The majority of Americans take a middle road when it comes to flavor experimentation. According to a survey published in Technomic’s American Express MarketBriefing, restaurant customers have a certain “zone of creativity” and will accept menu innovation within that “zone.” Items too far outside the zone may be rejected.
- 64% of American consumers say they like to try new flavors on occasion, while about 21% prefer to stick to familiar flavors. Only about 15% are truly adventurous, frequently seeking out new flavors.
- Grilled, fruity and sweet flavors lead in popularity, at 90%, 73% and 72% respectively
- The next tier of flavor categories—spicy, tangy and smoky—are very close behind, coming in neck-in-neck at 65%, 65% and 64% respectively
- Most consumers now believe that healthy items can be at least as tasty as indulgent ones, but the quality and "oomph" of the food, cooking style, herbs and spices become more important when fat, calories and salt are not as abundant
- Customers are more willing to experiment when they visit full-service varied menu restaurants, Italian eateries and limited service sandwich shops
- The “zone of creativity” is narrower for core menu items and broader for LTOs and seasonal specials. Customers will be more adventurous about trying a limited time offer or seasonal menu item with unfamiliar flavors.
- The cuisine best positioned as “ready for trial” appears to be Moroccan. Nearly 40% of consumers express an interest in ordering an item with typically Moroccan flavors and ingredients.