Comax Flavors agrees US local flavors trend 'challenges' big brands

Times Square: The US is becoming ever-more multicultural (Mel Schmidt/Flickr)

Comax Flavors agrees that the trend in the US towards greater flavour differentiation and localization is challenging for big beverage brands as it launches a range targeting Hispanic, Asian and younger consumers.

Catherine Armstrong, VP of corporate communications at the New York-based flavour developer, told “The US is a melting pot – there are so many different influences because our population is growing with the Hispanic, Asian and other communities.”

US 2012 census statistics predict that both population groups will double by 2060, with the Hispanic population expected to reach 128.8m and Asian population slated to hit 34.4m.

Comax Flavors’ Flavor Surge collection comprises savory flavor combinations with a multicultural twist – Cardamom Pear Berry, Chili Ginger Lime, Cilantro Lime, Ginger Sesame Caramel and Smoked Paprika.

Sold in spay dried powder of liquid forms, these can be used in RTD drinks, spirits, snacks and dairy products.

Out of the box, edgy flavors grab US millennials

“There are many different cultural influences in food – US millennials especially have been exposed to lots of different cultural influences and are willing to try anything,” Armstrong says.

“So I think you’ll start to see more different flavors that are more out of the box, edgy, because that age group is willing to try a lot more, which opens doors for us,” she adds.

“We always try to keep on top of trends, looking at restaurants, mixologists, chefs – we’re looking for their influences. A cocktail menu today is totally different to what it was five years ago,” Armstrong says.

Speaking of current flavour trends, she says the US market is seeing a lot more savory flavors, more herbs and flavors “with a bit of heat, a little more kick”.

“It’s a mixture of influences – Mexico and those areas like spiciness and heat, whereas we’re finding that in South America preferences are a little milder,” Armstrong says.

We’re definitely seeing Asian influences – sesame ginger caramel would definitely involve this. Cardamom is popping up a lot more (you see it in mixes), as is chili ginger lime.

Basic flavors are out in the dairy aisle

Even in the dairy aisle, Armstrong explains, ‘basic’ flavors are out – with a lot more savory flavors, herbs and ginger being used – perhaps also due to the accessibility of these ingredients in regular grocery stores.

It doesn’t seem absurd to think that such influences could soon spread to dairy drinks.

Looking to the future, Comax Flavors believes we’lI see a lot more blended flavors using herbs, heat, different crossover and multicultural flavors.

“I saw a five-spice chocolate this weekend when I was in Boston. These things will become more mainstream,” Armstrong says.

What does she believe underpins both the accelerating pace of flavor innovation and peoples’ willingness to embrace new trends?

“Our world is smaller in terms of social media and the internet, and trends spread quickly,” she says. In the past she agrees that Comax Flavors may have developed interesting concepts such as Ginger Sesame Caramel and then worried that consumers were not quite ready.

“Well, not anymore. Look at what’s on the market – the other day I picked up Lay’s new potato chips with Wasabi Ginger!”

Local fruit flavors – Frustrating for big brands?

But amidst all the excitement, Armstrong agrees that current trends – take the movement to embrace local, seasonal over exotic fruits, which we see emerging in craft cider and beer – can give big brands a headache due to commodity sourcing and multiple SKUs across different states.

“If you claim, say, Wild Maine Blueberry as a flavour then you have to source it – you’re dealing in commodities. A bad frost could take half the crop,” she says.

“But this is enlightening the consumer – they don’t want a peach, they want a white peach or a doughnut peach. The same might go for apples.

“But it is challenging for big brands, because people are moving away from processed food,” Armstrong adds. “In the US the center aisles are hurting – but people still need to eat, and they need convenience too.”

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