Exotic citrus flavours take the limelight

11 Jun 2019

Citrus flavours are in continuous high demand and come in a variety unmatched by any other fruit category. While orange, lemon and lime are the top citrus flavour choices, demand for natural and authentic flavours has boosted interest in more exotic citrus fruits.

For flavour companies, a broad range of citrus varieties has long been a mainstay of their business. But beyond the most popular flavours, like lemon, lime, grapefruit and orange, others have gained in popularity in recent years. For example, yuzu – a Japanese fruit that combines lime, mandarin and grapefruit-like flavours – has soared in popularity over the past few years. According to Mintel, the number of yuzu-flavoured products launched globally was up 65% in 2018 compared to 2016, and the rise in beverages was even steeper, up 100%.

Exotic citrus flavours take the limelight
More unusual citrus flavours are emerging beyond lemon, lime and orange

Synonymous with refreshing fruitiness, other citrus varieties have also seen increased interest, including tangerine, persimmon, kaffir lime, calamansi and pomelo and are showing up in a range of beverages and foods including snacks, bakery items, yoghurts, confectionery and sauces.

Kerry has identified kaffir lime as an up-and-coming savoury flavour in Europe in 2019, for example, while for hot beverages and dairy it highlighted lemon verbena and lime blossom. Other citrus flavours like lemongrass and lemon balm already feature as key flavours in the hot beverage category, according to Kerry’s 2019 Taste Charts for Europe. Meanwhile, in cold beverages and flavoured waters – the category most closely associated with refreshment – it highlights four up-and-coming citrus flavours: yuzu, pomelo, lemon peel, and bergamot. Calamansi and pink grapefruit also get a mention as emerging flavours.

When it comes to innovation in citrus flavour, the world’s largest flavour company, Givaudan, has a special advantage with its extensive collection of about 1000 citrus plant varieties at the University of California, Riverside. The collection was started more than 100 years ago, and Givaudan has spent more than a decade evaluating their flavour compounds. As a result of its analysis, it has developed a range of citrus flavours based on the collection, often with unexpected flavour notes, such as earthy, spicy or floral.

Consumer demand for natural ingredients is a major factor in the sector, and natural variants now account for more than 70% of the global citrus flavours market, according to Future Market Insights (FMI). It predicts that the overall market will grow by 4.9% a year to 2025, primarily driven by beverages, which account for about a third of all citrus flavour use.

According to FMI, innovation in manufacturing technology has been an important driver for the uptake of citrus flavours, as their functional properties have improved, giving them greater stability, longer shelf life and better ability to withstand further processing.