Today’s flavor trends are seeing some shifts, as millennial and Gen X diners—those with the highest disposable income—continue to distinguish themselves from other generations by actively seeking new offerings over traditional ones, a key finding from Technomic’s new 2017 Flavor Consumer Trend Report, powered byIgnite. The research notes that providing both familiar and innovative flavors can help operators bridge this generational gap. As consumers’ expectations for new and creative flavors rise, operators are maximizing appeal by displaying transparency, uniqueness and a certain level of comfort within flavors. Here’s how.
Creative and spicy combinations
Patrons are actively seeking spicy fare as well as interesting flavor combinations that incorporate heat. Over one-third of all consumers and 43% of consumers age 18 to 34 want restaurants to offer flavor combinations, per Technomic’s report. The demand for heat may draw interest in complex spicy flavor combos, such as pickled, sour, savory or sweet flavors blended with spicy.
Fast-food chain Tim Hortons recently debuted its Buffalo Latte, made with espresso, mocha and Buffalo sauce, and topped with zesty Buffalo seasoning. The concoction is currently available at two locations in Buffalo, N.Y.—the birthplace of Buffalo wings. Stephen Goldstein, regional president of Tim Hortons U.S., told Fox News that "the unlikely pairing of sweet mocha and tangy Buffalo sauce come together to create an unexpectedly delicious sweet and spicy treat."
Bold new flavors
Foodservice usage is higher among patrons who actively seek new flavors, per the Technomic report. As a result, operators may become less dependent on salt and sugar and focus more on bold flavors like ranch and soy, for instance. In fact, 45% of consumers say they typically crave bold flavors, up from 41% in 2015, and younger consumers say they’re more interested in trying new flavors than they were a year ago.
California-based chain Jack in the Box has been testing food truck-inspired sandwiches at its units near San Diego. One of its offerings is the new Crunchy Chicken Banh Mi, which features mayonnaise made with gochujang—a fermented red chili paste originating in Korea.
Signature flavors and sauces
Signature dishes may help operators set themselves apart and drive purchases, as 43% of all consumers say they’re tempted to order an item if it comes with an original sauce or ingredient. This is especially common among younger consumers, as 52% of millennials and 49% of Gen Zers say so, according to the Technomic report.
McDonald’s rolled out its new buttermilk chicken fingers earlier this month, featuring the chain's new Signature Sauce: a tomato and egg yolk concoction with a strong garlic flavor, according to Tim Carman, food writer at the Washington Post.