Ethnic flavours are expected to expand this year, together with an increased consumer demand for bigger, bolder tastes, according to a new flavours and ingredients report.
Published by Packaged Facts, the report also stresses a continued focus on health and wellness, convenience and natural/organic, as well as a move towards comfort and classic foods.
"Today's American eater is better educated about food and wants sophisticated products and flavours that satisfy their palates as well as their need for health, convenience and/or adventure," said Tatjana Meerman of Packaged Facts.
The result, said the report, is a move towards a wider span of ethnic flavours and speciality products, as well as a closer scrutiny and abandonment of "demonised" ingredients such as salt and high fructose corn syrup.
Flavours and Ingredients Outlook 2007, an annual publication in its fourth year, primarily examines emerging trends in foodservice and retail. However, through its examination of consumer preferences, the report could also provide a valuable guide to manufacturers of packaged foods.
The report examines a number of key segments that will affect flavours and ingredients in the upcoming year: international flavours; trendsetting ingredients that will affect food trends; flavours in the wellness sector, including key functional ingredients; vegetables and other natural good health ingredients; top fruit flavours and influences; green cuisine, including natural and organic ingredients; proteins such as meat, poultry, seafood, cheese, and yogurt; and trends in sweet indulgences.
According to Packaged Facts, after a year of focus on ethnic flavours, such as Asian and Hispanic, 2007 will see international flavours and influences continuing to grow and spread.
Asian and Hispanic flavours are next year expected to move mainstream, while emerging ethnic cuisines forecast to gain a lot of attention include Mediterranean - particularly Greek - and regional Asian influences, such as Thai. Mexican is also expected to move more upscale, and Indian will also feature strongly. African flavours will start to emerge, while Scandinavian and German/Slavic tastes are further out on the horizon.
Health and wellness will also continue to be one of the most powerful drivers in the food industry, according to the report, which predicts the continued growth of many of last year's key trends such as antioxidants, omega-3, probiotics, whole grains and the glycemic index.
Some of the newer issues expected to emerge this year include energy, children's wellness, calcium, and satiety.
Premium flavours are forecast to feature strongly this year, with consumers increasingly searching out upscale and gourmet flavours and ingredients, such as sophisticated salts, infused oils, and vinaigrettes. Comfort foods are also expected to experience more growth, particularly "updated classics".
Green, natural and fresh are further categories forecast to grow this year, with Americans showing a heightened interest in ethical consumerism - sustainable, organic, local and natural foods.
Exotic fruits will continue to feature strongly, especially pomegranate, acai, gogi berry, guarana, mangosteen, camu camu and cupuacu. Tropical fruits, such as mango and lychee, are also expected to get more notice this year.
Other key factors influencing flavor and ingredients examined in the report include food safety fears stemming from recent E coli outbreaks; food politics such as cloning and childhood obesity; and new food technologies such as food nanotechnology.
According to Packaged Facts, these are amongst factors heavily influencing the kinds of foods and flavour profiles sought after by today's time-constrained consumer who wants foods that are fast, healthy and tasty.