Sensient talks flavor innovation and identifies 'adventurous and conversation-worthy' flavor trends

By Mary Ellen Shoup

- Last updated on GMT

©GettyImages / Foxys_forest_manufacture
©GettyImages / Foxys_forest_manufacture

Related tags Sensient Flavors Flavors

Drawing from primary field research from the culinary and non-food world, Sensient Flavors has identified Strega (an Italian herbal liqueur), oud (a raw wood scent formed from a parasitic tree mold), and Ispahan (a classic Parisian dessert combining rose, raspberries, and lychee) as flavors and scents which will inspire the next wave of flavor innovation in food and beverage.

Sensient Flavors​ uses a combination of gathering market trends intel from its other global offices, in-house flavors marketing team, and conversations with "people in the field"​ from its (pre-pandemic) excursions to put together its own predictive analysis on which flavors will hit the market next.

For its recent 'Trends to Taste' installment, Sensient went to Chicago at the end of last year and early 2020 to speak with mixologists, mom & pop shops, and perfumeries to uncover innovative ingredients and flavors that could play a big role in food and beverage. 

"The flavors are pretty unique in nature, and that’s by design, because our customers already know what’s trending today. So our goal here is to give them something they can look forward to in a few years from now," ​Keera Perumbala, marketing manager, Sensient Flavors & Extracts, told FoodNavigator-USA. 

"It’s less about the flavors themselves and really more about the trends that are affecting consumer behavior,"​ added Roger Lane, marketing manager, Sensient Flavors & Extracts.

"We look across the globe and identify the drivers that are motivating consumers' behavior, and then choose flavors and use those as representations of that trend."

'We always tell our customers if you want a top 10 list you can Google it yourself'

While comfort and the familiar has played a significant role in the types of food and beverage products consumers are reaching for this past year, Sensient's more forward-thinking trends analysis identified that over the long-term consumers are looking for flavor experiences that are more authentic and global in nature, said Lane.

"All of these flavors are outside the US. It’s the idea of giving consumers a global look,"​ said Lane, adding that the inclusion of 'oud' came from insights gleaned from the fragrance team based in Sensient's Dubai office. 

Lane explained that Sensient takes a more boundary-pushing approach to identifying flavor and ingredients trends. Lane added that its innovative approach means it may take a while before these flavors hit the mainstream or semi-niche market. 

"These flavors may not hit right away, or they may not hit at all," ​said Lane. "We always tell our customers if you want a top 10 list you can Google it yourself. We try to be a little bit different and be very forward-thinking,"​ said Lane. 

'These three flavors are adventurous and conversation worthy'

Strega​ – An Italian herbal liqueur with a multifaceted flavor and an electric yellow color, Strega is sweet, herbal and medicinal with notes of cinnamon, juniper, mint, anise and fennel. It is classified as an amaro, an herbal liqueur whose name in Italian means “bitter." 

"Strega was inspired by other bitters that are trending today such as Aperol and Campari,"​ said Perumbala. 


Oud​ – Oud is one of the most expensive raw scent ingredients in the world, said Sensient. According to the company, it comes from the wood of the Southeast Asian agar tree. When the wood becomes infected with a parasitic mold called phialophora parasitica, the tree fights back by producing a dark, scented resin, which is often called “liquid gold.”​ It is described as: Musky, sensual, dark, warm sweetness mixed with woody and balsamic notes and smoky leather, noted Sensient.


Ispahan​ – Ispahan is inspired by a classic dessert created by Pierre Hermé in the early 90s in Paris, according to Sensient. One of his signature creations, the dessert includes a surprising combination of rose, raspberries and lychee. Alone, these ingredients are not unique, but together they become something more than the sum of their parts, said the company. "Well-balanced, Ispahan is described as sweet, creamy, floral, fruity, raspberry, rose and lychee,"​ said Sensient. 


Strega kombucha, Ispahan white chocolate...

Acknowledging that it may take a few years before consumers are eating packaged snacks flavored with oud, Perumbala shared that Sensient has been developing its own successful product concepts to share as inspiration with customers including a Strega-flavored kombucha and white chocolate flavored with Ispahan.

"We’re seeing a lot more floral flavors (such as Ispahan) across sweet and savory,"​ she added. 

The potential for bitters such as Strega, however, is an emerging trend that is spreading at a more rapid pace, noted Perumbala, who said that consumers are associating the flavor of bitters (primarily in beverages) with the health halo of being medicinal in nature. 

"Because we’re spending so much time at home, wellness seems to be more in focus for these type of bitter flavors,"​ she noted. 

A common thread across these flavors, and likely Sensient's future flavor predictions, are its novelty, added Perumbala. 

"These three flavors are adventurous and conversation worthy,"​ she said.