Boosting Beverages: Future Flavour Trends for 2021

The taste for adventure, getting back to nature with botanicals and florals, and the exotic evolution of classic flavours such as citrus will be some of the top tastes as we head into the new year. Broad consumer trends for 2021, such as an increased focus on health and wellness due to the pandemic, and an increased desire for indulgence have helped feed these future flavour trends.

Next-generation Citrus

Citrus has been a classic flavour for years and its popularity shows no sign of slowing, what 2021 will bring, however, is an evolution of citrus to more exotic and adventurous forms. Sometimes described as the veteran of flavours in beverages, citrus continues to be a firm consumer favourite with manufacturers and brands elevating its status through types and nuances.

“We are seeing a wave of ‘next generation’ citrus profiles with blood orange, mandarin, pink grapefruit, yuzu and clementine all becoming more prevalent,” noted Vicky Berry, business development manager, Synergy Flavours.

“We anticipate further layering of citrus flavours with the next generation citrus profiles being combined with core citrus fruit.”

While more familiar citrus flavours are continuing to grow, more exotic flavours such as calamansi – a citrus fruit from southeast Asia which is a cross between a kumquat and a mandarin, are on the rise. Yuzu, in particular, is increasingly featured in new product launches.

Travelling the World Through Taste

With the pandemic eliminating adventures to exotic destinations in 2020, consumers will be looking to travel with their taste buds.

Globally inspired flavours make products seem more exotic and exciting. The trend of using globally inspired flavours from regions like east and southeast Asia, Latin America and the Mediterranean will accelerate because consumers will be more inclined to explore other cultures through food and beverage while they grapple with travel restrictions.

A top tip for launching exotic new flavours is to introduce them to consumers alongside something more familiar.

Health and Wellness

The increased awareness of wellbeing during the pandemic has a knock-on effect for flavours. Citrus again plays a part in this trend with consumers aware of the benefits of vitamin C. Immunity boosting combinations are also on the rise such as apple, carrot and ginger and lemon and manuka honey.

According to Mintel figures, in the UK, product launches with no, low, or reduced sugar claims accounted for 38.5 percent of new product developments in 2019. In response to this increasing demand, brands are using on-trend ingredients to enhance flavour, such as fruits with a natural health halo-like citrus, berry and honey for natural sweetness.

Savoury Flavours

With the ongoing sugar reduction trend, there has been a general move away from sickly-sweet drinks and towards savoury flavour profiles.

“The juice and smoothie market has shown how less-sweet flavours (e.g. vegetables) can distance products from the negativity associated with sugar,” commented Berry.

“Combining a savoury profile with a more accepted fruit is another way to help consumers accept savoury as a profile within beverages. We see this in products like juice shots, which deliver quick doses of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Many offer more savoury combinations and contain superfoods like turmeric and ginger, which are increasing in popularity in response to the COVID-19 pandemic as people seek to boost their wellbeing.”

Fermented flavours are another trend to watch with products such as kombucha and kefir (a fermented milk drink made from kefir grains) continuing to make waves in the mainstream.

Botanicals, Florals and Tea

Exploring familiar food flavours in a less familiar beverage setting and the potential for less-sweet flavours also plays into the rise of botanicals. The growing desire for holistic attributes in both foods and beverages will see botanicals such as lavender, turmeric, and basil come to the fore to address the rising call for light or earthy tones.

Floral flavours are also on the rise.

“Elderflower has traditionally been the consumer’s favourite floral, but we are seeing interest in other floral profiles like hibiscus and geranium,” said Berry.

“These deliver light floral characteristics, adding a touch of sophistication to beverages and are proving increasingly popular.”

Another light, delicate and premium flavour profile to keep an eye on is product the taste of tea.

“Synergy predicts white tea to be one of the top flavours gaining popularity in 2021,” continued Berry.

“Its delicate floral profile makes it well suited to work in a variety of beverage products, especially as natural flavours are poised to perform well with their perceived health and wellness benefits.”

Indulgence and Nostalgia

Consumers have been increasingly on the look-out for products that offer indulgence after a tough 2020. Expect consumers to seek comfort by indulging in time-honoured foods and tastes, things that please the eye and the taste buds.

An increased focus on emotional and mental wellbeing is prompting beverage developers to look back in time and take consumers on a trip down memory lane. Revisiting old flavours offers manufacturers a new area for innovation.

Popular ingredients that will continue strongly in 2021 will be sentimental flavours consumers associate with their childhood. Demand for durian fruit, for example, is on the increase in Asia and comfort foods such as sweet custard is increasing in popularity across Europe.

Into the new year, consumers will want to indulge in nostalgic tastes while also travelling with their tastebuds to try something exotic, all while considering the mental and physical health benefits of the products they consume.