. Today’s consumers are enamored with the complexities of the exciting foods they’re trying, appreciating the complex layering of different flavors and taste sensations. Imagine creamy caramel with a hint of sea salt, or fiery hot sauces tempered with a hint of natural sweetness. The blurring of food categories and flavors is highly desirable, waking up the palate and engaging consumers in a new way.
This new age of flavor is being ushered in by Millennials and Gen Z, who seek out new flavors and readily try new cuisines. They’re willing to experiment with spicy and bold flavors, and eat outside their comfort zone by exploring the tastes of international cuisines—many of which have long been celebrating the duality of flavor.
Consumers are most open to sweet flavor combinations, so pairing sweet with other flavors is definitely on the rise. According to the Technomic’s 2015 Flavor Consumer Trend Report, sweet and salty flavor preference is up 32% from 2013. Nowhere is this more evident than in the candy aisle. Manufacturers have learned that just a touch of salt can make sweets “pop” in a big way.
While still not as popular as spicy and salty flavor pairings, bitter and sour flavors are gradually becoming more appealing. Interest in sour flavors is a part of the trend towards complexity, taking embracing vinegars and sour citrus in new applications. Historically niche sour items like kombucha and kimchi are gaining mainstream popularity. The rich bitterness of dark chocolate and coffee continue to be top ranking flavors for a wide variety of foods, and are just the beginning of exploration in the sweet + bitter flavor category.
See our favorite sweet pairings for flavor inspiration:
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