T. Hasegawa USA has released a new "Flavor Flash" report focusing on the latest trends in "Innovation on the Menu."

Key findings included:

  • Fear lies in the unknown. According to Mintel research, 30% of consumers are likely to be deterred by new flavors if they are not described on the menu. Operators should ensure that menu lingo is clear to provide consumers context into what they are ordering and remove the fear of the unknown. 
  • In-restaurant dining promotes new flavor trial, while takeout caters to familiar favorites. Nearly half (46%) of consumers are more likely to try new flavors when eating at a restaurant than when ordering takeout/delivery. While takeout should still offer elevated flavor experiences, the options should focus on balancing new flavors with well-established favorites. 
  • The power of social media for younger consumers. According to a Mintel survey, younger consumers are three times as likely to be motivated to visit a restaurant by social media recommendations than older generations (38% of Gen Z compared to 11% of Gen X and other consumers). Operators can seek flavor inspiration from emerging Tik Tok food trends, while also serving up picture-worthy platings to encourage consumers to post their meal and promote the restaurant. 
  • Sauces can be a key differentiator for fast food chains, and a powerful driver for customer traffic. Nearly 40% of consumers in a Mintel survey indicated that a unique sauce would motivate them to visit a restaurant. The biggest trending sauces are bold, spicy options such as Chipotle Pepper and Jalapeño, while the market is growing for tamer, soothing flavors like buttermilk. 
  • Specialty diets offer an opportunity for specialty flavors. Diets such as Keto and low-sodium are prompting consumers to seek-out healthy options at restaurants that are tailored specifically for these diets. Dishes with herbaceous flavors and functional ingredients can maximize plate appeal and taste, while delivering on the BFY health attributes that consumers are looking for. 
  • Adventurous diners indicate a positive future for restaurant flavor innovation, especially in sauces. Around 75% of consumers expressed interest in bold flavors like jerk seasoning, spicy honey, truffle, and ginger while 85% of consumers are interested in sesame seed flavors.
  • More than half of consumers order restaurant dishes they cannot make at home. Dining at a restaurant is seen as an opportunity to explore bolder, more complex flavors than consumers would typically make at home, and most consumers are open to trying new flavors when eating at a restaurant. 
  • Mixologists are innovating cocktails with a broad range of unexpected ingredients. Herbs like huacatay and epazote are popping up on cocktail menus as part of the recent push for more aromatic, floral ingredients in cocktails. Even non-alcoholic “mocktails” are growing in sophistication, such as Gazoz, an aromatic, colorful low/no-ABV cocktail consisting of soda water, small-batch syrups, fermented fruits, and spices. 

Click here to read the full report.