No flavor of the year? This may seem like an odd title to a blog. But there’s a reason to our madness. Read on, I promise it will be worth it.
As I enter my 20th year of working in the flavor industry, one thing I’ve always found interesting is the industry’s obsession with flavor “trends”. Every year, companies want to be seen as “in-the-know” about what flavors are going to be “hot or not” in the coming year. I also have to admit that even I – someone who is generally a trend hater – once succumbed to the pressure and issued a “hot list” of flavor trends. I even tried to define the elusive, “Flavor of the Year”, as though there would be – or could be – one flavor that could define a calendar year.
Granted, we’ve seen some flavors emerge over the years that could fit into the standard description of a trend. Sriracha comes to mind. Maybe because I just had some spicy crab dip with sriracha at a New Year’s party. I want my team to take note that I actually tried sriracha AND crab dip – in the same product. That will be relevant later in this blog post. But generally speaking, choosing flavors that define a product or a brand is much more challenging than just jumping on board the latest declared flavor trend.
I also recognize that being a fast follower to companies and brands that spend significant advertising dollars behind a flavor is a solid strategy. In this case, I think of McDonald’s Mango Pineapple Smoothie which introduced, literally, millions of people to the flavor of mango. Many other QSRs and retail brands got on board and launched mango flavored variants.
If Not Trends, Then What?
For me it has always been about finding the right flavor match – for the right product – for the right consumer.
Sounds like a good strategy right? But even this approach has flaws. Because when it comes to flavor choices, the standard consumer segmentation (age, gender, nationality or regionality, etc.) seldom provides a clear definition of what flavors will win with consumers.
It is this approach from which comes what has been one of my favorite customer requests: “Please send us flavors on trend and have high appeal with Hispanics, but also appeal to the general population.”
No problem… how about orange, lemon, lime? I totally get it, companies and brands want to attract new users to their products, but also appeal to as broad an audience as possible. Unfortunately, this type of approach often leads to a product development that many people might try once but don’t buy again. Or worse yet, a product is developed that no one wants to try, because the flavor appeals to no one.
So, What Then Do I Do, You Ask?
Let me reflect again on what got me here to begin with. Many years ago, I was leading marketing for a small, but rapidly growing juice company, when my development team was kind enough to include me in a meeting with a flavor company sales person and flavorist. At the end of that meeting, I was asked if I had any questions or specific flavor needs they could help me with. At the time, strawberry kiwi was a particularly hot flavor, so I simply asked, if they could tell me what the next strawberry kiwi flavor would be two years before it actually emerged as a trend. That would be great….
They looked at me funny promising to share with me their insights into flavor trends in the future. Six months later, I found myself in the flavor business and in the position I am today – trying to help companies define what flavors will best contribute to making their products successful.
Now in 2020, I believe Givaudan, thanks to great research, tons of data, a very long term plan, finally has the tools necessary to make this happen for more brands and products than at any time in history. The culmination of all of this research is the upcoming FlavorFinders™ consumer segmentation tool.
Through FlavorFinders™, we have the ability to pair flavors with how consumers, regardless of demographic, choose and interact with flavors as part of their overall personality and lifestyle. Grouping consumers into four segments, we help brands build smart flavor strategies to launch new flavors with greater potential to increase volume to their franchise.
Using four unique consumer types: Trailblazer, Investigator, Follower, or Hesitator, we have learned that consumer demand and consumer choices are more a function of the archetype dynamics of each segment, than they are a function of a specific demographic. In fact, regardless of the archetype, there is no one demographic unique to any of the archetypes.
Closing the loop: I am a Flavor Hesitator. Which makes the aforementioned sriracha crab dip incident is a big deal for me. However, knowing I’m an executive in the flavor business, I’m committed to acting more of a Flavor Trailblazer in the future!