CHICAGO -- Today’s flavor trends are seeing some shifts, as millennial and Generation X diners—those with the highest disposable income—continue to distinguish themselves from other generations by actively seeking new offerings over traditional ones, according to Technomic’s new 2017 Flavor Consumer Trend Report, powered by Ignite. Understanding the distinct flavor preferences of the most frequent c-store foodservice consumers can help retail companies best understand how to develop, test and introduce innovative flavors.
While the millennial consumer is the c-store segment's core consumer, it's important to keep overarching preferences that appeal to a broader base in mind. Technomic's flavor study shows that providing both familiar and innovative flavors can help operators bridge generational gaps. As consumers’ expectations for new and creative flavors rise, operators are maximizing appeal by displaying transparency, uniqueness and a certain level of comfort within flavors.
Click through for the latest consumer findings on flavor, courtesy of our colleagues at Restaurant Business ...
1. Flavor combinations
Foodservice consumers are actively seeking spicy fare. But they're also highly interested in flavor combinations that incorporate heat along with a complementary profile. More than one-third of all consumers and 43% of consumers ages 18 to 34 want restaurants to offer flavor combinations, per Technomic’s report. The demand for heat may draw interest in complex flavor combos, such as pickled, sour, savory or sweet flavors blended with spicy.
Whitehouse Station, N.J.-based convenience-store chain QuickChek’s beverage program brings complex, synergistic flavor combinations to the forefront with its Extra Spicy Chai Tea, Spiced Chocolate Banana Shake and Mayan Mocha Shake.
And fast-food chain Tim Hortons recently debuted its Buffalo Latte, made with espresso, mocha and Buffalo sauce, and topped with zesty Buffalo seasoning. The concoction is currently available at two locations in Buffalo, N.Y.—the birthplace of Buffalo wings. Stephen Goldstein, regional president of Tim Hortons U.S., told Fox News that "the unlikely pairing of sweet mocha and tangy Buffalo sauce come together to create an unexpectedly delicious sweet and spicy treat.”
2. New, globally inspired flavors
Foodservice usage is higher among patrons who actively seek new flavors, per the report. As a result, operators may become less dependent on salt and sugar and focus more on bold flavors—often gaining inspiration from global cuisines. In the recent report, 45% of consumers said they typically crave bold flavors, up from 41% in 2015, and younger consumers said they’re more interested in trying new flavors now than they were a year ago.
California-based Jack in the Box has been testing sandwiches inspired by food trucks at its units near San Diego. One of its offerings includes the new Crunchy Chicken Banh Mi, which features mayonnaise made with gochujang—a fermented red chili paste that originated in Korea.
3. Signature flavors, especially for sauces
Signature dishes may help operators set themselves apart and drive purchases, as 43% of all consumers say they’re tempted to order an item if it comes with an original sauce or ingredient. This is especially common among younger consumers, as 52% of millennials and 49% of Gen Zers say so, according to Technomic’s report.
McDonald’s rolled out its new buttermilk chicken fingers earlier this month, featuring the chains’ new Signature Sauce: a tomato-and-egg-yolk concoction with a strong garlic flavor, according to Tim Carman, food writer at The Washington Post.