ARNHEM, THE NETHERLANDS —Flavor development is being led by the search for something new, different and exciting, according to a new report from Innova Market Insights.

This journey of exploration is fueled by ongoing interest in healthy, natural and clean label foods. As a result, Innova said new discoveries are the No. 1 flavor trend this year. According to a survey of American consumers conducted by the company, two out of every three respondents said they love to discover new flavors.

“An example of a chocolate bar that might appeal to this group is a barbecue potato chip 70% dark chocolate bar,” said Lu Ann Williams, director of insights and innovation at Innova Market Insights. “That represents this whole idea of flavor excitement.

“Another example is ready-to-eat lobster meat with ‘secret’ seasonings, so you don’t know exactly what it is. Seventy-two per-cent of Americans found this exciting.”

Consumers are seeking stronger and more unusual combinations. Innova said brands are leaning toward more sensational flavor concepts to meet this demand, with initiatives like sushi pizza, spicy tuna roll corn dogs, pasta bacon tacos and ramen burgers joining more traditional sweet and salty combinations.

“When it comes to category fusion, I love the example of the Veggie Plot,” Ms. Williams said. “This is a savory yogurt that can be ready-to-eat, or it can be used in sauce or as a dip. Everybody can customize how they are going to use that, because it ticks several category boxes.”

Established flavors perceived to be dull are being reinvented in more complex and sophisticated ways, as an aging population continues to drive demand for more adult-oriented options. Traditional coffee flavor, for example, is giving way to more upmarket, added-value options like cold-brew caramel latte in a range of food and beverage products.

“When we look at demographics and the aging global population, there’s a lot of households with no kids,” Ms. Williams said. “I think in general, with the backlash and the awareness of sugar it’s the No.1 thing people want to cut out of their lives or reduce. We see a lot of less-sweet flavors becoming more popular. Smoked and roasted flavors are a great example of that.”

Ms. Williams said other adult-oriented options, including various types of alcohol, bitter and sour flavors, also are growing in popularity.

Another flavor trend driving the food and beverage industry is cultural celebration. With more consumers regarding themselves as world citizens, demand for exotic flavors and authentic-style ethnic food is growing.

“We see about a 14% increase in South East Asian flavors, and a little bit higher for East Asian and Mediterranean,” Ms. Williams said. “But Middle Eastern flavors are growing super-fast. Hummus dips, for example, have become super popular.”

The rising demand for diverse flavors inspired by foreign cuisine is driving growth of launches with an umami claim. With the focus on mindful eating and clean ingredients, Innova said demand for ingredients with a natural source of umami taste also is on the rise.

“This is one where you couldn’t talk about it globally,” Ms. Williams said. “You have to look at it from an East versus West view. In the West, there’s a lot more discussion about umami than before. There’s still generally low awareness, but there is also demand for convenient cooking and seasoning solutions, so umami is increasingly becoming used as a flavor.”

Ms. Williams said other kinds of earthy tones like matcha, seaweed and mushroom also are spreading across the industry.