You know McCormick, the spice company, and all of those spice canisters piled up in your kitchen… essentials for creating a tasty meal. Besides making spices they look several years out to predict flavor trends consumers will be demanding. Restaurants and CPG food brands rely on these forecasts so they have the food you want, when you want it and how you want it!
McCormick's Predicts Food Trends with the 2012 Flavor Forecast
Chipotle potato chips with black pepper, bourbon marinades… these are just a few of the flavor trends that McCormick has correctly predicted over the last decade. Food brands are incorporating these flavors in their new product launches… flavors that were previously unheard of can be found in any grocery store aisle or convenience store.
McCormick's 2012 Flavor Forecast, uses market analysis and input from chef's and Food & Beverage industry experts to predict global cutting-edge flavors that will influence US food products and menus in 2012.
I interviewed Kevan Vetter, Corporate Executive Chef and Manager of Culinary Development at the McCormick Technical Innovation Center, to find out how they create their flavor forecasts and food trends that influence food industry new product launches.
Just to whet your appetite, here are some 2012 Flavor Forecast Flavor Combinations:
- Korean Pepper Paste with Sesame, Asian Pear & Garlic
- Cumin with Sofrito
- Meyer Lemon with Lemon Thyme, Limoncello & Lemon Peel
- Dill with Mint, Melon & Cucumber
- Eggplant with Honey & Harissa
- Ginger with Coconut
- Vanilla with Butter
- Red Tea with Cinnamon & Plum
- Grapefruit with Red Pepper
- Blueberry with Cardamom & Corn Masa
- Sweet Soy with Tamarind & Black Pepper
I Wondered How McCormick's Gathers Information to Create The Flavor Forecast
Kevin said this is the 12th year of doing the research for the McCormick Flavor Forecasts. McCormick's forms a team of food industry culinary experts, sensory scientists and marketing people. They get a homework assignment prior to meeting asking them to report on what is impacting their areas and trends they see for a 3 - 5 year period forward. Kevin says they start with a great deal of overlap in flavor trends worldwide. In 4 days they go from 1000's of post-it notes and down to 6 flavor forecast trends.
Sentiment indicators are a big thing today in understanding consumer behavior and what gets the consumer from undecided to decided. According to Kevin "We have a lot of sources. All of our teams are engaged in social media. We are looking for intriguing early stage conversations on the blogosphere in the world of food."
Examples of Past Forecasts that Came True
Kevin said "We forecasted in 2008 that cocktail inspired dishes were on the rise. Today, whiskey inspired items up over 400%. New products such as frozen entrees with beef tips in Whiskey sauce are now available in the supermarket when at one time consumers only found them on restaurant menus." The spirits industry points to Mojito, Margarita and Rye Whiskey are in resurgence… people are returning to classic cocktails. "In 2003 we forecasted the trend Rosemary and Black Pepper combinations and now look at what is happening in cracker aisle. There has been a 3200% increase in new product launches over 2000" according to Kevin.
New Product Development using the Flavor Forecast
Kevin said McCormicks works closely with food brands to help them take the great information in their Flavor Forcast and implement them in new product development. For example a brand that sells "meat alternative" vegetarian prepared foods asked McCormick for help in new product development. McCormicks "flavor experts showed them how they can take their protein strips (tofu based meat replacements) and contemporize their offerings with Korean street food flavors. The result was a Korean Taco made with chicken strips and an Asian Pear flavor.
The Connected Table and Screened Dining - Social Word of Mouth
The Connected Table, Screened Dining and the proliferation of food apps are new trends driven by social media and mobile technology. Kevin agrees "social" is a meta trend to watch since it is rapidly changing how we share our food experiences, "Digital and Social allow people to make these connections and really helps to build the groundswell to these trends. Social gives us a great avenue to drive excitement with consumers and restaurants. It allows cross cultural diffusion… How we eat no longer has boundaries. People are using Social Media to talk about flavors and restaurants". The explosion of Mommy Bloggers and Social Word of Mouth is one example of driving new product adoption fast!
Kevin said "No Boundaries are one my favorite trends. People are eating and cooking outside of the lines and having fun with food. When we present our trends to our customers we insure that they are relevant. For example, Blueberry and Corn Masa fits well with a side dish seasoned with Cardamom. People love comfort food but want to be inspired and want a different menu to avoid flavor fatigue. Everyone is a foodie these days." Social Media Word of Mouth helps break down the barriers and geographic boundaries, and super-charging the Diffusion and Adoption process.
Veggies in Vogue
"Veggies have been abused and not shown for great potential. Proliferation of farmers markets, people are really enjoying veggies and great fresh flavors. Eggplant with Honey and Harrisa (vibrant flavors) and Squash with Red Curry & Pancetta (savory and crunch)" according to Kevin.
Meta Food Trends to Watch
After speaking with Kevin and reviewing food trends for 2012 I have written about, here are larger trends I see for the next several years: