As Consumers’ Tastes Evolve, Spices Deliver New Flavors and Excitement

May 20, 2020
It is our responsibility as manufacturers and trendsetters to expand our own palates and embrace the global spice rack.

Gone are the days of home cooks who slave for hours in the kitchen adding just a dash of this and a pinch of that until they achieve the perfect meal. In today’s fast society, consumers are looking for quick and easy solutions to help them achieve new flavor profiles.

What does this mean for the traditional spice cabinet? It means as food manufacturers and food scientists, our ability to innovate may determine the success or failure of tonight’s dinner.

The shift toward a global palate is fairly new to American culture. Within the past 50 years, the flavor profile within the average home kitchen has quadrupled in size. Today, according to Nielsen, 42% of consumers report they love trying new things. As our world has become more globalized, our access to new flavors and products has changed the way we cook. People are looking for more, and it’s our job to give it to them.

Spice companies have always been on the leading edge of flavor trends, dating back to the advent of Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend. While you may have assumed that Starbucks invented Pumpkin Spice, it is actually a blend that has a storied history dating back to the original American settlers.

What we know today as Pumpkin Spice is actually Pumpkin Pie Spice, and for generations the blend of spices was carefully hand-mixed by home bakers. In 1950, McCormick rolled out a Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend that contained all of the spices (cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves) in one bottle.

This was revolutionary and led to the spice blending industry that we know today. It wasn't until much later—circa 2003—that Starbucks put its spin on fall’s most popular flavor with the invention of the Pumpkin Spice Latte.

I share that story to demonstrate that we do not work in a static field. It has always been the role of food developers to anticipate flavor trends and influence the market to meet the ever-changing needs of the consumer.

In decades past, families flocked to restaurants or perused the frozen food aisle for dinner provisions, but with the rise of the “foodie” culture, more people are finding enjoyment from exploring food and preparing it on their own at home. According to Forbes, “83% of Americans say they are eating more at home and going to restaurants less.”

How does the food science industry respond to this trend of more worldly consumers who desire to be more hands-on in the kitchen?

It is our responsibility as manufacturers and trendsetters to expand our own palates and embrace the global spice rack. If we hope to pave the way for consumers, we have to be able to anticipate their next move. Recent trends show us that what’s old is new again, and an evolving expansion of flavor and taste is expected and demanded by the end-user.

The Institute of Food Technologists forecasts that the year 2020 will see a rise in flavors like “florals; earthy; complex heat; and tangy, tart and sour.” As consumers pursue these flavors at restaurants and in their own kitchens, the manufacturers and food scientists who creatively embrace these next trends will earn themselves a piece of the expanding market.

As a food manufacturer myself, I commit myself and my companies to the pursuit of meeting and anticipating the constantly evolving needs of an expanding global palate—where world flavor is now front and center stage thanks to YouTube, TikTok, Instagram and other sharing platforms.

We utilize thousands of ingredients, well beyond the limited options afforded to the generations of home cooks who came before us. If there is anything we know for sure about consumers it's that there will always be another trend coming right around the corner. The agile and creative food scientists among us have the most to gain as we all anticipate our creative consumers’ next exciting desires.

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