Flavors & colors



  • Nostalgic flavors still popular
  • Ethnic flavors reign supreme
  • Dairy flavors for cheesy snacks

Flavor experiences

Health and wellness, comfort, and a taste for adventure are driving flavors and colors trends.

Joyce Friedberg, Contributing Writer

Macro trends influence consumers’ attitudes, behaviors, and trends, ultimately influencing food, color, and flavor trends. COVID-19 has impacted how and where consumers shop, where they eat, and the type of food experiences they are looking for. After two years of the pandemic, consumers are growing weary and are looking for comfort and nostalgia to help alleviate some of the stress.

Logo, Black, Font, Word, Company, Brand, Uppercase, Circle


Also growing in importance is consumer interest in health and wellness. Consumers are more mindful of their own health and well-being. In research shared by ADM, Chicago, 70% of consumers rank new and interesting flavors as important snack purchase criteria, with greater emphasis for health-forward snacks such as energy and nutrition bars. Additionally, 58% of consumers prioritize global flavors when selecting snacks, and are looking for new bold, spicy, and exciting flavor experiences.

Colors and flavors need to work hand-in-hand with their overall product profile, and we are seeing more synergy, especially in sweet baked goods. “Color primes the taste buds with expectations, and flavor delivers on that promise for a memorable, multi-sensorial experience that consumers crave,” says Jennifer Zhou, senior director of product marketing, North America, ADM.

“Color primes the taste buds with expectations, and flavor delivers on that promise for a memorable, multi-sensorial experience that consumers crave.”

— Jennifer Zhou, senior director of product marketing, North America, ADM

Headshot, Portrait, Hairstyle, Blouse, Shoulder, Smile, Earring

New and on-trend
Companies keep their fingers on the pulse so they know and understand the flavor and color trends consumers are looking for and translate that into new food and flavor experiences. One area within health and wellness that is experiencing significant growth is plant-based foods.

Kerry, Beloit, WI, is continuing to innovate around plant-based dairy in the salty snack category. “We’ve developed a building block approach that leverages our plant-based dairy foundational solutions in combination with our characteristic dairy taste, umami and savory enhancement, coupled with our modulation technology to deliver authentic dairy experiences in plant-based snacks. We have tools that help enable a creamier mouthfeel such as our oat creamer and other tools that aid in masking and modulation to ensure we are delivering the entire dairy like eating experience,” explains Kyle Kamp, director of business development, dairy taste.

The company offers traditional dairy-type flavors such as Cheddar, mozzarella, Parmesan and butter, but the portfolio also includes bolder flavors such as applewood-smoked Provolone and feta. These plant-based seasonings can be tumbled on as a coating for chips, crackers, puffs, or even popcorn. By incorporating the seasoning at the end of the process, ensures the flavor profiles are not impacted by the intense heat of baking, extrusion, or frying.

In keeping with the health and wellness theme another area of focus is sodium reduction and Kerry has broadened its Tastesense Salt portfolio. Utilizing high-performance yeast, umami and kokumi tools in combination with sodium modulator technology can help companies reduce sodium while still delivering on taste. These tools work well in topical snacks, extruded snacks, popcorn, and nuts.

Parker Food Group, Fort Worth, TX, recently launched a new High Protein Cookie line that can be used in snack mixes or baked goods. For those consumers looking to incorporate more protein into their diet, the High Protein Cookie line will feature an average of 30 grams of protein per 100 grams. Initial flavors that will be offered are chocolate, graham, and vanilla and are available in the Cookie Gem product line, as well as crushed and whole cookie sizes. In addition, available formulas include plant-based or dairy-based protein, low-sugar, and gluten-free.

The company is also addressing the need for comforting flavors and colors by adding a new Bake Stable Toffee to its line. This new ingredient can add color, flavor, and texture to products. It can suspend within firmer doughs such as cookies, brownies, or snack bars and offers that nostalgic toffee taste and texture that won’t melt out in the bake. It is also available in a nut-free version as well shares John Pimpo, marketing director, Parker Food Group.

Consumers are looking for a taste of adventure and companies are answering. Flavorchem, Downers Grove, IL, recognizes consumers continue to embrace adventure through international flavors. The company offers a library of ethnic flavors including elote, gochujang, horchata, sriracha, and wasabi, that will allow consumers to travel through their taste buds, notes Rebecca Shurhay, marketing analyst.

Muffins, Baked goods, Food, Ingredient, Recipe, Cuisine, Dish, Produce

Courtesy of Parker Food Products

Two years of pandemic restrictions have made consumers eager for a taste of adventure, says Jill Houk, culinary director for spices by olam food ingredients (ofi), Glenview, IL. “Recreating the excitement of discovering new tastes while traveling is central to this trend—so fiery, exciting favors are key. We see this trend even more prominent for younger consumers in particular—the hotter the spice level, the better. This need for heat is fueling interest in different chile varieties such as habanero, ancho, guajillo, or the infamous scorpion pepper and is part of the inspiration driving the new Blends of America vibrant spice blends that ofi recently launched. These 17 ready-to-use dry combinations give snack producers a simple solution for creating applications using authentic regional flavors from modern Mexico, the Caribbean and the US Southwest. These blends give a rich spice kick to everything from nuts to cracker to potato chips,” shares. Some examples of these new blends are bold combinations like Citrus Habanero Jerk, a blend of allspice, habanero chile, and limes, and Spicy Citrus Coast, a modern Mexico blend featuring scorpion chile and ground red pepper.

Sensient Flavors & Extracts, Hoffman Estates, IL, has launched Boundless, a chile extract line that can bring new, bold, and exciting flavor profiles to snack and bakery products. “This line allows developers to incorporate named chilies such as Habanero or Ancho to applications not seen before. These products deliver smokiness and green culinary notes to cornbread or authentic taste to chocolates,” states Kevin Barasa, global product manager, extracts.

Butter Buds Inc., Racine, WI, has a new item that is in the final stages of approval, Butter Buds Butter Flavor AB. “This new item emulates a popular butter flavor from New Zealand. The profile is richer, creamier butter base notes when compared to our other items. This item works best in sweet bakery doughs such as cookies,” shares Zachary Fuchs, international business development manager.

Butter Buds has also launched Dried Beer Extract Plus. “This item can be used in bakery applications to provide a more-fermented note for those items lacking the manufacturing time necessary to create a complete proofed profile,” says Michael Ivey, national sales director. “Dried Beer Extract Plus contains more of an upfront malt flavor profile with brown middle and end notes.”

2022 flavor forecast: snacks 
“The past few years have reshaped the flavor landscape,” says Phillip Caputo, marketing and consumer insights manager, Virginia Dare, Brooklyn, NY. “Virginia Dare has determined ‘wellness flavors’ as the most influential taste trend going into 2022, as physical and mental health takes priority. We also expect greater interest in sweet spice flavors and ‘elevated classic flavors,’ plus continued growth and evolution of comforting nostalgic flavors.” Here’s how he breaks down the top flavor trends:

  • Wellness flavors: functionally-inspired taste profiles for modern wellness brands based on ingredients with inherent therapeutic properties or association from aromatic cues, further broken into:
    • “Moodfluencing” flavors: therapeutic wellness flavors for emotional well-being products with adaptogens, botanicals, and functional fruits for mental acuity, mindfulness, sleep, etc.—i.e., calming and relaxing flavors such as blackberry lavender or energizing and invigorating flavors like mango turmeric or pineapple ginger
    • “Bodyboosting” flavors: wellness flavors for physical and internal support products with targeted nutritional properties—i.e., elderberry açaí for immune support or ginger chai apple cider vinegar for digestion
    • “Beautifying” flavors: wellness flavors for beauty and healthy aging products inspired with collagen, biotin, botanicals, and ingredients high in antioxidant—i.e., green tea tangerine or cranberry matcha for skin, hair, or nail support
  • Sweet spice flavors: sweet and warming spices like cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, fenugreek, clove and turmeric have been transitioning from seasonal to year-round enjoyment, offering comfort through happy memories of holiday dessert, warm cinnamon buns, or hot chai, and rooted in traditional medicine or functional teas, known for therapeutic properties, such as:
    • Apple cider chai kombucha
    • Chai gingersnap
    • Maple spiced matcha
    • Cinnamon citrus peel green tea
    • Spiced fig honey
  • Elevated classic flavors: elevating a classic adds a sophisticated twist to popular flavors that come across as fresh for thrill seekers, yet familiar enough for the more traditionalists, such as:
    • Vanilla honeycomb
    • Chocolate malt
    • Maple caramel
    • Cake batter mocha
    • Caramelized banana

Formulators often seek the spark that will ignite new product innovation across multiple categories and cultures. In order to identify those sparks of innovation, Kerry utilizes a process that combines proprietary insights, menu trends, product launches, ingredient labels, consumer preferences, social media chatter, chef lead innovation, and its own experience supporting new product launches across the globe (the company has on-the-ground presence in more than 150 global locations). All of this information is analyzed and compiled to bring together its annual Taste Chart, highlighting key flavor trends across multiple categories, ingredients, and cuisines. Soumya Nair, global consumer research and insights director, shares the key flavor trends from the 2022 Taste Charts that will impact the snack category:

  • Cheese continues to be a significant flavor in salty snacks, but this year Kerry sees provenance and varieties of cheese playing a stronger role. For instance, Provolone, pepper Jack, and Asiago will inspire more-sophisticated cheese-flavored snacks.
  • Chiles and spicy flavors continue to be popular across salty snacks, now it’s becoming more popular to call out named source peppers like habanero, ghost chile, and Hatch Valley chile. This year marks the first year that chile as a flavor theme in salty snacks stands in the mainstream position on Kerry’s charts, signifying the growing American appetite for adventure and heat.
  • With many consumers still unable to travel, authentic and international flavors will continue to grow in popularity. Most common in snacking are Mexican and Indian cuisine, with flavors such as curry, tikka masala, and Mexican taco.
  • With the growth of popcorn, Kerry is seeing more sweet flavors appear in the traditional salty snack space driven by LTO flavors like peppermint, s’mores, toffee, and maple.

Flavorchem also notes seeing a surge in adventurous flavors like jalapeño ranch, wasabi, Cheddar and chile, Korean BBQ, and fried pickle in salty snacks like chips, popcorn, and puffed snacks. “Breakfast-inspired flavors like cinnamon swirl, fruity cereal, and maple French toast are appearing in more snack bar launches, especially as brands are trying to tailor to the mid-morning snack occasion, along with fruit and botanical flavors like yuzu, tangerine, and lemongrass,” according to Shurhay.

According to Molly Shea, North America marketing and customer experience for snacks, IFF Nourish, South Brunswick, NJ, while cheese, barbecue, and spicy flavors remain popular with salty snacks such as chips, popcorn, and pretzels, consumers are seeking out more-adventurous flavors. “Consumers are on the hunt for flavors such as spicy coconut or Korean barbecue. Destination flavors are also on the rise, for example Caribbean jerk provides spicy, smoky, and earthy sweet heat that enhances any salty snack.”

ADM sees bold and global flavors important in order to satisfy adventurous consumers, with spice blends from Africa taking the lead. “Think kan kan, a spiced peanut powder, heat inducing berbere and za’atar, a complex blend that’s herby, earthy, tangy, and toasty all at once. Indian spices are another favorite, with garam masala and roasted cumin invigorating pretzels, popcorn, and crackers,” states Zhou. ADM offers other traditional tastes of India and the Middle East such as orange blossom, sesame, sumac, rose, pomegranate, and black lime and date.

2022 flavor forecast: sweet baked goods
While some overarching trends like health and wellness and authentic global cuisine influence multiple categories, there are also some nuances based on specific categories. Nair shares some of the key insights from Kerry’s 2022 Taste Charts that will shape the food trends in the sweet baked goods category:

  • Overly indulgent and seasonal flavors remain popular, with the flavors of sweet treats like key lime pie and rocky road being recreated into new formats.
  • As consumers seek conventional twists and flavors that surprise and delight, savory botanicals such as rosemary and sage have been rising alongside sweet botanicals like lavender and rose.

“Flavors that are emerging include mango, passionfruit, and yuzu for an exotic flair; and global flavors like matcha green tea and ube.”

— Cecilia Pereyra, North America marketing and customer experience for bakery, IFF Nourish

Flash photography, Face, Hair, Smile, Lip, Eye, Sleeve, Iris, Eyelash, Happy

As consumers are continuing to deal with the stress and impact to their daily routine caused by the pandemic, companies are seeing more consumers looking for more decadent flavors in sweet baked goods category. “Dessert flavors are an effective way to deliver comfort and joy as consumers seek feel-good moments that allow them to indulge. New twists on birthday cake flavors are appearing in cookies, chocolate bars, ice cream, doughnuts, and sweet pastries. Classic milk and cookie flavors that evoke reminiscent summertime memories including cotton candy, s’mores, and churros are inspiring reimagined takes in sweet baked goods. Indulgent seasonal flavors, often tied to comfort and nostalgia, are featuring upscale twists as brands manifest limited-edition novelties with flavors like maple brown sugar, salted caramel apples, and white chocolate peppermint for a most-indulgent consumer experience,” shares Shurhay.

The top flavor profiles in sweet baked goods are chocolate, vanilla, blueberry, peanut butter, coconut, cinnamon, strawberry, cherry, raspberry, sea salt, and apple, as well as confetti and birthday cake for celebratory moments.

Sweet brown flavors are a must-have when it comes to baked goods, notes Cecilia Pereyra, North America marketing and customer experience for bakery, IFF Nourish. “However, fruit flavors are popular too, as they lend themselves to being perceived as a better-for-you option. Flavors that are emerging include mango, passionfruit, and yuzu for an exotic flair; ginger, hazelnut, chai, mocha and cold brew coffee for a more-complex indulgent experience; and global flavors like matcha green tea and ube. We are also seeing a movement toward more sophisticated pairings, particularly with botanicals. Flavors such as lavender paired with lemon or blueberry, manuka honey with raspberry, and rosemary paired with apple are just a few examples.”

Indulgence, first and foremost, still remains a high influencer for consumers weighing their purchase decisions for sweet baked goods, says Pimpo. “According to Innova, classic flavors seem to remain atop the list with milk chocolate, fruit (specifically blueberry, strawberry, lemon and red raspberry), cinnamon, chocolate chip, and vanilla rounding out the top. We think consumer desire for comfort and nostalgia will continue to resonate within the sweet baked goods segment with new launches catering to this emotional need.”

Shannon Pimmel, brand and marketing manager, Sokol Custom Food Ingredients, Countryside, IL, notes seeing a lot of interesting expansion in the topping and filling of pastries. She notes ideation sessions in the last few months and looking forward have taken two key directions:

  • Playful nostalgia in the baked goods arena, with flavors like toasted marshmallow, churro, and eggnog doughnut filling
  • A desire for new and interesting global flavors situated in familiar pastries, like yuzu lemon curd, raspberry hibiscus, and Saskatoon berry drizzles
Pretzels, Candies, Colorful popcorn, Colorful crunchy snack mix

Courtesy of GNT USA

“We’re also seeing more wide-ranging interest in traditional pastries like hamantaschen and rugelech, and increasing interest in traditional fillings like poppy and almond,” says Pimmel.

Coloring our world
GNT USA, Tarrytown, NY, recently expanded its line of EXBERRY Colors. “EXBERRY Colors are clean-label concentrates based on the concept of coloring food with food. They’re created from familiar fruits, vegetables, and plants, and processed with simple methods that consumers would use in their own kitchens, such as chopping and boiling. We recently added two new products to our range made from red potatoes. EXBERRY Rubescent Red is dynamically bright, while EXBERRY Ruby Red has a hint of yellow,” shares Jeannette O’Brien, vice president. “They are both uniquely warm hues with a lively vibrancy and can be used in a wide range of applications including baked goods, frostings, and confections. Like all the EXBERRY colors, these new products represent on-trend, plant-based, and clean-label colors.”

O’Brien goes on to share that purple is one of the most-popular shades they are seeing in the sweet desserts category. “It’s a trend that aligns with the Pantone Color of the Year 2022, Very Peri, which is a vibrant, periwinkle blue and purple shade. Brands are embracing this trend through the launch of products such as pancakes containing ube, a purple sweet potato originating in the Philippines.” Instagrammable sweets with bright, eye-catching colors are also growing in popularity.

White colorants can pose challenges for formulators looking to stay clean-label. ADM just added PearlEdge to its rainbow of Colors from Nature, which provides bright-white hues in baked goods, snacks, and confections. “PearlEdge is a cutting-edge solution to the industry challenge of developing crisp white colorings with clean-label appeal for use in icings, glazes, coatings, fillings, and fondants,” says Zhou. “It’s also helpful in brightening and whitening bakes made with alternative flours that can discolor doughs and batters.” SF&WB

Table of Contents, TOC, Font, Text, White, Abbreviation