Deep dive in flavour trends in 2020

1 Sep 2020


The world of flavours is a world with endless opportunities. In January 2019, Puratos’ Flavour Expert Catherine Vermeulen shared 9 international flavour trends with us. How have these trends evolved? For Catherine, it’s very clear that the trend for healthier and more environmentally conscious lifestyles is here to stay; in 2020 people prefer to consume great-tasting food that matches these lifestyles and fulfils their needs. Read on to discover the latest trends in flavours and how to capitalise on them. 

Regional and global trendwatching

Catherine Vermeulen is Puratos’ flavour expert. She follows all trends and developments in the market closely, at both regional and global levels. She doesn’t focus exclusively on baked goods categories, as she also keeps an eye on trends in other sectors, like interior design, fashion, fine fragrances, ice cream and soft drinks. “These sectors really inspire us. For example, in 2020, the colour of the year is blue... Why not exploit this by using more blueberry fillings this year? Or by using algae like spirulina to naturally colour creams and decorations?”

Flavour, such a critical ingredient in food

Knowing that flavour is mainly about taste and smell, it is critical to select the right one. Indeed, when we look at the latest Taste Tomorrow survey, or at what has been driving consumer choices during and after the Covid-19 lockdowns, taste remains the no. 1 selection criterion for consumers when they buy chocolate, bakery or patisserie products. 

And smell is also very important for people. Did you know that 75% of all emotions generated on a day are created through smell? It can make you dream and travel, it can surprise and amaze you, it can bring up nice memories and it can help you to relax. 

Food should match a healthy and more environmentally conscious lifestyle

Due to Covid-19, people are focusing even more on healthy, paleo, organic, vegan, plant-based and fermented ingredients or recipes. They prefer to use locally sourced ingredients and look for natural, clean label, raw and ‘not over-processed’ food. Additionally, they are showing an interest in traditional medicines, e.g. Ayurvedic spices & plants. 

People are also tending to consume more eco-friendly ingredients, such as those that are soil-friendly because they are known to be regenerative, or those with a lower water footprint. And they try to exploit new and invasive resources from our seas and oceans, like algae, jellyfish or try to transform our polluted air into edible proteins. They also find ways to use waste.

Flavours can make healthier recipes and ‘unusual’ ingredients taste better

Because consumers care more than ever about human and planetary health, they want to eat less salt, fat and sugar, and more proteins and fibres. A growing number of people are willing to use ‘unusual’ ingredients like algae, insects or plants in their food – but without compromising on taste. Flavours can play a role in this, and Flavours with Modifying Properties (FMPs) in particular. FMPs are flavour solutions that usually do not really have a smell, an aroma or a taste as such. They are also used a lot in low-sugar, low-fat or healthier applications, and have the capability to: 

  • rebalance taste in products containing stevia extract, for example

  • restore mouth feel

  • mask off-notes/off-tastes like the bitter and metallic notes that are associated with some peptides or proteins. 

Therefore, these FMPs make new, innovative and very often functional ingredients attractive to consumers who want to help the planet, but who aren’t willing to compromise on taste. 

International trends in flavour

So how do these shifts in lifestyle and food preferences impact the world of flavours? Catherine shares the 6 most important flavour trends with you:

Trends linked to human health & well-being
Trend 1: Flavours that relate to healthy ingredients

Flavours that are related to ingredients, food or drinks with a healthy image are very popular worldwide. Think of flavours like honey, matcha, olive oil, nuts, ginger and fruits like pomegranates, berries and citrus fruit.

Trend 2: Flavours that bring relaxation

In a world where being busy (or stressed) seems to be the norm, many consumers are looking for ways to slow their lives down at given times. Flavours that bring relaxation to the busy brain, like curcuma, lavender, chamomile, rooibos or hemp are increasingly popular.

Trends linked to the environment & planet Earth
Trend 3: Flavours that match the season

Along with the philosophy for locally sourced food, consumers are looking for flavours that are inspired by Mother Nature, and preferably ones that match the season, e.g.:

  • Spring: rhubarb, sakura (Japanese cherry blossoms)
  • Summer: basil, mulberries
  • Autumn: grapes, apples, figs, cider, maple syrup
  • Winter: pumpkin, gingerbread, chai or speculoos spices, eggnog


Trends linked to pleasure & emotions
Trend 4: Flavours that bring new taste experiences

Consumers are open to new experiences, like flavours from other countries or continents, or modernised and unexpected combinations. Savoury flavours and hybrid concepts are still growing in the baked goods and chocolate segments. One of most recent and successful product launches in Asia is the lava croissant with a salted egg filling. 


Trend 5: Flavours that support escapism or indulgence

Consumers are also looking for ways to escape, and not necessarily in a healthy way. They want to travel via their senses, and at the same time feel safe and indulged through the consumption of products with flavours that are and will always have a place in the sweet category like vanilla, chocolate and caramel … the so-called evergreen flavours. The last one that entered this category is the brown sugar flavour.


Trend 6: Flavours that fit well with certain occasions

Flavours that can be linked to a special occasion or an activity are also quite successful. During the Covid-19 lockdown, because all cinemas were closed, people were looking at popcorn and popcorn-flavoured applications. To bring back memories of your summer barbecues, think of flavouring your winter desserts with smoky and caramelised marshmallows. And why not make Valentine treats with a hint of rose flavour inside? Or for Halloween, why not make it extra creepy by using insect flour and decorations to make cupcakes full of proteins? Thanks to the FMPs we mentioned, you can make it super tasty… 

How to use these trends in baked goods and how Puratos can help you

Selecting the right flavour is not just a matter of taste; it depends on your product positioning, the consumer need you want to fulfil and the emotions you want to trigger. It also depends on the culture and people’s habits, and on the speed of changes in your market and product categories. 

Whether you choose mainstream or up-and-coming flavours, in the end it’s all about: 

  • making the sensorial profile of your product enjoyable and authentic

  • offering an appealing and holistic concept to consumers in which the flavours totally make sense

  • avoiding being seen as old-fashioned and boring.


Do you want to know how Puratos’ solutions can support you in nurturing today’s lifestyles, or in capitalising on global and regional trends?   

Do you want to know more about flavours?