A great meal, a tasty snack or a fun drink can take you on an emotional journey far wider than the boundaries of any plate or cup, and consumers are eager to experience everything that food and beverages have to offer beyond sustenance.

Increasingly, food has become a platform for self-expression, cultural immersion and escapism, which can be even more appealing in the age of COVID-19, where what you consume can take you on a trip around the world, even if actual travel plans need to be put on hold.

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As consumers look for flavors that satisfy emotional and explorational needs, they’re turning to hyperlocal cuisines in search of exotic tastes, while also remixing classic creations with global flavors to feed the desire to break with convention and experience excitement.

As noted in Symrise’s annual food and beverage trends report, 2020+ Top Trends for North America, this year will see the following emerging flavor trends become more mainstream:

Next Wave Asian

Over the past few years, the Symrise North America flavor forecast has seen increased interest among consumers in a wide variety of Asian cuisine, both in terms of specific items like Gochujang from Korea becoming more mainstream, as well as Asian flavor profiles becoming more widespread.

In 2019, our Next Wave Asian trend featured ingredients like yuzu and miso. In 2020, this trend will accelerate, with Asian ingredients and recipes adding spiciness, sourness and/or sweetness, and overall providing more flavor depth. For example, calamansi, also known as a Philippine lime, can add terrific citrus flavor to a wide variety of dishes and cocktails. Furikake, a savory Japanese seasoning blend, also has versatile applications, helping to give many different meals and snacks a cross-cultural flavor profile.

Other Asian flavors can also bring about emotional experiences while tying into trends such as the growing appreciation of fermentation. In that regard, look for Beijing yogurt, a drinkable, fermented yogurt, to become more popular in 2020. Baiju, a hugely popular liquor in China with a unique fermentation process, will also likely start showing up in more cocktails in North America.

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Global Horizons 2020

In addition to the aforementioned Asian flavors, cuisine from many other parts of the globe will also likely have a significant influence on dishes and drinks consumed in North America. This can occur both in terms of cross-cultural fusion flavors as well as the emergence of hyperlocal cuisines that can lead consumers to more specific emotional discoveries.

In particular, Levantine cuisine, e.g. Israeli, Turkish and Lebanese, will likely have the most impact in terms of global influence on North American cuisine in 2020, driven in part by the tie-ins to trends like healthy, spreadable dips. Herbs like blue fenugreek can also bring Levantine tastes to more palates.

On a more localized level, look for cuisine from Southern India, particularly Kerala, to get its due in 2020, with consumers starting to appreciate the many nuances within Indian cuisine rather than looking at it as a monolith. Thattu in Chicago, for example, serves Coriander Chicken based on traditional Kerala boneless chicken in coriander and coconut gravy.

FilipinX cuisine has also been growing in recent years and looks to be popular again in 2020 with its unique flavor combinations. Chef Melissa Miranda of Musang in Seattle, for example, serves noodles with squid ink, fried squid, tomatoes, onion, garlic, chicharron and smoked fish.

Lastly, West African cuisine, which includes countries such as Senegal, Nigeria and Ghana to name a few, often use common ingredients like tomatoes, onions and chili peppers combined with peanuts, ginger, garlic, dried mushrooms and ground seeds like melon to form unique flavor profiles that will likely make their way into more dishes in North America in 2020.

The globalization of food not only brings more delicious flavors to North American consumers but can also yield exciting emotional discoveries. Through global flavors, consumers can spark their curiosity, creativity, joy, empathy and more, while learning more about other cultures.

And in this environment where global travel will likely be limited for some time, these latest trends in food and beverage could provide the escape and entertainment that consumers crave.

Continue reading the 2020 trends series: Top Premium Indulgence Flavors of 2020 and Beyond

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