Flavour migration: From offbeat idea to mainstream favourite

By Niamh Michail

- Last updated on GMT

New flavour trends in food

Related tags: Flavor

With so many new and sometimes strange flavours hitting the market, we take a look at where they come from and how they become mainstream flavour fixtures.

According to David Turner, food and drink analyst at Mintel,​ new flavour ideas generally originate from two key sources, restaurant menus and travel abroad.

“When people eat out at restaurants they enjoy trying things they haven’t tried before and can’t cook at home. Travel abroad is also a key influence on young people who come back and want to buy the things they tried.”

Urbanisation is also a crucial driving factor to the importance of restaurants as sources of inspiration since a significant proportion of ethnic restaurants are found in cosmopolitan cities, and city-dwellers are generally the most adventurous consumers.

Sriracha, or the flavour migration

Many of the new flavours we see on our menus and supermarket shelves in Europe often get there through a ‘flavour migration’ from the US, Turner says.

Sriracha, a Thai chilli sauce, is an example of this flavour journey. Although it has been a staple seasoning in Thailand for years, the sauce began appearing on US high-end restaurant menus in early 2012, gradually making its way onto retail shelves in the form of specialist condiment sauces.

By the end of 2013 it was appearing in lower-end restaurants and fast food chains, with Taco Bell bringing out a sriracha burrito.

At the start of 2014, the condiment made the leap from stand-alone sauce to flavouring for other food categories, with Sriracha-flavoured Pringles, cooking sauces and ready meals.

According to Turner, once a product is firmly established in US retail, the move to European shelf space is quick to follow.

“When trying out new savoury flavours they have never tried before, consumers want the ‘lowest risk’ item: this often means pour-over cooking sauces,”​ he said. 

They can be added to a single meal and used once, meaning if consumers don’t like it they haven’t lost much. The Thai flavour is now appearing on European retail shelves in this form.

Consumers just want to have fun

In the sweet category, he says consumers are more likely to be experimental as sweet food is considered to be a fun treat.

“Innovative disruptions work well in this sector. Things like wasabi ice-cream may not necessarily ever become mainstream but consumers see them as interesting and unusual,” ​he said.

And sometimes, of course, seemingly incongruous flavour combinations - such as salted caramel or chilli chocolate - do catch on and become mainstream.

Once this happens, consumers are more likely to want to try different executions of the flavour, which is why flavours migrate from one application to another. This explains the myriad of salted caramel products or Tesco’s successful range of custard cream spread or bourbon spreads launched in October 2014, inspired by the Dutch Speculoos biscuit-flavoured spread.

Consumers also become more discerning as they become more familiar with flavours, allowing manufacturers to market specialised varieties of a certain flavour. The humble coffee cake, for instance, has been usurped by macchiato tiramisu or cappuccino ice-cream.

So if food manufacturers want to be the first to find the hottest new up-and-coming flavour?  “Look at what changes are appearing on restaurant menus,” ​says Turner.

Related news

Related products

show more



OATVITA, a Frulact company | 27-Jun-2022 | Product Brochure

OATVITA is focused on the development of plant-based concentrated liquid solutions for food and beverage industry. We offer innovative and tailor-made...

Beverages with Benefits, from ADM

Beverages with Benefits, from ADM

ADM | 21-Jun-2022 | Product Brochure

Whether they are simply interested in supporting their overall health & wellness or are targeting a specific need state that’s important to them, consumers...

Related suppliers

Follow us


View more