Flowers move from on the dining table to the middle of our plates

June 24, 2014
3 min read

The culinary use of edible flowers is not a new custom, dating back thousands of years in many cultures. Over the years, their use has gone in and out of fashion – recently however, the growing popularity of edible flowers, as well as floral ingredients and flavors, has been labelled as a culinary trend to watch. As seen with a lot of food trends, in terms of new ingredients and flavor combinations, much of the inspiration has emanated from restaurants and celebrity chefs.

Edible flowers are typically used to decorate dishes, adding color and an element of beauty. Edible flowers can also add unique flavors to dishes, from sweet, floral or citrus flavors, to slightly spicy, even bitter flavors. This matches consumers’ interest in new flavor experiences and willingness to try new flavors; almost half of UK diners say they like to try new dishes they haven’t had before, while an even greater 84% of US restaurant-goers are open to trying new flavors. This desire for new, unusual flavor combinations has spread to packaged food and drink products, for example users of CSD’s and flavored bottled water would like to see more flavor innovation.

The use of floral ingredients, as either flavors or extracts, in food and drink products is more popular than including whole edible flowers. The use of floral ingredients is mostly concentrated in teas, with jasmine, lavender and rose teas the most popular varieties. Floral flavors are also starting to emerge in a greater range of beverages, including RTD iced teas and beverage concentrates, and also cakes, pastries and sweet goods. Elderflower as a flavor in food and drink products is one of the on trend flavors, particularly in European product launches.

Experimenting more with floral flavors in a wider range of sweet food products could help bring excitement to sweet products that sometimes lack flavor innovation. For example, their use in sweet spreads could be explored, particularly as almost a quarter of German consumers expressed interest in trying flower flavored sweet spread. Using floral flavors or flowers to impart flavors, also follows consumers preference for natural ingredients and would fit with the growing use of natural ingredients over their artificial counterparts.

Behind their pretty façade, edible flowers may in fact offer more than their bright colors and flavors. Just like fruit and vegetables offer a vast array of health benefits, edible flowers are also rich in phytochemicals, which have already been recognized for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity, suggesting they too could be utilized for their potential health benefits. A recent study explored the nutritional potential of ten common Chinese edible flowers, measuring their free and bound phenolic compounds. The findings published in the April 2014 edition of the Journal of Food Science supports the use of edible flowers as functional ingredients and encourages further investigation into their health benefits.

To learn more about Mintel Food and Drink, click here.  

Laura Daisy-Jones
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