With inflation skyrocketing, driven primarily by fuel and food costs, consumers are trying to stretch their budgets as much as possible. This means buying cheaper brands or cutting back on certain foods. At the same time, consumers want to continue trying new and exciting flavors and innovative foods.
“In most parts of the world, the average consumer has been forced to rethink their household spending and has changed the way they approach food,” explains Ranjana Sundaresan, senior research analyst at Spoonshot, a food beverage market intelligence firm.
The search for new and different global flavor experiences drives the Sweet Plus trend: sweet plus spicy, sweet plus umami, and sweet plus bitter.
Consumers are increasingly looking for complex flavors and unexpected combinations. Liz Moskow, director of Bread & Circus Future Food Advisory, said this “mix-and-match flavor combination craze” has resulted in what she calls the “Sweet Plus” trend.
The most familiar iteration of this trend is sweet plus spicy: combining chili varieties with sweet ingredients to create a complex taste sensation. Mintel reports a 138% increase in spicy flavors on bakery menus this year.
“I’m going for sour and umami flavors, which are produced through fermented,” says Jan Matsuno, founder of Yumbini Foods and Mindful Food Consulting, when asked to look into her crystal ball to predict a flavor trend that will have the most significant impact in 2023. “Think kimchi, miso, beet kvas, pickles, beer, and kombucha.”
Street food has gained incredible popularity over the past five to seven years, and there is no sign of slowing down. From arepas and banh mi to pierogis and poutine, street food showcases the authentic flavors of culture and appeals to consumers looking for new experiences.
Mexican elote (grilled corn topped with mayonnaise, cotija cheese, chile, lime, and cilantro) has achieved broad appeal in the U.S., appearing on restaurant menus and making its way to CPG foods on grocery store shelves.
Nostalgia and Newstalgia
This desire for nostalgic foods is not new. As Symrise noted in its 2022 North American Top Trends report, “entering a post-pandemic world influence how people feel nostalgic: through the comfort foods of their childhood or with the more recent memory of a sandwich from their favorite deli they haven’t visited in two years.”
“We’re in a historically unique time where there’s an economic downturn happening at the same time that consumers have all this pent-up post-COVID demand for unique experiences and occasions,” says Datassential’s Kostyo.
The trends identified here intersect, speaking to consumers’ desire for what is familiar and comfortable and what is new and exciting. “If you can satisfy these two needs – a desire for innovative and unique flavors along with exciting options where there is perceived good economic value, you will win with consumers in 2023,” Kostyo added.