Plant-based foods and mindful eating among McCormick’s newest flavor trends


Dive Brief:

  • Plant-focused meals, undiscovered ingredients from the ocean, mindful eating and comforting global tastes are McCormick’s top trends for its 21st Flavor Forecast
  • The report expects consumers and food professionals to elevate vegetables, fruits and botanicals that offer color, texture and indulgence, including ube (purple yam), Szechuan buttons (edible flower buttons) and trumpet mushrooms. The ocean is also inspiring new flavor preferences including dulse (red sea lettuce flakes), spirulina and sea grapes.
  • McCormick also sees mindful eating rising in popularity as consumers find time to slow down and explore the six tastes — sweet, sour, salty, bitter, astringent and pungent — in their meals. Global foods continue as a key trend, but with a comforting, nourishing twist.

Dive Insight:

As one of the biggest shifts in the food industry to date, plant-based continues to provide consumers with new eating experiences, flavor combinations and chances to reimagine their diets. Having hit the mainstream, the plant-based movement has given vegetables and fruits a chance to take center stage. This is as the pandemic has encouraged more consumers to improve their eating habits and add more fresh ingredients to their diets.

If plants’ growing popularity holds, it could push more consumers to incorporate vegetables and fruit into their meals. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines, adults should eat at least 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables each day. An agency survey of consumers finds that the average American eats only 0.9 cups of fruit and 1.4 cups of vegetables per day. A greater willingness to explore new produce options, flavors and textures could increase these figures. Indeed, as it announced the newest Flavor Forecast, McCormick also said it was partnering with HelloFresh on a vegetable-centric meal kit this May.

The emerging interest around flavors from the ocean could tie into the increasing focus on plant-based foods. Algae has emerged as a promising new food option, growing ten times faster than terrestrial plants, offering key nutrients and adding new textures to meals. Major manufacturers such as Unilever and Nestlé are already working with algae companies to develop new ingredients and applications.

As the pandemic has encouraged consumers to eat healthier, it has also forced many to stay inside and slow down, and eat more thoughtfully. The idea of treating mealtime as an experience has emerged during the health crisis, with Gen Z leading the charge. In its analysis of the trend, McCormick drew a connection to Ayurvedic medicine, and using the six tastes to create warming and cooling sensations in meals, with the goal of comforting the body. Flavors like coriander, lemon, sea salt, cumin, turmeric and ginger can serve a role here, the ingredients company said.

As people have been quarantined during the COVID-19 pandemic and prohibited from traveling, exploring new cultures through cuisine has been one of the few outlets for satisfying their wanderlust. Global flavors have been an ongoing trend in McCormick’s Flavor Forecasts, but for 2021, comfort and nourishment are influencing consumers’ choices. The ingredients company said this year’s global trend is inspired by the Yiddish word “nashn,” which meaning to nibble on, and it allows consumers to satisfy their cravings and be soothed by international flavors. These could include the Indian spice blend chaat masala, pandan kaya (Malaysian jam) and crisped chilies, according to McCormick.

But some consumers may not want to stray too far into the culinary unknown and strike a balance with exploring new flavors. Familiar and nostalgic tastes are topping charts as a source of comfort during stressful pandemic times, according to ingredients company Kerry’s 2021 flavor predictions — although it also expects global flavors to remain popular, including piri piri, rosehip, lemongrass, nori and jerk seasonings. Meanwhile, Archer Daniels Midland’s chief flavorist said the ingredients giant is working with comforting flavors such as chocolate, vanilla, macaroni and cheese, and chicken soup, as well as botanical flavors that speak to consumers’ interests in clean-label health and wellness, such as orange and berries.