Experts at the Louisville, KY-based beverage development company, Flavorman, have announced the drink flavor trends to watch for in 2021. Driven by the long-term effects of an on-going pandemic, this year’s forecast is shaping up to be focused on flavors that drive experience in a socially distant landscape.
Burning, cooling, or otherwise tingling their way across our tongues, drinks with flavors that stimulate unique sensory experiences are set to become more prominent in the coming year.
“We’ve had a considerable uptick in client requests for flavors that deliver varying degrees and styles of heat, smoke, and spice,” says Tom Gibson, Flavorman’s Chief Flavorist. “But we’ve also seen an increase in requests for flavors with that fresh, cooling rush you’d get from chewing a stick of mint gum.”
Flavors like Ancho chile, habanero, and Indian peppercorn are expected to make their way into everything from Ready-to-Drink (RTD) cocktails to tea and lemonade. Meanwhile, menthol-heavy pairings— think peppermint-mocha cream and lemon-coconut eucalyptus— will contribute a cooling element to seltzers, premium coffee, juice drinks, and more.
The need for comfort has taken on a whole new meaning within the current social and political climate, but flavors continue to provide a soothing constant. Staples like grapefruit, lemon, and lime will continue to be popular; but there is an opportunity to elevate these familiar profiles by grounding them in specific locations of interest.
“Tracing flavors to a specific region creates a transportive experience that helps differentiate an otherwise standard flavor,” says Kristen Wemer, Flavorman’s Director of Beverage Development. “As the market continues to saturate with the usual essentials, consumers can expect more diversity and premiumization through varietals of familiar flavors.”
Delivering on consumer cravings for nostalgia and indulgence, 2021 will also see the return of classic favorites but in unexpected, more sophisticated forms.
“When you think about childhood flavors re-imagined for premium applications, you get something like a smokey vanilla cold brew, bubble gum seltzer, or a fruit punch gin cocktail,” says Wemer. “We’re experiencing a renaissance of these nostalgic flavors— peanut butter, orange creamsicle, grape cotton candy— in concepts like hard coffee, energy drinks, and craft soda.”
In 2020, Flavorman introduced the concept of “functional plus”— those beverages that provide consumers with a multitude of health and wellness benefits. As the world grapples with a global pandemic, consumers have found ways to take their health into their own hands— and stomachs.
Beverages that offer immunity, cognitive, and mood-boosting benefits will be especially significant. Expect fragrant flavors like hibiscus, elderflower, and orange blossom to be combined with other berries, botanical, and citrus elements to emphasize functional ingredient blends in naturally positioned teas, enhanced waters, flavored kombucha, and more.
Of course, if 2020 has taught us anything it’s that no one has a crystal ball; but with almost 30 years in the beverage business and nearly 70,000 formulations under our belt, we also know that experience still counts for something.