While consumers increasingly want healthy, natural foods, that doesn’t mean they’re shunning all indulgences. Nor does it mean that indulgences have to be overly decadent. Instead, today’s consumers often want twists on otherwise familiar flavors. And they want their eating and drinking to be memorable experiences.
Food and beverage operators have many options to get creative and provide consumers with exciting new memories. From reimagining childhood classics to adding comfort food flavors in unexpected ways, there’s a lot of potential to provide consumers with the premium indulgences they crave.
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In 2021, some of the top trends and flavors influenced by the search for premium indulgences include:
Simply adjusting the texture of a dish or drink can create new sensations and experiences for consumers. And texture does not have to be limited to that which you can bite into. Plenty of drinks can have altered textures, such as coffee and tea creations. And oftentimes, texture can be played with to evoke a sense of luxury or at least make a dish or drink more memorable.
Some of the trending textures to keep an eye on in 2021 include:
• Whipped Textures: A fun way to liven up items like desserts and drinks is to incorporate whipped textures. In addition to the growing popularity of Dalgona coffee, which involves whipping together ingredients like instant coffee and sugar, other whipped textures are catching on for items like matcha drinks.
• Fluffy Textures: Another way to create new sensations and excite customers is to incorporate fluffy textures. For example, in the San Diego area, Harumama Teriyaki & Bao serves a fluffy omelet that fully encapsulates ingredients like fried rice and spam.
• Foamy Textures: From gourmet, savory dishes to sweet drinks, adding foamy textures can elevate customer experience. The flavors may be familiar, but a foamy texture creates new sensations. In Miami, TikTea serves a variety of tea flavors like jasmine green or mango with a cheese foam on top.
SOUTHERN & LOW COUNTRY CUISINE
As a whole, Southern and Low Country cuisine (typically considered to be food from a coastal region of South Carolina, with parts of Georgia sometimes included as well) tends to be warm, soothing and full of rich flavors. To appeal to consumers looking to try something new and indulge in a premium experience, food and beverage brands can incorporate Southern and Low Country cuisine into more items, including the fusion of these flavors with other cuisines. Some of the more notable trends to watch for in 2021 include:
• Low Country x Asian Fusion: The flavor profiles often found in Southeast Asia tend to pair well with those in the Southeastern United States. In Atlanta, the restaurant Poor Calvin’s has served shrimp and lobster hush puppies with honey peanut aioli.
• Reinvigorating Southern Plants: A variety of Southern plants are making their way into more dishes and drinks across North America. For example, spicebush, native to Missouri, has pepper and cinnamon notes and can add depth to savory dishes. Chicory, widely popular in Louisiana, adds nuttiness to everything from chocolatey desserts to coffee drinks.
• Remixing Hot Chicken: Nashville’s famous hot chicken (cayenne-covered fried chicken) not only has spread across the country but it has also inspired dishes from other cuisines. In Anaheim, California, Rojos Hot Chicken serves a Mexican version of hot chicken sandwiches and related dishes.
GRAVITATING TOWARDS COMFORT
After the stress of 2020, and with 2021 still looking somewhat unsteady, many consumers are taking comfort in childhood classics and nostalgic menu items. But chefs and other food and beverage brands don’t have to just serve PB&J sandwiches; they have substantial opportunities to reinvent classics into more adult, gourmet options. In particular, younger consumers want more nostalgic items, according to research from Technomic. The trends we predict to play out in 2021 include:
• New Takes on Nostalgia: Eating childhood dishes can bring back happy memories for customers, but classics can also evolve to appeal to grown-up palettes. For example, in Montreal, the restaurant The Farsides has served a red curry mac & cheese.
• From Fancy to Familiar: Similar to “new takes on nostalgia,” some chefs are also incorporating premium ingredients into otherwise simple, familiar dishes. High-end ingredients like caviar might not be considered a “go-to” for many consumers, but when put on classics like pizza, such as at Spago in Beverly Hills, then they can be more approachable.
• Sweet x Savory: Another way to appeal to consumers seeking comfort, without turning to nostalgic items, is to combine sweet and savory flavors. Doing so can create the warmth and richness many people seek from food and drinks, but it also provides opportunities to experiment with flavors, even going so far as to create shellfish desserts.
Creating premium experiences for customers can be within reach for everyone from fine-dining restaurants to simple quick-service brands. The key is to understand how consumers want to feel, which for 2021 will likely often involve a sense of comfort and familiarity, while at the same time having an experience. By focusing on these types of trends, brands can create unique experiences for customers and provide them with the premium indulgences they’re seeking.
To learn more about our 2021 Top Flavor Trends Report, download our report preview or reach out to your Account Manager to schedule a presentation!