Flavor Trends 2018: Year in review

May 6, 2019
4 min read

In advance of Mintel’s 2019 Flavor Trends launching this month, analysts Melanie Zanoza Bartelme and Amanda Topper recap where they’ve seen and tasted Mintel’s 2018 Flavor Trends over the past year.

Modern Mediterranean

Consumers are becoming increasingly familiar with the flavors and ingredients that star in Middle Eastern dishes.

Source: Wild Garden

While Middle Eastern flavors remain more prevalent on menus than in retail, some brands have been introducing products that make it easy for consumers to explore this cuisine. For example, Wild Garden offers a range of easy-to-use Middle Eastern condiments and cooking sauces, including single-use marinades with spices like sumac and cardamom. These products give consumers a taste of the Mediterranean without asking them to invest in an entire pantry’s worth of ingredients and make the cuisine very approachable to sample.

Not Too Sweet

When it comes to desserts, savory is the new sweet.

Restaurants are lightening up desserts and adding a less sweet spin on the classics. At Chicago’s Aba, frozen yogurt is made with a thick Greek yogurt base and finished with a generous drizzle of olive oil and sea salt.


Available to purchase Future of Food & Drink reports, with over 30 categories across 11 categories to help you understand every segment of the industry

Functional Colorful

Functional ingredients not only add a healthy aspect to foods and beverages, they also add a burst of flavor and color.

Chicago mini-chain Fairgrounds Coffee & Tea offers a Power Flower Milk Tea, a hybrid matcha and butterfly pea flower iced beverage. The layered drink features vibrant blue and green colors perfect for social media sharing. Jasmine butterfly pea flower tea has also appeared in retail RTDs such as Harney & Sons’ Butterfly Flower Lemonade.

International Spice Blends & Condiments

Source: Toom Dips

Spice blends and condiments offer an easy way to introduce consumers to new international cuisines in an approachable way.

International spreads and spice blends are being used widely in cuisine-specific restaurants, such as s’hug (also spelled as zhug,) which can be found on the menu at Middle Eastern fast casual Roti. Others are being featured by more US restaurants, such as strained yogurt labneh on the menu at the California-inspired Pacific Standard Time in Chicago.

At retail, international spreads and blends are still emerging in the US, but one brand stands out. Toom, which exhibited at Expo West, has made the Lebanese garlic spread, toum, approachable for US consumers, dubbing it “garlic dip” and offered in familiar flavors like pesto and Buffalo.

“Meaty” Flavors

Seasonings and preparation methods are being leveraged to boost vegetarian and pescatarian fare.

San Francisco’s famed State Bird Provisions’ mochi is made from squash topped with shaved black truffle, Brussels sprouts and maitake mushrooms. The mushrooms provide a meaty flavor, heightened by a rich butter sauce and pungent black truffles. Adding meaty flavors is not limited to vegetarian dishes: Chicago’s seafood-centric Portsmith offers pastrami made from swordfish, accompanied by pumpernickel rye toast, pickled mustard seeds, and sauerkraut.


Translated from Japanese as “delicious,” kokumi provides a sense of balance and harmony in foods.

Koji and shio koji are emerging on US menus as an ingredient in seafood and meat dishes, especially within the fine dining segment. New York’s Narcissa features a koji-rubbed steak with stewed cherry tomatoes, spicy radishes, and bagna cauda, while Chicago’s London House offers grilled oysters with creamed kale, spirulina bread crumbs, and koji.

At retail, koji has appeared mainly in Asian products, such as the fermented rice drink called amazake. This creamy, dairy-free beverage is traditional in Japan, but Marukome highlighted the drink for an American audience at Expo West. (See image.) Consumers’ interest in plant-based milk alternatives and gut health may give this beverage appeal.

Amanda Topper is the Associate Director for Mintel’s US Foodservice Reports and Mintel Menu Insights. Follow Amanda on Instagram!

Melanie Bartelme is a Global Food Analyst for Mintel’s Food and Drink platform. Follow Melanie on Instagram!

Mintel News

For the latest in consumer and industry news, top trends and market perspectives, stay tuned to Mintel News featuring commentary from Mintel’s team of global category analysts.

More from Mintel
  • Mintel Store
    Mintel Store
    Get smart fast with our exclusive market research reports, delivering the latest data, innovation, trends and strategic recommendations....
    View reports
  • Mintel Leap
    Mintel Leap is a revolutionary new AI-powered platform that will transform your research process....
    Book a demo
Subscribe to Mintel Spotlight
Related articles
May 21, 2024
Innovations in texture were a break-out trend from the Sweets & Snacks Expo 2024 hosted May 14-16 in Indianapolis, Indiana. From freeze-dried candy to melty baked goods, texture was a…
May 13, 2024
Who wants ice cream? Well, if we look at global ice cream consumption, the answer is: almost everyone! According to Mintel’s consumer research, nine in ten UK consumers enjoyed an…
May 10, 2024
As Indian consumers become increasingly health-conscious, the salty snacks market is undergoing a significant transformation. The traditional reliance on palm oil as a key ingredient in snacks is being questioned.

Download the Latest Market Intelligence