Taste trends to follow in 2024
Every year, in its Taste Charts publication, Kerry produces an overview of taste trends that present an informed assessment of the food and beverage fashions that will break through to large consumer audiences. Irishfood caught up with Soumya Nair, Kerry's global consumer research and insights director, and asked her to give us a flavour of what to expect
Irishfood: What are the key drivers informing taste trends into 2024?
Soumya: Taste trends constantly change, and taste inspirations are infinite, given the huge global variety that is there to be drawn on – brought to us with the immediacy of social media, and increased post-pandemic travel. As ever, the trends we are currently seeing come to the fore combine consumers’ innate sense of adventure, with comforting elements of familiarity. They draw on global influences, and creative interpretations of the traditional.
Irishfood: In what ways are global influences impacting food and taste creations?
Soumya: Cross-cultural food creations and taste experiences are increasingly coming forward in recent years, with combinations such as tikka sauce wings, sashimi tostadas, tandoori masala pasta, kimchi mashed potatoes, and cheeseburger ravioli all being seen, and successfully received. Exciting and known tastes, making an unlikely and unexpected appearance in traditional formats, represent a perfect blend of the traditional and unfamiliar to deliver something new. Such creations have emerged from the mixing and fusion of culinary traditions, which have previously sat alongside each other.
Irishfood: What kinds of twists are we seeing on traditional foods?
Soumya: More twists on familiar, and what might be perceived as comforting foods are coming through elsewhere. Spice – literal and figurative – is being added to a wide range of everyday foods, providing a dash of excitement, and a new sensation. From the now commonplace spicy cocktails, we are also now seeing everything from spicy chocolate and spicy honey to spicy sparkling waters, with products often utilising new and interesting spice ingredients, such as arbol peppers, gochugaru, and tajin seasoning. New variants of fried chilli sauces, such as salsa macha (the cousin of the fried chilli sauce) are also appearing around the world. And interestingly, with over 70 per cent of US fast-casual menus making call-outs on spicy offerings, the demand for spice is becoming almost universal. But it’s not only spice that is being used to provide an extra taste kick or twist to foods, bold flavours referencing new traditions are also appearing, with garlic-inspired Lebanese toum, Provençal pistou, chaat masala, and tamarind all coming though with increasing regularity.
Irishfood: What about the older food traditions? Where do these fit on the menu?
Soumya: With all of the new, as always, there are parallel demands for the old – indeed, sometimes the very old – with ancient traditions and historical periods being tapped for inspiration. Cave-aged and pottery-cooked foods such as cheese, meats, breads are developing an increased interest, while, in references to the somewhat more recent past, retro soda and shakes, and depression-era ‘slugburgers’ (with a patty mixing meat, soy and flour) are paying homage to a particular place and time, conjuring-up a sense of the US diner scene of the early 20th century.
Irishfood: Beyond the fusion of culinary traditions, and historical references, what are some other drivers of demand?
Soumya: A push towards nature and naturalness, a longstanding and enduring trend among consumers, continues to inspire. Over the pandemic period, there was an upsurge in people getting closer to nature, and in many cases, cultivating ingredients in their gardens, or foraging, for fruits, plants and mushrooms to use in home-made preparations, using traditional methods such as pickling or fermentation. The increasing prevalence of these methods, and the wonderful outputs created, have added to demand for similar products and taste experiences among a wider consumer audience.
Flavours and ingredients we will see in this vein include cider, pickles, brine, vinegars, and fermented foods – all of which are featuring more frequently in consumer searches online, in products, recipes, and on menus. This trend could also see more common garden favourites rise in prominence, such as nettle, and mushrooms, which of course contain a bounty of flavour, texture and functional benefit.
The increased closeness to natural ingredients experienced by many consumers drives a growing understanding of, and demands for transparency on food labelling more generally. Taste is the number one driver when it comes to a consumer’s decision to repurchase a product, but it is not the only factor driving consumption trends. The functional benefits of the foods and beverages being consumed are of fundamental importance also. This consideration gives rise to some new offerings being seen in products around the world, such as amino acids, electrolytes and berberine, for potential benefits such as improved muscle growth, nerve function, hydration and blood-sugar reduction. Alongside taste, and functional or nutritional benefits, other day-to-day motivators and constraints come into play.
Irishfood: Are current cost-of-living pressures influencing consumer needs?
Soumya: The cost-of-living crisis is prompting the need for, and interest in, more cost-effective foods and cooking solutions. Simple spices and dishes, and creativity with limited ingredients, including what may be considered ‘frugal foods’, such as tinned fish are evident, particularly across social media. Similarly, other consumer needs, such as health or values-driven diets are demanding innovations, whether that be in low- to no-alcohol beverages or vegan or plant-based products. In making these choices, consumers do not want to have to compromise on taste experiences, and increasingly, they don’t. As always, there is a lot happening in the world of taste innovation, and continued demands for products that will excite consumers, while addressing their day-to-day lifestyle and functional needs.