2020 is the year of the adventurous eater. A new survey reveals 74% of people love to discover new flavors. The Innova Trends Survey highlights botanicals, spices and herbs as popular flavors that will drive the food and beverage market in the new year. Innova calls these trending ingredients as “functionally flavorful.”

Fermented food brands are active in this regard. Kombucha brands are adding more botanical flavoring to their beverages, and fermented vegetable products are experimenting with unique spice and herb combinations. Flavor is still the No. 1 factor for consumers when buying food and beverages. Fermented food brands can use the trending ingredients of 2020 to develop new products and experiment with new flavor combinations. 

“Ingredients have become the stars of many products,” says Lu Ann Williams, Innova Market Insights Director of Insights & Innovation. The industry, she notes, is experimenting with more unusual ingredients to the delight of customers.

Fermented food brands can use 2020’s most popular ingredients as they develop new products. One in two consumers associate floral flavors with freshness, and they associate herbal flavors with healthiness. Flavor is still “the No. 1 factor of importance when buying food and beverages.”

Below is a breakdown of the ingredients consumers want in the New Year. 

Ethnic

Today’s consumers don’t just want to have food, they want to experience their food. Innova refers to this as living vs. having.

“Consumers are really living and focusing more on experiences, and a  big part of that is food and where it comes from,” Williams adds. “Consumers are also looking for richer experiences. You can have Mexican food or you can have authentic Mexican food. And you definitely have a richer experience with authentic Mexican food with a beer paired with the product, with ingredients that came from Mexico.”

Evidence that globalization is changing food, six in 10 U.S. and U.K. consumers say they “love to discover flavors of other cultures.” There was a 65% growth in food and beverages with ethnic flavors. Products with the biggest growth rate have Mediterranean and Far Eastern flavors. Meat, fish, eggs, sauces and seasonings lead the ethnic flavor categories.

Earthy

The growing sect of health-conscious consumers want green, earthy flavors. Matcha, seaweed ashwagandha, turmeric and mushroom are all trending ingredients. 

Fermented food brands shouldn’t hesitate to use bitter ingredients. Consumers more and more are embracing green vegetables with bitter flavors. Spinach, kale, celery and Brussels sprouts are ingredients used in product launches. 

“Bitter-toned beverages are also on trend, with gins particularly popular over the past few years, and now seeing further differentiation via a growing variation in flavors, colors and formats,” according to Innova.

Floral

Thanks to the plant-based, natural, organic, healthy eating revolution, consumers are buying food and drink products with botanical, floral flavors. These are becoming more common in beverages, especially kombucha.

Bell Flavors and Fragrances EMEA launched a concept “Feel Nature’s Variety,” capitalizing on the trend. Chamomile and lavender are two of the most popular floral flavors. 

“Although many emerging botanicals need more scientific investigation to support anecdotal evidence, many consumers trust ancient, traditional herbals,” according to an article in Prepared Foods.

Spicy

Consumer interest in spicy ingredients has increased 10 years in a row, according to global flavoring company Kalsec. More than 22,000 new hot and spicy products were launched in 207, while 18,000 hot and spicy products were launched in 2016.

“I think the trend has gone from shaking a bit of hot sauce on something to give it some heat to present day where consumers have a better understanding of how chili peppers can add depth and layering of both heat and flavor,” says Hadley Katzenbach, culinary development chef at food company Southeastern Mills.

Spicy ingredients gochujang (a red chili paste) and sriracha (a hot sauce) has grown about 50% in condiments and sauces, with mole, harissa and sambal following. Spicy peppers, including peri peri, serrano, guajillo, anaheim, pasilla and arbol, are also growing.

The global kefir market is expected to grow to $2.58 billion in 2027, increasing at a CAGR of 5.8%. The fermented milk drink is gaining popularity due to its unique taste and various health benefits.

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Food movements from the past decade have changed how we are eating. Fermenting is one of the trend-defining innovations (and resurrections), according to a list by The Sunday Times in Britain. The article, titled “We foraged, we fermented, we went vegan” — the decade that changed the way we eat,” highlights the “real increase in locality and seasonality; a revival of the crafts of foraging and pickling and fermenting.” Author Marina O’Loughlin’s other food moments from the past 10 years: diners desiring independent restaurants instead of chains, an explosion of regional food (think Sichaunese or Hunanese restaurants instead of Asian), “dinner got cool” with food festivals and food trucks, veganism turned mainstream (same with nut milk, alternative meat products, zero waste and organic produce) and people are avoiding imported ingredients. Media is changing the restaurant scene, too. Netflix, The Food Channel and social media turned food photos into art.

Read more (The Sunday Times)

Does Wine Fermentation Vessel Matter?

Wine Enthusiast breaks down the different variety and sizes of vessels — and why winemakers use them. James Mantone, co-owner and winemaker at Syncline Wine Cellars, says: “It is really amazing to taste wines from different fermentation containers. They don’t even taste like they come from the same vineyards.” The magazine concludes winemakers do not prefer any particular vessel. They enjoy the creativity of changing vessels. Aryn Morell, owner/winemaker at Alleromb and Morell-Peña, and consulting winemaker for numerous wineries, says: “We probably move wine from vessel to vessel more often than people would think. It’s like, ‘Well, I liked the way it was in this egg in January, but in February it’s starting to get a little tense or a little reductive. Let’s move it.’ Now we’ll move it into a large format barrel, open the wine back up or visa versa.”

Read more (Wine Enthusiast

Natalie Jenkins of Motherlode Kombucha aims to make kombucha the next beer or sparkling water. “It’s just something as common as that, and it’s not weird, and it’s not a health drink, and it’s not only hippies who drink it or only women who drink it.” Jenkins shares with WCPO Cincinnati the struggles of starting a business. A longtime kombucha drinker, Jenkins launched her own kombucha company after realizing her town of Covington, Kentucky was void of a local kombucha brand or taproom. With help from SCORE, an organization that mentors future small business owners, Jenkins launched her business this year and brews from Covington’s Kickstart Kitchen. The photographer knew little about starting a business.  She said: “The biggest challenge is connecting to an audience that I know is there but I haven’t met yet. I always feel like I’m selling my soul a little bit when people say, ‘What are the health benefits of kombucha?’ Well, it’s got probiotics. It’s good for you. But it’s not why I drink it. I think it’s delicious. It’s more about having community and having something to gather around.”

Read more (WCPO Cincinnati)

We asked three fermentation experts if recent popularity of fermented foods is a fading trend or a new food movement. These industry professionals weigh in on their predictions for fermentation’s future. The fermenters include Katherine Harmon Courage (author of “Cultured: How Ancient Foods Can Feed Our Microbiome”), Aneta Lundquist (owner of 221 BC Kombucha) and Alex Lewin (author of “Real Food Fermentation” and “Kombucha, Kefir, and Beyond”)

Do you think the surge of fermented food and drinks is a trend will disappear or a new food movement here to stay?

Katherine Harmon Courage, author of “Cultured: How Ancient Foods Can Feed Our Microbiome”: It’s here to stay. I expect to see it expanding and incorporating into more people’s lives. There is really compelling research with the health benefits, but there’s also these amazing flavors for those of us who weren’t raised with it. Like kimchi. Once you eat kimchi, food seems bland and lacking without it. Koreans describe it as “You need kimchi with every meal.” They can’t imagine eating it without. The flavor and texture experience is a big part of eating. We shouldn’t be forcing it down for our health, but truly enjoying it.

Aneta Lundquist, Owner 221 BC Kombucha: The future is fermented. Stretching back as far as human history itself, the origins of fermentation are hard to track down. People have been teaming up with microbes for much longer than we know. Almost every culture appears to have embraced fermentation for millennia but without a deeper understanding of it’s purpose. Fortunately for us, today’s science became “microbes-curios” and surprised us with some terrific findings. One of the most important ones is that we actually are ONE large thriving ecosystem and its survival is based on an ongoing symbiotic dance between microbial and human cells. Those cells communicate with each other and the outside world, exchange their DNAs and they even shape human behaviors. Now, in the 21st Century, we finally started embracing this profound partnership because of its obvious benefits (gut-brain connection, anti-inflammatory properties, digestive help, depression and Alzheimer aid… this list is almost endless). And there is no way back from here. Demand on fermenting foods is going to only grow from now on. As soon as so called “good microbes” from fermented food find a safe home in human guts, they will call for more of its kind. This is how “they” operate! Suddenly, people will crave kombucha, sauerkraut and kimchi-ferment generally. And that is exactly what we are observing now.

Alex Lewin, author of “Real Food Fermentation” and “Kombucha, Kefir, and Beyond”: Fermentation is not a new technology — in fact, it is one of our oldest! People have been doing it for millennia, and microbes have been doing it on their own since before humans even darkened the earth.
So by the numbers, it qualifies as a trend or movement.
But it’s definitely not a fad.

And to be fair, in some parts of the world, fermentation was never “out of fashion”. In Korea, for instance, kimchi has been a staple food for a very long time, often eaten with every meal.

My forecast for North America is that fermentation will continue to grow.
This is because fermentation is the meeting point of a few trends that are on the rise here:

– Health. We are more interested in health (and concerned about health) now than we have been at any time in recent memory. We are learning more about gut health and how it affects the rest of human physiology. Fermented foods are directly related to gut health.
– Food. North Americans watch more food TV than ever before, and celebrity chefs are as famous as pro athletes. People are eating things on a regular basis that their parents had never heard of.
– Sustainability/Infrastructure Resilience. Producing and preserving food without reliance on electricity and other infrastructure is an important thing that we as individuals can do to prepare for an uncertain future that will include climate change and may include dramatic societal change and partial or total infrastructure collapse.

The New York Times asks: are there benefits to drinking kombucha? The article explores hard kombucha and the health claims of drinking the fermented tea.  “But for those interested in integrating a variety of microbes into their diet, Dr. Emeran Mayer, author of ‘The Mind-Gut Connection,’ recommends doing so naturally. ‘I personally drink it occasionally,’ he said. Instead of using pills or supplements, he said, alternate different fermented foods, including sauerkraut, kimchi, cultured milk products, and, yes, kombucha.

Read more (New York Times)

Carbonic maceration is a high-tech wine-making technique invented in France in the 1930s. And it’s making a comeback today as more consumers crave fresher-tasting wines. From Wine Enthusiast: “Carbonic maceration can completely change a wine’s style and flavor profile. If you’ve ever tried a red wine that bounced brightly out of the glass with an ultra-fruity bubble-gum aroma or crunched lightly with cinnamon, vanilla and earthy, stemmy flavors, it’s likely you’ve encountered carbonic maceration.” In traditional wine making, the crashed grapes are transformed into alcohol by a yeast fermentation. Carbonic maceration involves adding whole, intact grapes and allowing the berries to ferment from the inside in an oxygen-free environment. The whole berries use CO2 added to the sealed vessel to break down sugars and malic acid to produce alcohol.

Read more (Wine Enthusiast

Fermented drinks are becoming a major part of the food industry, and San Diego’s Mesa College is taking notice. Mesa College is offering a new Fermentation Management Certification Program. The program aims to prepare students for a variety of careers in San Diego’s $1.2 billion craft beer industry. But the program focuses on other fermented beverages as well, like kombucha, mead, cider, coffee and tea. In the 30-unit course, students will learn the basics of brewing and learn the business side of running a brewery, from sales, marketing, law, accounting, importing, distribution and operations. “There’s so much fermented beverage going on, that there’s gotta be at least 250 companies out there looking for qualified people,” said adjunct faculty member Kevin Rhodes, who co-founded Groundswell Brewing.

Read more (NBC San Diego)

Raw, clean ingredient pet food is the fastest growing part of the pet food category. More pet food brands are inventing ways to feed their pets unprocessed, organic ingredients. A new article highlights Answer Pet Food, the first (and so far only) fermented raw pet food supplier. Answers Pet Food utilized kombucha, raw cultured whey, cultured raw goat’s milk and kefir in their pet food products. Their products include fermented chicken feet and fermented pig feet. Answers Pet Food says: “Fermentation is the most natural and effective way for us to make our products as safe and healthy as possible. … Our raw fermented pet foods are formulated to create a healthy gut. Fermentation supports healthy immune function by increasing the B-vitamins, digestive enzymes, antioxidants, and lactic acid that fight off harmful bacteria. It’s also the ultimate source of probiotics.”

Read more (Pet Product News)