Food fatigue is real. After a year of cooking at home, consumers are ready to travel with their taste buds, according to the Kerry Innovating with Trending Savory Tastes report for 2021.

Every year, Kerry releases Taste Charts that identify the top current and emerging taste trends. This year’s report focuses on savory tastes for ready meals, soups, salads, and sides.

Here are the 5 trends Kerry identified for this year.

1. Ethnic exploration

Gochujang, masala, chimichurri, harissa — these are some of the ingredients consumers are seeking as a way to travel from the comfort of home. Kerry notes that one-third of Americans are very interested in trying ethnic cuisines and that the highest percentage of ethnic launches are in sauces, seasonings, soup, ready meals, and side dishes.

How can brands capitalize on this trend? According to Kerry’s Activation Marketing Specialist Cassandra Rouleau, “Brands can introduce regional-specific and ethnic flavors to consumers by pairing these flavors with familiar comfort foods and ready meals that don’t require much preparation.”

“Menu developers need to track these flavors carefully as they emerge in products across North America,” she continued, citing examples including Chicken Marsala Meatballs by Open Nature Savory Skillets and Keen One Quinoa’s Harissa Red Pepper Quinoa Cup.

2. Savoring the fifth taste

Umami, a savory taste found in ingredients like miso, soy sauce, and black garlic, is growing in popularity. According to the report, use of the term has grown 43% on menus in the past four years. Rouleau notes that these ingredients “all help build a savory profile that imparts richness and depth of flavor in applications like sauces, soups, and salad dressings.”

Example products include Good and Gather’s Umami Mushroom Seasoning Blend and Cojohns Fiery Foods’ Black Garlic Chipotle Hot Sauce.

3. Hint of natural sweetness

Sweetness has its place in savory applications, especially sweetness imparted by fruit. Kerry reports that pineapple is one of the top 20 ingredients in frozen ready meals.

Rouleau says: “Fruit has always paired well with a variety of savory applications – think Hawaiian pizza, jerk chicken with mango salsa, etc. Now, brands and operators are introducing fruit to a variety of ready meals, sauces, and menu items.” 

Examples include Kickin’ Strawberry BBQ Sauce from Gourmet Warehouse, Conagra Brands’ Healthy Choice Mango Edamame Wrap, and Domino’s Sweet Mango Habanero Wings.

4. Spicy specificity

Consumers want spice, but not just any spice. The report notes that generic “chili” flavors have declined in popularity over the past four years in favor of specific pepper flavors, like ancho pepper and poblano pepper. 

“Kerry recommends that brands and operators looking to reach consumers should call out the specific pepper on the pack or menu, which can help indicate spice levels for the consumer and also attract the interest of those who are following the newly emerging spices and interested in trying them in new food items,” Rouleau said.

Examples include Ancho Rice + Beans from La Tortilla Factory Brand: La Tortilla Factory, Kroger’s Spicy Poblano Aged Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese, and the Spicy Fi’ed Chicken Sandwich from BurgerFi.

5. Comforting cheese

Cheese is a perennial favorite, but this year’s trend includes plant-based versions. “Consumers are looking for more sustainable options with dairy-like taste, texture and mouthfeel,” Rouleau said. A few of the other trends influence this one as well, with cheeses with ethnic flavors and chili peppers becoming more popular.

For more information about all of these trends and the ingredients they encompass, download the full report.

Featured image: Freshii Umamii salad available in both the US and Canada.