Flavors aren’t just about tasting good anymore. They support the brand’s broader appeal when it comes to health, naturalness, provenance, and sustainability.
Top 10 Trends: Flavor Drivers
Many of Innova’s Top 10 Trends for 2023 impact broad flavor development. Redefining Value – a top 10 trend defines combating feelings of instability, requires a deep understanding of where consumers draw the line on compromise – is driving the focus on flavors that can reinforce other messages, such as natural, botanical, upcycled, seasonal, local. Botanical and superfood flavors are relevant to Plant-Based: Unlocking a New Narrative – describing how underused ingredient and technology-enabled new formats open wider spaces for standalone plant-based innovation – while Unpuzzle Health – defined as how simple communication backed by trusted certification reinforces health messages, especially when matched by consumer experience – further indicates demand for healthy flavor choices.
Top 10 Trends: Flavor Experiences
Generational Push – positive engagement and new experiences find favor with younger consumers used to sharing their views widely and willingly – highlights the relationship to age-oriented flavors, as the young are often drawn to novelty and hybrids and older consumers to tradition and nostalgia. The young are also expressing their flavor views online, relating to Devouring Digital – Innova’s seventh trend on how brands are starting to embrace the full potential of consumer connections by enhancing real life with digital experiences.
Quick Quality – Innova’s sixth trend that describes the blossoming of culinary creativity during the pandemic, thus now needing to come with added convenience to meet busier routines – suggests demand for flavor authenticity in cooking, while Revenge Spending – Innova’s eight trend, teaches that small pleasures have a heightened effect as luxury spending comes under pressure, offering opportunities to enhance brand perception – sees consumers looking to splurge small and indulge in sweet novel experiences.
Flavor Trends in Milk & Milk Drinks
Dairy milk drinkers still prefer unflavored products, but flavored lines have a slight edge among drinkers of dairy alternative milks. In dairy milks, flavored lines are steady on 43% of launches, but despite consumer trends, flavored products have lost share in dairy alternative milks, now making up 29% of launches. Milk chocolate flavors are dominant in dairy milk, ahead of strawberry, vanilla, and banana. Chocolate still leads in dairy alternative milks, but vanilla is a close second and three times more prevalent here than in dairy milk.
Premiumization and indulgence remain their strong grip in dairy and dairy alternative milks. In dairy milks, there are more added-value chocolate flavors and growth in dessert and bakery inspiration. In dairy alternative milks, chocolate and vanilla are still on the rise.
Flavor Trends in Spoonable Yogurt
Yogurt consumers are more likely to prefer flavored over unflavored or natural products. Flavored products represent almost three-quarters of dairy yogurt launches, but there is better growth in natural or unflavored options. The same is true in the dairy alternative segment, where nearly a third of new products are now unflavored. Berry and summer fruit flavors lead the way in both dairy and dairy alternative yogurt, with more than 40% penetration, led by strawberry. Vanilla is now ranked second in both areas. Flavor experimentation remains important in yogurt. In dairy yogurt, cake, cookie and pie flavors perform best. These are often used to add value to established fruits, like apple pie. In dairy alternative flavors, vanilla is still strong, while brown flavors are on trend.
Flavor Trends in Drinking Yogurt & Fermented Beverages
Flavored products represent a steady 74% of drinking yogurt and fermented beverage launches. Unflavored products are still popular in subcategories such as buttermilk or kefir, while many mainstream drinking yogurts also offer natural lines alongside flavored drinks. Fruit flavors are dominant, making up almost 89% of new product launches. This category tends to mirror yogurt flavor trends more than those in milk and milk drinks, but there is far less use of brown flavors than in either of those other categories. Vanilla and orchard fruits have seen their best growth in recent years, boosted by demand for indulgent flavors and greater fruit variety. Blended flavors are proving more popular, particularly berry blends but also dual-fruit flavors and those that feature vanilla.
Country Review: US Trends
In dairy milk and milk drinks in the US, flavored products featured more prominently in 2022-2023 than they did in 2018-2019, but dairy alternative segmentation remained solid. Chocolate dominates in dairy milks, while vanilla takes first place in dairy alternatives. Vanilla has been on the rise in both areas, while indulgent and seasonal NPD is also increasing. Flavored products dominate in US yogurt markets, and improved technology has boosted innovation in dairy alternative formats. Strawberry and vanilla are the top two flavors in both areas. Fruit choices continue to diversify, while fruit+ blends, or with added hints of fruit, are becoming more common. There is also growth in indulgent flavors.
Assessing niche flavors that could offer future growth potential on a regional basis, it seems that the most important global trend at present is the push toward indulgent and premium flavors as consumers look to splurge small. Europe shows a clear push toward indulgence, with confectionery, sweet bakery, and coffee influences. This indulgent focus is also evident in North America, while there is also interest in premiumizing the familiar, like strawberry+.
Latin America continues to look to the US and Europe for flavor inspirations, so indulgence is starting to creep in.
Asia has the most markedly local flavor patterns, with growth in, for example, brown sugar, cheese, florals, and local fruits.
This article is based on our report, “Milking the Taste Trends: Global Flavor Development in Dairy & Dairy Alternatives.”
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