Food manufacturers are well aware that, in order for a product to succeed, they must understand consumer wants and needs. But according to a new paper from Frost & Sullivan, they need to delve even deeper into the link between flavours and emotions.
The global flavours market was been valued at some US$18bn in 2006 (Business Insights). Keeping tabs on fickle market trends is a major occupation for flavour houses; but as well as tracking trends, they also need to predict the way the market will go so as to feed ideas into their customers’ product development and help them get ahead of the competition.
“Emotions are playing a vital role in flavour choice,” wrote analyst Frost & Sullivan analyst Sridhar Gajendran. “Only good taste can’t decide the flavour preference, but it has to appeal to the mood the consumer wants to feel.”
Some examples of flavours that are intended to tap into certain emotions include curry for thrilling sensations, chocolate for pleasure, and champagne for luxury.
The observation that consumers sometimes want reassurance from food flavours has also been identified by Datamonitor, which listed nostalgia and exotic flavours as two major trends for 2008.
But while Datamonitor said retro flavours conjuge up memories of ‘the good old days’, Frost & Sullivan makes the connection with ‘emotional wellness’. The new paper cites traditional flavours that are associated with naturalness and good health as examples of this – such as blueberry, grape, aloe vera, and citrus flavours.
The shock of the new
Frost & Sullivan agrees that the emotional pull exists in parallel with a desire for new, exciting, and exotic flavours – and products with single flavours may no longer be enough to grab consumers’ attention.
“It’s not just the basic chocolate or vanilla flavours anymore. Now, it’s the combination of white chocolate with cranberries or Tahitian vanilla with honey.”
But Gajendran observes that neither consumers nor industry “seem quite satisfied” with what is on offer by way of flavours at present. “The search for novel and exotic flavours seems to be a perpetual one”.
Indeed, this observation is in keeping with the top ten flavours of the season published by flavour firm McCormick. This makes use of some unusual combinations that are likely to intrigue and give rise to some unusual taste sensations on the tongue.
For instance, McCormick has teamed up clove with green apple, sea salt with smoked tea, ginger and pistachio, and wasabi and maple.
Dining out on a trend
Frost & Sullivan notes that more and more people are eating out in restaurants, where they are experiencing exotic foods and dishes from different cultures. The expansion of flavour horizons that comes with this has a trickle-down effect on manufactured foods, since consumers would like
“The flavour manufacturers will consider this trend to develop the products that will match these occasions,” said Gajendran.