McCormick Marks 20 Years of Flavor Forecast With Review of Top Trends

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Over the past two decades, the McCormick Flavor Forecast has identified top trends and ingredients that have shaped the future of taste preferences in North America and beyond. Recently released as a celebratory 20th edition report, the McCormick Flavor Forecast Looking Back to Look Forward reflects on the evolution of the most influential flavors, culinary trends and recipes.

From pumpkin pie spice and chamoy to dukkah and turmeric, these forecasted flavors have seen incredible success across consumer products, restaurant menus and online recipes. In a challenging year due to the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic that has spread from China to infect virtually the entire world and shut down or greatly restrict dining in restaurants and other foodservice outlets, home meal preparation has moved to the forefront. 

McCormick’s report focuses on four themes that continue to shape tastes as consumers yearn for comfort and familiarity, yet also a bit of fiery and global experience, as detailed below.

Sweet & Seasonal Satisfaction

The “limited time” nature of seasonal menu offerings is what makes them resonate on an emotional level by triggering fond memories of the past. In 2010, pumpkin pie spice was identified in the Flavor Forecast as an “Always in Season” trend, and since then has seen a 207% increase in food and drink retail product names. Today, pumpkin pie spice immediately calls to mind cooler temperatures and warm, indulgent lattés. McCormick’s research indicated that people were drawn more to the spice element than they were to the flavor profile of pumpkins, and the versatility of the pumpkin pie spice perfectly lends itself to sweet and savory dishes.

Spicy (R)evolution

There’s never been a shortage of bold and spicy tastes in the 20-year history of the Flavor Forecast. Often tangy is paired with spicy in global sauces and condiments like sambal and chamoy. In 2014, chamoy was featured in the ‘Mexican World Tour’ trend when people were craving new aspects of the bright, casual cuisine of Mexico. This condiment is made from pickled fruit, lime, spice and chilies and is most used as an ingredient in appetizers, entrees and drinks, such as spicy margaritas and micheladas. Chamoy has seen an astounding 1,115% increase in US menu mentions between 2014 and 2020.

Global Finds

In a year when global travel has become severely limited for most people, the desire for hyper-local tastes has increased even more. Some consumers crave authentic global dishes, while others prefer more approachable fusions. In 2013, North African dukkah was spotlighted in North America for its satisfying flavor and distinct texture. This simple mix of toasted nuts and seeds can be customized to be salty, sweet or spicy. Typically sprinkled on olive oil-dipped pita bread, it’s delicious with vegetables, pasta and rice, or rubbed onto seafood and meats before cooking. There has been a 267% increase in US menu mentions of the spice since 2013.

Empowered Eating & Drinking

Health and wellness have always been top-of-mind in past forecasts. Lifestyle and food are more intertwined than ever before, and flavor doesn’t need to be compromised to meet nutritional needs. Turmeric first emerged in the 2003 Flavor Forecast and appeared again in 2016, within the “Blends with Benefits” trend. Since appearing in the report, use of this colorful spice continues to grow, with a 253% increase in food and drink retail product names over the past six years. Blended with cocoa, cinnamon and nutmeg, turmeric goes great in smoothies, drinks and baked goods.

“The Flavor Forecast has long been a staple in the culinary world, introducing consumers to flavors they’ve grown to love,” said Executive Chef Kevan Vetter of Hunt Valley, Maryland-headquartered McCormick & Company. “In what has been an unprecedented year, many of us have sought refuge in the kitchen. We’ve discovered new creations but have also returned to familiar flavors that spread joy. We have enjoyed looking back on how some of those comforting flavors were first identified by our talented global team, and later gained popularity in home kitchens everywhere.”