With the start of the new year, many companies are sharing their predictions for 2024. This prognostication includes what flavors and colors are forecasted to be trending this year. Flavors and colors are an integral part of the delivering the sensory experience consumers look for whether bold and daring or familiar and comfortable.
New for 2024
Chocolate remains a classic flavor that has staying power. Flavorchem has taken a new twist on a familiar favorite and launched their latest collection called “Chocolate Remix” which aims to provide innovative flavor solutions for bakery, snack, and beverage manufacturers.
“Chocolate continues to lead the food and beverage industry as the top flavor found in global food and drink launches, appearing in over 12,000 launches this year, and plays a role in year-long treating and celebration,” Rebecca Shurhay, senior marketing specialist, Flavorchem, explains. “As the definition of wellness has broadened to include mental and emotional health, chocolate flavors are in high-demand as a cherished mood-booster and a quintessential comfort flavor.”
The line consists of six new natural, non-GM flavors:
- Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana: nutty and nostalgic, a flavorful fusion of creamy peanut butter and ripe banana
- Chocolate Stout: rich blend of dark chocolate, malt, and roasted notes inspired by the classic chocolate-based beer
- Dark Chocolate Mint: cooling peppermint and rich cocoa notes comprise this iconic seasonal flavor profile
- Mezcal Hot Cocoa: elevated take on Mexican Hot Chocolate infused with alcoholic, sweet, and smoky flavors
- White Chocolate Toasted Coconut: flavorful combination of toasted, warm, cocoa butter notes for that melt-in-your-mouth feel
- White Chocolate Matcha: creamy chocolate and floral notes are paired in this indulgent green tea mashup
GNT USA’s Exberry offers manufacturers plant-based, sustainable color solutions created from fruits, vegetables, and plants. The company recently expanded the line and introduced an oil-soluble range of yellow and orange colors. These new colors reportedly offer the highest-intensity colors, blend seamlessly for a uniform appearance and can be used in seasoning mixes, compound coatings, spreads, and more.
- Exberry Shade Vivid Orange OS: made from paprika and can be described on the label simply as “paprika (color)”
- Exberry Annatto OS Intense: can be labeled as “annatto extract (color)”
- Exberry Yellow Carotene OS: listed as “beta carotene (color)”
- All the new products are non-GMO, vegan, halal, and kosher and processed without the use of organic solvent
- The oil soluble products can be used to achieve shades from bright yellow to deep reddish-orange and they can also be blended with the Exberry micronized powders and oil-dispersible ranges to create a much broader spectrum
ADM is continuing to build its Colors from Nature portfolio to deliver bold and vibrant color solutions with excellent stability. This includes its stable fruit juice blue, which is derived from the huito fruit in the Amazonian region and made using the company’s unique and patented technology.
“Our naturally derived blue is extremely stable during all processing conditions, such as extruded processing, baked, fried, cooked with high heat, and more. Furthermore, it is extremely stable in light and provides blue shade in all pH systems from low to neutral,” shares Hélène Moeller, vice president, global product marketing, flavors and colors, ADM. In addition to eye catching blue, fruit juice blue can create many different shades of purple, greens, and browns which can be used in extruded snacks, crisps, pastries, and fillings.
The company has also expanded its red color solutions which are derived from natural sources such as fruit juices, vegetable juices, and other botanicals. These can be used to create a range of different shades of red and pink colors (i.e. reddish pink, red shade with blue notes, true red and deep red).
Mane continues to add to its C-Capture Natural color portfolio and introduced its newest color, Butterfly Pea Extract.
“Butterfly Pea Extract comes from the butterfly pea flower which is commonly found in Southeast Asia. It is used to make butterfly pea flower tea or blue tea. The color the butterfly pea extract casts in the product will vary depending on the pH of the base. The more acidic the pH the more purple or pink the hue will be, and as the pH rises, the more blue the hue will become,” explains Mandy Sakar, senior customer marketing manager, food and sweet market categories, Mane.
Givaudan recently released a high concentration orange carrot under its Vegebrite line of colors. This simple label yellow-orange option provides golden tones for baked goods. It can help customers achieve that brioche or yellow cake look, especially in vegan bakery products where egg yolks are not being used.
As 2024 begins, consumers are fully embracing the mantra of “new year, new me” in not just their personal choices, but also when picking what goes on their plate, shares Moeller. “We expect to see bold, unapologetic choices across snack foods that allow consumers to embrace self-expression. In bite-sized offerings, snacks are the ideal format for consumers trying out different and unique choices. Think of a bright blue veggie-based chip, deep green seaweed snack, or even a purple blueberry yogurt pretzel.”
“Along with bold colors, impactful flavors in innovative combinations of sweet with umami are also popping for consumer interest which can work in both sweet and salty snacks,” Moeller continues. “Think of combinations such as soy sauce and honey, furikake on sweet snacks, and parmesan with sweet heat added.”
Health and wellness remain top of mind for consumers, Moeller relates. “For snack brands, this means innovating fun yet functional offerings. For instance, a bright yellow high protein and fiber crisp dusted in shacha (a Chinese spice) can ignite consumers’ taste buds and fulfill a desire for added functional ingredients. As yuzu and blood orange make their way to becoming new mainstream citrus flavors, expect to see them bring some tart brightness for both flavor and color to snacks in combinations such as yuzu black pepper seasoning or blood orange dark chocolate flavor pairing.”
Shurhay notes that global flavors have become increasingly popular in the savory snack space as consumers show greater interest in exploring diverse and international tastes. “This trend aligns with a broader cultural shift towards culinary exploration and a desire for unique and exotic flavor experiences,” she says. “Flavors from Latin America and Asia including churro, chili lime, wasabi, and sriracha, are gaining the most share in global new snack launches.”
In the salty snacks category, Mane continues to see a desire for spicy flavors. However, research from Mane’s Consumer Insights shows consumers also want their snacks to have great flavors that are enhanced by heat. “We continue to conduct primary research on topics such as familiarity with different pepper varietals and the heat level expected as well as flavor pairings on potato and tortilla chips,” shares Sakar.
Sakar is also seeing flavor trends that include U.S., regional flavors like Nashville Hot or Pimento Cheese inspired by the South as well as flavors inspired by Latin America such as churro and elote.
Kelsey Roden, category marketer, snacks, Givaudan, notes seeing unique flavor combinations or cross-category mash-ups that you would not traditionally expect.
“Think of things like churro puffs, s’more flavored trail mix, or fruity flavored popcorn,” Roden says. “Products like these are fun for consumers because they provide an element of surprise in terms of flavor or a throwback to a childhood memory. It also provides a great opportunity to experiment with color blends in new ways like blue and pink popcorn to take the experience to the next level.”
According to Alice Lee, technical marketing manager, GNT USA, orange and red hues remain popular for snacks with cheesy and spicy profiles. Plant-based colors can be used to achieve intense cheesy orange shades, really bright hot reds, and smoky browns in seasoning mixes for products like extruded snacks and chips.
“While these are more traditional favorites, we’re also seeing brands launch innovative new options. In the better-for-you snack space, brands are using eye-catching colors in products like ube crackers as a visual signal of their healthfulness,” Lee imparts. “Another example, spirulina—which has received U.S. FDA approval for use in seasoning—is an on-trend superfood that can be used to deliver really intense blue and green shades.”
Sweet baked goods
Consumers want indulgent baked goods to treat themselves, and color can play such as important role in carrying that visual appeal and meeting consumers taste expectations shares Lee. At the same time, consumers are paying more attention to what they are eating and looking for clean and simple ingredient lists.
“There is now an ‘electric’ color trend in bakery and pastry that uses flashy retro colors to create a nostalgic effect with a touch of originality,” notes Lee. “A choux pastry, for example, could be made with vibrant pink icing. Cosmic colors are another important trend in products such as cupcakes and doughnuts. It’s all about creating a sensory experience full of adventure with intense hues such as blacks, grays, dark blues, and deep purples in gradients to evoke a sense of mystery and creativity.”
One of the flavor and color trends ADM identified for 2024 is “Dare to #dupe” and noted “duping” continues to spark innovation.
“Consumers are captivated by products that can replicate authentic and past experiences. In sweet baked goods,” shares Moeller. “For example, this could look like a pistachio doughnut that evokes memories of a favorite childhood breakfast. In addition to pistachio, as both a flavor and color, pink power, magical marigold and playful blue colors, and notes of melon and grapefruit are finding their place in the bakery aisle, as consumers resonate with re-inventions of nostalgic products or flavors.”
In a similar vein the company notes that consumers are leaning into luxurious eating experiences more than ever, but want it without the price tag.
“Baked goods developers can strike this balance by incorporating indulgent flavors like caramelized fruits (bananas, apples) into grab-and-go snack cakes and cookies, providing both sweetness and richness, along with hints of vanilla. Accompanied by deep shades of fiery brick or apricot crush, these sweet baked goods meet consumers’ desires for curated experiences,” states Moeller.
The company also expects to see pistachio heavily featured in the laminated bread space (i.e., croissants, cronuts) and fruits like lychee, fig, mango, and coconut having more of a presence in sweet baked goods as a topping or filling. In addition, sweet and spicy (i.e. jalapeño cinnamon rolls, sriracha-glazed doughnuts) continues and will see more infiltration of savory profiles into sweet formats.
According to Shurhay, consumers are still finding enjoyment in the traditional flavors that provide comfort and familiarity. “Classic flavors featuring chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, and caramel will remain popular in the coming years as brands look to elevate their current product lines. Elevated flavors include white chocolate matcha, strawberries and cream, honey vanilla, caramel honeycomb, and peanut butter and jelly.”
Another trend Shurhay is seeing in the sweet baked goods space is botanicals, and exotic fruit flavors are continuing to drive industry trends by providing new taste experiences with a fresh twist.
“Brands are stirring up the senses with aromatic flavors and vibrant colors of flowers. Floral notes such as rose, lavender, and hibiscus, have found their way into sweet baked goods, providing a delicate and aromatic touch,” notes Shurhay. “Fresh herbs like basil, mint, and thyme are adding an herbal twist. Brands are introducing exotic fruits like blood orange, prickly pear, and guava, combining them with familiar flavors for an approachable adventure. This pairing technique, balancing a known flavor with something new, offers endless possibilities.”
Consumers continue to find appeal in their childhood favorite flavors shares Lindsey Oostema, senior business development manager, Synergy Flavors. “Flavors like birthday cake, cookie dough, cookies and cream, and s’more are on Innova Market Insight’s Emerging Flavors ‘Watch List’ for bakery, indicating brands are tapping into flavor profiles of the past decade. Considering approximately 40% of the U.S. purchase confection simply because it makes them happy, nostalgic profiles can help the category continue to bring joy to consumers.”
“Nostalgic flavors or ‘newstalgic’ twists on familiar favorites such as s’mores, birthday cake, and animal cookie have taken these childhood favorite products and translated them into new products that appeal to generations,” states Sakar.With all these exciting new options to experience, producers and consumers alike are looking forward to a flavorful and colorful new year.