2015 Predictions: Food and Flavors

Stephen DeAngelis

December 9, 2014

Although the end-of-the-year prediction season generally involves prognostications about things like emerging technologies, the economy, political events, and the like, the one thing that all of us will be doing next year is eating. For the past fifteen years, McCormick & Company has released its McCormick® Flavor Forecast®, which provides us a peek into what we might soon find on our dining tables. According to McCormick, the Forecast “is on the forefront of identifying top trends, insights and ingredients driving the future of flavor. Created by a global team of McCormick experts — including chefs, culinary professionals, trend trackers and food technologists — the Flavor Forecast inspires culinary exploration and innovation around the world for years to come.” A McCormick press release states:

“Reflecting the rapidly increasing demand for bolder, more intense flavor experiences, the McCormick Flavor Forecast 2015 pinpoints adventurous global tastes on the rise, like Japanese 7 Spice (Shichimi Togarashi), as well as an appreciation for the robust flavors developed in slow-simmered dishes from around the world. The report also showcases new ways to elevate pantry essentials to starring roles, like smoking spices and herbs or pairing sours with coarse salt.”

The release notes, “Over the past 15 years, the Flavor Forecast has predicted trends that have changed the way people eat at restaurants and cook in their home kitchens. Even the products found on retail shelves today were impacted by trends forecasted in this industry-leading report.” McCormick Executive Chef, Kevan Vetter (@chefkevanvetter), notes, “Many early trending flavors in past reports have become favorites of today. Take chipotle chile, for instance. When we first identified this chile pepper as a flavor to watch in 2003, many people couldn’t pronounce it. Today, it’s a household name. Pumpkin pie spice, sea salt, coconut water and cocktail-inspired flavors have seen similar success, taking over restaurant menus and grocery store shelves.” I’ll go out on a limb and predict that if Shichimi Togarashi does become a household favorite, it will be better known by its anglicized name Japanese 7 Spice. Below are the 8 Flavor Trends that the global team of McCormick chefs and flavor experts predicts are flavors to watch:

1. Global Blends On the Move – Japanese 7 Spice (Shichimi Togarashi) offers a new kind of spicy heat, while Shawarma Spice Blend lends warm, spiced flavor to grilled meats and more.
2. Middle Eastern Mezze – These distinctive dips and spreads, packed with zesty herbs and seasonings, offer an approachable and delicious introduction to a vibrant global cuisine.
3. Sour + Salt – Combining coarse salt with surprising sours like pickled ginger, sour cherry, dried mango and lemon zest results in a lively finishing flavor that lends brightness and texture to dishes.
4. Smoked Spices – Smoking spices and herbs deepens their flavor and aroma, adding richness to meals and drinks.
5. Umami Veggies – For a fresh way to savor the tempting “fifth taste,” look no further than naturally umami-rich veggies like mushrooms, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and nori.
6. Liquid Revolution – Fresh purees and juices blend with bold spices and herbs to intensify sauces, pasta, dressings and more – providing a fun, delicious way to enjoy an extra serving of fruits and veggies.
7. Flavor Worth the Wait – Lift the lid to discover the rich flavors from recipes around the world that meld aromatic spices and comforting ingredients into mouthwatering slow-cooked meals.
8. Cookies Reimagined – Classic spiced cookie flavors take new form in decadent, imaginative desserts that redefine “milk and cookies.”

If you are not familiar with the “fifth taste” (umami) mentioned in trend 5 above, you might be interested in reading my article entitled “The Taste of Umami.” The fact that consumers are introduced to new flavors each year means that each year a consumer’s FlavorPrint™ could change, which is why McCormick recommends that consumers continue to update their FlavorPrint. What is a FlavorPrint? Watch the following video to find out.

Accenture’s latest technology vision entitled “From Digitally Disrupted to Digital Disrupter,” highlights McCormick’s FlavorPrint initiative as one of the innovative ways that big data and cognitive computing can be used to enhance a company’s relationship with its customers. Accenture’s study notes:

“One interesting cognitive computing example comes from U.S. food company McCormick. Machines are now starting to use data to ‘sense’ the world as humans do, and this extends to taste — with obvious benefits for the food industry. Using Enterra Solution’s Cognitive Reasoning Platform, McCormick’s FlavorPrint site asks customers to rate a variety of flavors in order to learn taste and, from that, creates unique taste preference profiles — or what it calls FlavorPrints. If customers provide additional information, such as cooking preferences, equipment, and typical pantry items, they can receive better personal product and recipe recommendations. As far as these customers can tell, they’re providing just a few raw facts in return for a great deal of personalized value about taste — something almost everyone feels strongly about yet finds hard to quantify or specify. From McCormick’s point of view, learning customers’ taste preferences leads to better insights, product decisions, and, ultimately, ability to serve its customers.”

As the study implies, there is a lot happening behind the curtain when a customer answers a few questions about taste preferences, and Enterra is happy to supply some of that magic. To learn more about the flavor trends discussed in the McCormick Flavor Forecast, click on this link.

McCormick is not the only organization daring enough to make predictions about food trends. The restaurant and grocery industries are also interested in what foods are trending. This year the National Restaurant Association asked nearly 1,300 chefs, all members of the American Culinary Federation, to rate a list of 231 items noting whether they were a “hot trend,” “yesterday’s news” or a “perennial favorite.” [“Chefs predict top culinary trends for 2015,” by Bret Thorn (@foodwriterdiary), Nation’s Restaurant News, 3 December 2014] Technomic, a food research and consulting firm, also offers its list of ten food trends related to the restaurant industry. [“Technomic’s Take: 2015 Food Trends,” Technomic, 20 October 2014] In the packaged food and food service sector, the Sterling-Rice Group (SRG) offers 10 culinary trends that will inspire new products. Elaine Watson reports, “As for overarching themes, says SRG, look out for ‘deeper explorations of global cuisines and cooking methods, especially Asian, continued efforts to reinforce community connections and adopt buying habits that promote sustainability; and new foods and flavors that meet our demands for balanced nutrition as well as adventurous … eating experiences.” [“Matcha, regional grains, coconut sugar & cannabis cuisine: What are the top 10 culinary trends for 2015?Food Navigator-USA, 24 October 2014] Innova has also offered its top ten food trend predictions. “Innova says that transparency in labelling, new protein sources and a focus on texture are among the top trends to look out for next year.” [“Innova predicts top tend food trends for 2015,” by Caroline Scott-Thomas, Food Navigator, 7 November 2014] Phil Lempert (@PhilLempert), the self-proclaimed Supermarket Guru®, teamed with ConAgra to release his top food-related predictions. Lempert “predicts the most significant changes next year will stem from a desire for bold-flavored foods that also offer health benefits, and shifts in approach to supermarket shopping – both online and at brick-and-mortar stores. Other trends highlight new eating behaviors among Generation Z (those born after 1995) and boomers, as well as new technologies that improve the ease of reading and understanding of nutrition labels.” [“Supermarket Guru® Predicts Top Food Trends for 2015,” ConAgra Foods, 4 November 2014]

You have to admit that taken together those predictions provide a lot to chew on.