The flavor experts at Flavorman in Louisville, Kentucky have been gazing into their flavor crystal ball for more than 28 years now. When they rubbed their shiny crystal for 2021 their taste buds lit up with degrees and styles of heat, smoke, and spice from flavors like ancho chile, habanero, and Indian peppercorn. But then, as they continued to rub the crystal as they tried to forget the dumpster fire that is 2020 they also found flavors to comfort us like grapefruit, lemon, and lime. And then there is that whole health and wellness thing that people are craving as they crawl away from they’re umpteenth Zoom call.
Flavorman Predicts Drink Flavor Trends for 2021
As we get ready to say goodbye to 2020 Flavorman expects the pandemic to have a long lasting effect on our taste preferences for 2021.
Flavors That Tingle (Think Spice)
Burning, cooling, or otherwise tingling their way across our tongues, drinks with flavors that stimulate unique sensory experiences are set to become more prominent in the coming year.
“We’ve had a considerable uptick in client requests for flavors that deliver varying degrees and styles of heat, smoke, and spice,” says Tom Gibson, Flavorman’s Chief Flavorist. “But we’ve also seen an increase in requests for flavors with that fresh, cooling rush you’d get from chewing a stick of mint gum.”
Flavors like ancho chile, habanero, and Indian peppercorn are expected to make their way into everything from Ready-to-Drink (RTD) cocktails to tea and lemonade. Meanwhile, menthol-heavy pairings— think peppermint-mocha cream and lemon-coconut eucalyptus— will contribute a cooling element to seltzers, premium coffee, juice drinks, and more.
Flavors That Comfort (Think Nostalgia)
The need for comfort has taken on a whole new meaning within the current social and political climate, but flavors continue to provide a soothing constant. Staples like grapefruit, lemon, and lime will continue to be popular; but there is an opportunity to elevate these familiar profiles by grounding them in specific locations of interest.
“Tracing flavors to a specific region creates a transportive experience that helps differentiate an otherwise standard flavor,” says Kristen Wemer, Flavorman’s Director of Beverage Development. “As the market continues to saturate with the usual essentials, consumers can expect more diversity and premiumization through varietals of familiar flavors.”
Delivering on consumer cravings for nostalgia and indulgence, 2021 will also see the return of classic favorites but in unexpected, more sophisticated forms.
“When you think about childhood flavors re-imagined for premium applications, you get something like a smokey vanilla cold brew, bubble gum seltzer, or a fruit punch gin cocktail,” says Wemer.
“We’re experiencing a renaissance of these nostalgic flavors— peanut butter, orange creamsicle, grape cotton candy— in concepts like hard coffee, energy drinks, and craft soda.”
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Flavors That Function (Think Health & Wellness)
In 2020, Flavorman introduced the concept of “functional plus”— those beverages that provide consumers with a multitude of health and wellness benefits. As the world grapples with a global pandemic, consumers have found ways to take their health into their own hands— and stomachs.
Beverages that offer immunity, cognitive, and mood-boosting benefits will be especially significant. Expect fragrant flavors like hibiscus, elderflower, and orange blossom to be combined with other berry, botanical, and citrus elements to emphasize functional ingredient blends in naturally positioned teas, enhanced waters, flavored kombucha, and more.
Flavorman has been looking into the flavor crystal ball for nearly 30 years now so they know a thing or two about flavor trends. They’ve helped beverage companies from small start up craft distilleries to larger shelf standard energy drinks or soft drinks you see in major grocery and convenience stores across the world.
The Flavorman campus is also home to Moonshine University where they offer a number of courses to train new startup distillers and expand the offerings of existing distillers.
We’ll continue to watch as 2021 evolves and see if the crystal ball was right.