Kerry is predicting that flavors inspired by legacy recipes, across generations of tradition globally, will drive food innovation in 2023.

These insights are among the findings in the company’s annual Taste and Nutrition Charts analysis of flavors, ingredients and nutrition trends shaping innovation in the coming year.

“Kerry has been tracking tastes evolutions and creating the future of tastes for over 10 years through our Taste Charts program, “said Kelly Heathington, business development director for coatings & seasonings for Kerry. “Over the last three years especially, we have been tracking how consumer wants are evolving in a pandemic and post-pandemic world.  What we’ve seen is that a wider and wider consumer set is looking to try new taste experiences.”

Kerry’s findings for 2023 suggest in the coming year that consumers will be motivated by simplicity, sustainability and meeting their nutrition goals. There also will be a rise in unconventional flavor pairings and trends driven by lost traditions, simplicity and comfort.

Kerry’s forecast for flavor innovation in 2023:

  • There will be a resurgence in traditional cooking practices and recipes as consumers prioritize tradition and provenance. Ingredients such as apple cider vinegar, ashwagandha and mushrooms are finding a new home across snack and beverage applications.
  • Indulgence will take on a new meaning, with younger consumers in particular seeking mashups of familiar food and drinks that they grew up with combined with emerging new flavor tonalities. This trend is augmented by the influence of social media channels such as TikTok and Instagram.
  • There will be a hunger for unconventional combinations of traditional ingredients and emerging taste profiles from other regions, such as cloves, Herbs de Provence, saffron, fig, ube and dill.
  • In addition, consumers will be seeking value in 2023 as inflation hits home, but they will still gravitate toward products that allow permissible indulgence, still seeking simple flavors like cheddar cheese.

“This year, we looked at more than 700 sauce and food flavors to understand their menu penetration/growth, consumer preference and growth potential,” Heathington said. “We then tested these concepts across key menu and retail categories within poultry, red meat, sauces, sides, meals and more.”

Among the top flavor themes she notes for 2023 are:

Regional barbecue – It’s making a comeback, with the tanginess of South Carolina among some of the up and coming barbecue inspiration.

Cooking with fire – Globally, cooking with fire is driving an expansion of opportunities to deliver depth of taste through unique cooking experiences. One of Kerry’s featured tastes is a Wok Flame Spice, inspired by Wok Hei (dragon’s breath) which is the savory char and unique smoke flavor that traditional Chinese wok cooking brings. This unique cooking method alongside hints of soy sauce, sesame and rice vinegar deliver a rounded Chinese inspired taste experience.

Secret sauces – Kerry has created its own secret sauce-inspired seasoning leveraging the tastes of ketchup, mustard, pickles and spices.

Foodservice trends

Heathington said Kerry’s research found that among foodservice consumers, the number who say they prefer to order food they have tried before was down to 66% in October 2022 (down from 76%).

“Similarly, we see the number of consumers that ‘like trying new flavors that are inspired by global cuisine’ has increased in that same time period, from 73% to 79%,” she said.

“The rise of elevated, at-home cooking and consumers seeing food as an experience is driving demand for authentic, regional tastes, on one hand, and exciting nostalgic, seasonal and limited-edition flavors on the other,” she said. “Consumer research shows that although many prefer familiar flavors, there is still an appetite for novelty.”

Kerry’s consumer research across the U.S. and Canada finds:

  • 93% enjoy eating a variety of different types of cuisine (e.g., American, Italian, Chinese, Mexican)
  • 87% like trying new flavors with their favorite menu items
  • 81% say they are always looking for new menu items to order.

“As a result, we’re seeing chains and brands reinvent nostalgic classics, deliver authentically traditional tastes to foodservice favorites, move into retail spaces to expand consumer access, and deliver more localized and global taste experiences,” Heathington said.

For  flavor trends in meat coatings and breadings, Heathington said Kerry is focused on delivering “on-trend taste-led profiles that are grounded in consumer wants in order to create a richer and more exuberant taste experience through a coated protein.”

This includes testing out how the use of marination, topical seasonings, smoke and more can make an impact alongside texture, she said.

“When developing, we focused on creating ranges that simplify creation — back of house or in manufacturing — while delivering consistent flavor impact,” she said. “Developed for low/no calorie and low sodium, we’ve tested our creations across a range of leading protein and meal applications to deliver versatile offerings. “

Health/wellness considerations

Heathington said health/wellness trends continue to shape flavor development, with the top consumer nutrition priorities in this category remaining:

  • protein
  • calories
  • total sugar.

“Sodium reduction is increasingly top of mind as consumers, and developers understand its role in the creation of food and impact on consumer eating and health experiences,” Heathington said. ‘Kerry is improving the overall eating experience while reducing reliance on sodium for taste and preservation.”

She said flavorings development to meet those needs requires increasing salt perception through Kerry Taste solutions to create lowered sodium preservation systems to ensure food safety while linking flavor creation and application expertise with fermentation and masking for clean label solutions.