Sweet Heat Ingredients 63a31d9c2330d

Ingredient Trends for 2023: Sweet Heat, Everyday French and Avocado Oil

Dec. 29, 2022
With inflation uncertainty casting a shadow, here are some product development predictions for the new year.

What will the new year bring you product developers in terms of changing consumer habits and trending ingredients?

The email inbox during December was littered with predictions for the new year, and almost all of them mentioned in one way or another the I word: inflation. What will inflation in consumers’ lives do to their general purchasing habits and ability, how will they react to rising store prices, how are food & beverage processors dealing with higher ingredient costs?

First, we’ll get deeper into that subject, but further down we have some predictions about flavors, ingredients and consumer trends, so read on.

Inflation

The latest Consumer Price Index report on inflation, released in mid-December, showed a slight deflation of inflation. The Labor Dept.’s CPI rose 0.1% in November from the prior month, compared with a 0.4% rise in October.

That means annualized inflation in November climbed at the slowest 12-month pace since December 2021, 7.1% a year, down significantly from the 7.7% annual increase in October and well below June’s 9.1% peak – but still above the 2.1% average rate in the three years before the pandemic.

Food and beverage prices were still exceeding the other components of the CPI, having increased 0.3% in November compared to October. Overall food inflation grew 13.2% versus one year ago; however, monthly increases compared to one year ago have leveled off over the past four months.

Everyone making new-year predictions on spending thinks inflation has altered consumer buying over the past year. As a result, “redefining value” is Innova’s top trend for the new year. “In 2023, value is what consumers need more than anything, and they’re redefining what exactly that means,” the global market research firm Innova Market Insights writes. “According to our research, cost and value for money have become more important to one in two consumers globally this year.

“As financial volatility and societal uncertainty rage on, consumers seek more support from their favorite brands and chosen food and beverage products,” Innova continues. “Brands, manufacturers and retailers need to understand deeply where consumers are willing to compromise in order to combat the current instability we’re all experiencing.”

Similarly, a report from IRI Worldwide says, “Consumers are continuing to employ a range of strategies to reduce spending, such as switching to private labels, trading out of expensive food categories and trading down to mainstream and value brands, as well as consuming more at home versus away from home.”

Private label products thrive during economic uncertainty. As Steve Oakland, CEO of TreeHouse Foods, told us two months ago, “Before [the pandemic], private label had 20 years of slow but steady growth. But we’ve seen step changes in private label’s share of market during previous downturns in the economy.”

Some other points from the IRI report:

  • Within the store, inflation has moderated. Perimeter areas, including produce and deli, have seen inflation slow to 8.2% versus one year ago, while inflation within center store, which includes snacks, frozen meals and other frozen foods, has leveled off in November at 14.9% versus one year ago.
  • Several product categories enjoyed price declines in November. Categories with the largest month-over-month price decreases included root vegetables (-7.2%), bacon (-3.4%), butter/margarine/spreads (-2.0%) and chocolate candy (-2.0%).
  • Inflation varied significantly across the store. Fresh meat & seafood and beverage alcohol segments rose just 4.3% versus October and 6.3% versus one year ago. However, other categories rose dramatically, such as dairy (+23.4%) and bakery (+18.4%).

In October, a survey by Acosta, a global sales and marketing agency, found 83% of consumers perceive that we are currently in a recession or that one is coming soon. A separate Acosta study found 48% of consumers are buying less groceries and 53% are eating out less, just as food at home costs are rising faster than food away from home.

Despite that last point, 70% say they are cooking more at home to save money. They’re managing higher prices by eating the food they have on hand before buying more and sticking to basic food necessities for their shopping lists.

Other reports predicted consumers will “trade down” to chicken as beef prices soar.

Flavors

Even inflation-weary shoppers can’t resist exciting new flavors. But which ones? Sweet heat or exotic fruit flavors? American cuisine or a return to global experimentation? Condiments or desserts?

The many flavor suppliers use the last quarter of every year to predict what consumers’ tastes will be – maybe with a slight bias toward the flavors they sell.

McCormick & Co., a leader on both the consumer and industrial sides of the flavor category, has been creating an annual trend report for 23 years. This year, nearly four dozen global chefs, culinary professionals, trend trackers, food technologists and company experts from around the world collaborated for these flavor predictions:

  • Full Flavored Fats: No longer misunderstood, consumers and chefs alike are now using fat, from butters to oils, to impart mouthwatering flavor and creaminess into everyday dishes and drinks, which offer a simple, comforting richness to the kitchen and a more balanced approach to eating.
  • Everyday French: Grounded in the techniques and ingredients of French cooking, but democratized for today’s kitchen, French cuisine has never been more approachable while using the best ingredients and culinary techniques to build a harmony of flavors and lay the foundations for food and beverage to come.
  • Beyond Heat: We’ve witnessed an exciting evolution to this new, multi-sensorial, layered taste experience that pushes beyond the singularly spicy realm where heat and ingredient pairings come together to shape how heat is perceived and how long it lingers and finishes.
Data platform Tastewise says, “New flavors in both condiments and desserts are increasing in popularity, with consumers looking for functional floral and botanical tastes. Traditional Latin American beverages also are likely to see a bump in 2023 — especially if they’re tied to familiar flavors in the U.S., like strawberry and melon.”

Flavorman, a custom beverage development company, predicts “tropical and tangy beverages to kick off the new year.” To them, that means pineapple, mango and grapefruit, “with floral elderflower and soothing lavender providing a sophisticated essence and a balanced blend of flavors.”

More generally, “We’re predicting a transition toward functionality, simplicity and natural alternatives in the beverage space,” says David Dafoe, founder and CEO. He adds that the general market is leaning toward “better-for-you alternatives, with consumers expected to gravitate toward ‘less is more’ regarding color, packaging and design.”

Consumer trends

What, generally, are going through shoppers’ minds as they push that grocery cart down the aisles? Whole Foods says health and consumer values are directing its shoppers, as the pricey retailer offers a handful of predictions.

Interestingly, the first item on the Whole Foods report was yaupon -- “North America’s only native caffeinated plant” – gaining popularity for its flavor and potential benefits, which include lowering inflammation and boosting brain function. The grocer noted it’s showing up in kombuchas, among other products.

Some others from Whole Foods (many citing activity on Tik Tok):

  • Pulp With Purpose: Upcycling, using the often-wasted by-products of several food products, particularly those from soy, nut and oat milks.
  • Produce Meets Pasta: “A new crop of plant-based pasta alternatives [will] help us all up our veggie and fruit intake, with ingredients like spaghetti squash, hearts of palm and even green bananas.”
  • The Great Date: “The dehydrated fruit often referred to as ‘nature’s candy’ is having a major renaissance as a sweetener — not only for at-home bakers, but also in the form of pastes and syrups, and hidden in everything from ketchup to overnight oats.”
  • A Poultry Revolution: Whole Foods says its shoppers are prioritizing animal welfare when looking for both poultry and eggs. In addition to more humane poultry, “Egg producers in the dairy case at Whole Foods Market are stretching beyond our better-than-cage-free Animal Welfare Standards for Laying Hens, with even more focus on outdoor time.”
  • Help From Kelp: Burnished by its environmental creds -- kelp can absorb carbon in the atmosphere, grows quickly, doesn’t require freshwater or added nutrients – “we’re seeing it in noodles, chips, fish-free ‘fish’ sauce and beyond.”
  • Climate-Conscious Callouts: “Across our aisles, products are taking to their labels to talk about sustainability efforts in a time when consumers expect brands and retailers to do more related to carbon and climate.”
  • Retro Remix: Older comfort products -- mac and cheese, pizza bites, classic old-school cereals and more -- are being reinvented for the wellness-conscious customer, “creating the ultimate mash-up of throwback indulgences with better ingredients and special diets in mind.”
  • Only the Finest for Fido: A focus on both wellness and palate for dogs and cats.
  • Avocado Oil Craze: “It has some big positive attributes, including high oleic fatty acid content and a high smoke point. Taking the place of other oils like canola and safflower oil in snacks, mayonnaise, ready-to-eat meals and more, avocado oil is sure to stick around.”
ADM offers insights into changing consumer trends in its annual outlook:
  • Expanded Protein Choices: 52% of global consumers now consider themselves flexitarians. Within that group, nearly two-thirds define their eating style as “trying to use more plant-based foods,” leading to more demand for expanded protein options. [However, don’t try to convince leading alt-meat companies Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat, Maple Leaf/Greenleaf or even Oatly of that.]

ADM adds, “As technology natives Gen Z and Gen Alpha grow up, acceptance of applying scientific advancements to make our food will continue to become more commonplace, and practices like cellular agriculture, precision fermentation, hybrid products and those with insect-based protein are likely to flourish.”

  • Balanced Wellness: Emotional, mental, physical, even spiritual health are increasingly seen by consumers as being intertwined [and they are] making intentional and mindful choices about how they eat and spend their time to address energy levels, disease prevention and overall mood and feeling.
  • Proactive Personalization: What works for one person’s wellness may not be ideal for another’s. A “one size fits all” strategy for health and eating has fallen away in favor of tailored, “better for me” approaches. In fact, 63% of global consumers say they are interested in food and drink products that are customized to meet their individual nutritional needs. On top of that, 55% of global consumers say they are willing to spend more on functional foods that can support their health goals.
  • Trust and Traceability: From soil to table, consumers want to know where their food comes from, who made it and precisely what ingredients are included. They want to know how the product was produced and if the conditions of its production were humane.
  • Earth-Friendly Production: Globally, 49% of consumers claim to have changed their diet in the last two years to lead a more environmentally friendly lifestyle. They’re also demanding a higher standard from the companies they purchase from regarding their environmentally conscious practices. Consumers are greatly focusing on reducing their own food waste, and they will expect the same from the brands they support. Consumers want proof of environmental rebuilding and restoration.
  • Social Impact: Using their voices and their purchasing power, consumers are demanding that companies practice fair and humane treatment of the people and animals involved in every aspect of production. Almost 30% of global consumers have actively boycotted a product or brand because of its ethical credentials, and 40% seek out brands that guarantee farmers have been treated in an ethical manner.
  • Experiential Eating: Global consumers are getting more adventurous with their food, as 74% express a desire to try new flavors from around the world and 63% report they like to be experimental when cooking.
About the Author

Dave Fusaro | Editor in Chief

Dave Fusaro has served as editor in chief of Food Processing magazine since 2003. Dave has 30 years experience in food & beverage industry journalism and has won several national ASBPE writing awards for his Food Processing stories. Dave has been interviewed on CNN, quoted in national newspapers and he authored a 200-page market research report on the milk industry. Formerly an award-winning newspaper reporter who specialized in business writing, he holds a BA in journalism from Marquette University. Prior to joining Food Processing, Dave was Editor-In-Chief of Dairy Foods and was Managing Editor of Prepared Foods.

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