McCormick’s Flavor Forecast points to plants and the sea for emerging flavor trends

7 May 2021

Spice company McCormick released its 21st annual Flavor Forecast where it identified plant-based meals, comforting global flavors, undiscovered tastes from the ocean, and mindful eating as top flavor trends.

Food and flavor, the company said in its release, were central components of people’s lives throughout the pandemic and contributed to sparking connection through inspiration in home kitchens. "The pandemic sizably shifted the way we have lived our lives over the past year, yet food continues to be a way to bring people together, even virtually,” said Kevan Vetter, Executive Chef and Director of Culinary Development for McCormick in a statement.

McCormick’s Flavor Forecast points to plants and the sea for emerging flavor trends
Courtesy of McCormick

Plant-based proteins have taken the world by storm, with UBS predicting the segment will grow from $4.6 billion in 2018 to $85 billion in 2030. However, McCormick pointed out in its Flavor Forecast that plant-based eating is more than just protein and should incorporate the actual plants themselves onto the menu. As such, the spices company said culinary trends will begin to honor vegetables, fruits, and botanicals that deliver indulgence, brilliant color, hearty texture, and delightful sensation through flora-focused eating. Researchers identified ube (purple yam), Szechuan buttons (edible flower buds) and trumpet mushrooms being particular standout choices.

While plant-based defines what will be trending on diners’ plates, McCormick noted that how these ingredients will be cooked will be influenced by mindful eating and the incorporation of global flavors. Consumers will approach mindful eating from an Ayurvedic perspective, which uses six tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, astringent and pungent) to achieve balance, and warming and cooling techniques to provide comfort to the body. Flavors like coriander, lemon, sea salt, cumin, turmeric and ginger will be at the forefront of this trend that turns mealtime into an experience.

Much in the same way that mindfulness renders a meal into an event, global flavors are proving to be popular as they allow people to experience a moment of wanderlust through their plates even as they remain limited in their ability to travel. And while an interest in global flavors is nothing new and has been a key trend for several years, what has changed is that this way of eating will now be defined by choices with a comforting, nourishing twist. McCormick anticipates ingredients like chaat masala (Indian spice blend), pandan kaya (Malaysian jam) and crisped chilies will appear in globally flavored dishes.

Traveling into the unknown is a key theme from this year’s Flavor Forecast. In addition to terrestrial flavors gracing plates, so too will the flavors of the sea. Diners are expected to delve into less explored ingredients and textures from both fresh and saltwater sources like seaweeds and algae to inspire their culinary creations. McCormick pointed to ingredients like red sea lettuce flakes, spirulina (blue-green algae) and sea grapes as inspiring choices for those that are looking to infuse snacks, meals and beverages with the earthy, umami taste of the ocean.

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