Kerry has released a report predicting flavor and ingredient themes that are trending in ready meals, soups, sauces and sides in the United States and Canada. Based on the company’s continuous research and monitoring of industry product launches, sales data and menu penetration, the Kerry Innovating with Trending Savory Tastes breakout report provides a wealth of insights, market intelligence and information about taste trends and innovations in the foodservice and retail meal spaces. US- and Canada-specific trends are separated out in the report.

The breakout report’s insights are grouped under five main trends Kerry’s research has identified in savory meal trends for 2021 in both the US and Canada: ethnic exploration; savoring umami as the fifth taste; hint of natural sweetness; spicy specificity; and comforting cheese. Each of these subgroups lists specific trending flavors and ingredients, analyzes why consumers are favoring these tastes, and highlights real menu products that are finding success in the 2021 marketplace.

“The Innovating with Trending Savory Tastes report specifically details which taste advances are trending in meals right now, and lists exciting market examples of products and meal innovations in each area,” said Cassandra Rouleau with Kerry. “It delivers valuable insights about the rise of such emerging flavors (e.g., butter chicken, miso, black garlic, pho and harissa) and spices (e.g., ancho pepper, ghost pepper and poblano). In a time when few people can travel, consumers are exploring ethnic flavors like never before—in effect, they are traveling with their taste buds. The fifth taste, umami, also features prominently, as do combinations of natural sweetness with savory and the comfort of cheese.”

“A global leader in taste, Kerry is on a constant quest to discover and translate the best taste experiences from real food foundations. In this continuing effort, we are committed to guiding our customers on a journey to develop the next generation of authentic tastes that will delight, surprise and excite consumers,” adds Rouleau. “Our global taste charts represent Kerry’s annual review of the entire food and beverage taste landscape. This breakout report drills down further by identifying real-time taste trends in meals in both the US and Canada.”


Specific spices, ethnic exploration and umami bringing new taste experiences

A growing interest in spicy foods is one of this year’s highlights. Consumers are looking beyond jalapeño peppers as they seek more intense “heat” from flavors such as serrano and ghost pepper. According to Datassential’s 2020 menu trends research, specificity is increasingly important for those looking for pepper flavors or ingredients, with more generic “chili” flavors having lost ground over the past four years. Brands and operators looking to reach consumers should call out the specific pepper they are using on the pack or menu, as this helps consumers to identify spice levels.

In 2020, Innova found that more than one-third of Americans said they are “very interested” in trying ethnic cuisines. And it’s no wonder: consumers weren’t able to travel much last year, and the same may go for 2021. As the public experiences “food boredom,” being able to travel through one’s taste buds is a surging pastime. Ethnic flavors such as marsala and harissa are popping up in more ready-to-eat retail offerings, with sauces and seasonings, soups, ready meals and side dishes showing the highest percentage of ethnic launches. Brands can introduce regional-specific and ethnic flavors to consumers seamlessly by pairing them with familiar comfort foods and meals that don’t require much preparation.

Also, according to Datassential, use of the term “umami” has grown 43 percent on menus over the past four years. A range of ingredients, including miso, soy sauce, truffle mushroom and black garlic—all on the US and Canadian “Emerging” and “Up & Coming” categories within the meals breakout report—can help build a savory profile that imparts richness and depth of flavor in such applications as sauces, soups and salad dressings. Additionally, a wide variety of cheeses are on the rise, including ones that feature vegan and plant-based claims, and options with spicy and ethnic flavors (such as contija and feta).

“It’s important for brands using umami to include the term on the item menu description. This enables consumers to be aware that they are experiencing this intriguing fifth taste,” notes Rouleau. “In these challenging times, consumers are hungry to experience comforting new flavors, so menu developers must remain on the cutting edge of the newly emerging flavors that may appeal to their customers—and communicate clearly what they are including in their new offerings. Kerry’s taste and flavor applications development team includes highly experienced in-house chefs who can assist customers in product development.”

The Kerry Innovating with Trending Savory Tastes report is available for download here.

Methodology for the Global Taste Charts

Kerry’s Taste Charts methodology has evolved, and now analyzes point-of-sale figures, product launches and menu penetration as primary sources of data to parse flavor trends in both retail and foodservice. This is in addition to internal insights and comprehensive information from other significant industry reports. Kerry's predictions date back a decade, and it considers both the flavors and ingredients that are here to stay (it labels these Mainstream and Key), and new flavors and ingredients set to create ripples in the industry (identified as Up & Coming and Emerging).