Sweet, savory, spicy, sour … anything goes in baked foods as consumers crave adventure for their palates. Yet consumers don't just want bold flavors — they want exciting flavor profiles paired with a clean label.
“Across all categories of food products, more and more labels now claim that the product contains no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives,” said Anton Angelich, group vice-president of Virginia Dare. “Product developers now routinely — almost without exception — ask their suppliers for natural or organic-compliant flavors.”
To make natural flavors more relevant to baked foods, ingredient suppliers are expanding their lines with adventurous taste profiles and economic solutions. Although the toolbox of raw materials may be limited when it comes to developing natural flavors, this has not stopped flavorists from innovation.
There’s been a great deal of innovation using ethnic flavors in baked foods. Millennials, in particular, are drawn to foods and flavors that turn eating into an experience.
“Adding ethnic twists to familiar baked foods and snacks does just that,” said Shannon Cushen, director of marketing, Fuchs North America. The company’s South Asian collection features a Kashmiri spiced carrot cake mix, which puts an ethnic twist on a classic. Another seasoning for baked foods features Moroccan ras el hanout baked into a sugar or molasses cookie.
“It tastes just like a gingersnap at first, but finishes with some spicy heat,” Ms. Cushen said.
Gold Coast Ingredients recently rolled out savory natural flavors with applications in baked foods. This includes spicy queso, dairy-free goat cheese, hot seaweed, chimichurri and vegetarian chorizo.
“These flavors can be used in tortillas, crackers, pretzels and other baked snacks,” said Megan Trent, marketing, Gold Coast Ingredients. “On the sweet side, we have newly developed coffee-banana, cinnamon dulce de leche, honey bourbon, turmeric-mango-habanero, spiced fig and baklava flavors.”
Ms. Trent added that there is increased interest in allergen-free nut flavors, and the company’s portfolio now includes allergen-free almond, macadamia, peanut, pecan and walnut.
Kerry offers bake-stable natural flavors in fruits, berries, mints and other interesting combinations, said Amy Peterkes, senior research and development scientist at Kerry. The flavors were designed for frozen and refrigerated dough products, as well as dry mixes. The company has been working on a line of natural grilled fruit combinations for fine baking applications, and it has gotten creative with coffee and tea flavors.
“With the growing popularity of cold-brew coffee beverages, non-beverage manufacturers are trying to capitalize on the flavor trend,” said Mary Reynolds, research scientist, bakery, Kerry Ingredients. “We have been featuring our cold-brew coffee extract in a muffin application with cream-flavored filling and a chocolate-covered coffee bean on top.”
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Capitalizing on year-round flavor occasions
Flavor trends tend to come and go. But while the next big trend may be hard to predict, it presents opportunities for innovation. For example, just in time for the holiday season, Synergy Flavors debuted natural sugarplum flavor. It may be used in holiday cookies, frostings and even toaster pastries.
“Sugarplum is one of the world’s oldest sugared candies, dating back to the 17th century,” said Kayla Blanding, application technologist, Synergy Flavors. “Synergy sees sugarplum as a fanciful flavor that appeals to consumers’ quests for adventurous food and provides a decadent taste with a unique flavor.”
Cardamom is another example. The spicy flavor, along with its lemon and mint aroma, can be used in all types of baked foods, sweet and savory.
“Just a small amount elevates other flavors in the system,” Ms. Blanding said.
To meet customer requests for a more authentic bourbon flavor for baked foods, Synergy Flavors self-manufactured an oak essence into its natural bourbon flavor to give it an aged, true bourbon profile. It can further be layered with others for combinations such as bourbon maple and bourbon pecan, which are trending in the market right now.
Through consumer research, the company also identified an opportunity with florals. Recent prototypes include honeysuckle hibiscus lemon dessert bar and lavender blueberry chocolate relaxation bar.
“The term ‘botanical’ was favorable among consumers looking for natural ingredients,” said Amy Loomis, business development manager at Synergy Flavors. “Some of the most commonly used floral flavors are jasmine, rose and hibiscus. These go well with fruit flavors because they complement the sweet and tangy fruit notes and are used in baked goods such as cookies and bars.”
Artisan bread can also get a lift with new bake-stable natural savory flavors from Sensient Flavors. Many in-store baked bread varieties contain herbs and spices for visual appeal, but flavors are often necessary to deliver the taste the consumer expects.
“Parmesan garlic and Mediterranean olive oil flavors bring the right balance of indulgence to better-for-you bread,” said Sarah Diedrich, marketing associate at Sensient Flavors.
Flavorchem now offers a natural cinnamon churro-type flavor. The traditional churro is a fried Mexican pastry that is garnished with sugar and sometimes chocolate sauce.
“This cinnamon churro-type flavor replicates the fried dough nuances and is balanced with sweet cinnamon notes and a slightly roasted corn aroma,” said Nick Lombardo, applications scientist, culinary, Flavorchem,
There iss continued interest in blending sweet and savory flavors, he added. Flavorchem took an ordinary sugar cookie recipe and flavored the icing with curry, candied blood orange, Himalayan pink salt and pequin chili pepper for a desert. Another flavor Flavorchem developed for this trend was a chocolate maple bacon-flavored pretzel for an indulgent snack.