Fresh combinations give mint flavours a boost

1 Apr 2019

Mint is one of the world’s favourite flavours – and its popularity is on the rise even as the global gum market has slowed down, traditionally one of the top applications for mint flavours.

Several flavour houses have singled out mint as an up-and-coming flavour, particularly in combination with other ingredients, including cucumber, chocolate and citrus.

Fresh combinations give mint flavours a boost

Its enduring popularity is partly due to its versatility in combination with other flavours, including fruits like yuzu and strawberry, and botanicals like hibiscus and lavender. In hot drinks, mint can be comforting in association with chocolate, and may be considered invigorating or even medicinal in tea.

Mintel has suggested that consumer interest in Middle Eastern foods has also boosted mint’s popularity. In the United States, the use of mint as an ingredient in non-alcoholic drinks increased 48% from Q4 2015-17, it said, and 23% as an alcoholic beverage ingredient.

However, mint has experienced some supply problems in recent years. Demand is high, but natural mint oil prices have been volatile as suppliers have been offered better prices for growing other crops. In the US, which supplies about 70% of the world’s mint, the number of mint farms fell from 964 to 341 in the ten years from 1997 to 2007, according to the US Department of Agriculture, as mint struggled to compete with other, more lucrative crops, particularly corn for ethanol.

Now, new sources are emerging, and flavour firms have attempted to safeguard their supply chains. Germany-based Wild Flavors, for example, acquired US mint specialist AM Todd in 2011, which has extensive mint farms in India as well as in the United States, and in 2016, Swiss flavour house Firmenich made a major investment in US-based Essex Laboratories, one of the world’s biggest suppliers of natural mint essential oils.

Interest from food and beverage manufacturers shows no sign of slowing down, however. Although gum and breath-freshening products continue to be the main applications for mint flavours, its use is rising in other categories, including in hot and cold beverages, ice cream and desserts, confectionery, and sweet and savoury snacks.

For manufacturers, it is important to note considerable variation in preferred mint flavour profiles around the world. According to FONA International, European consumers tend to prefer mint in combination with mentholated, tea, herbal, eucalyptus and chlorophyll flavours, while Americans tend to prefer generic mint flavours like peppermint or sweet mint, and Asia Pacific consumers prefer mint with menthol, tea and herbal notes.

In addition, accenting mint with citrus flavours could be an effective point of differentiation in several regions, including in Asia Pacific, where lemon flavours are more closely associated with freshening products than mint flavours.