Underwater botanicals are being used in inventive ways in today’s cuisine, with flavor notes provided by dulse (red sea lettuce flakes), spirulina (blue-green algae) and sea grapes (soft, green algae).
McCormick and Co. has released its 21st annual Flavor Forecast, which reflects changes in consumers’ eating and cooking habits over the past pandemic year.
Not surprisingly, health and wellness are at the forefront of one of the key flavor trends: the reemergence of mindfulness through physiological eating. McCormick’s report underscores the importance of mind-body balance through the “Ayurvedic” practice that uses sweet, sour, salty, bitter, astringent and pungent tastes to achieve balance and warming and cooling techniques to provide comfort to the body. Evocative flavors in line with this trend include coriander, lemon, sea salt, cumin, turmeric and ginger.
The forecast also points to the continued mainstreaming of plant-based foods, lifted with key flavors like ube (purple yam), Szechuan buttons (edible flower buds) and trumpet mushrooms.
Sea plants are in the spotlight with another highlighted flavor trend. Underwater botanicals are being used in inventive ways in today’s cuisine, with flavor notes — and, often, color and texture — provided by dulse (red sea lettuce flakes), spirulina (blue-green algae) and sea grapes (soft, green algae).
Flavor is a hallmark of the fourth trend featured in McCormick’s new report: the use of comforting global flavors. It’s a mashup of comfort food and internationally-inspired tastes, at a time when travel remains restricted and feel-good fare is still important to people. Flavor examples include chaat masala (an Indian spice blend), pandan kaya (Malaysian jam) and crisped chilies.
The trends outlined in McCormick’s Flavor Forecast 21st Edition were based on insights from culinary experts around the world. According to company information, the research included a series of virtual, interactive at-home culinary experiences led by chefs exploring a range of flavors offering unique tastes, colors, and textures for both food and drinks.
"The pandemic sizably shifted the way we have lived our lives over the past year, yet food continues to be a way to bring people together, even virtually. Despite global travel restrictions, lockdowns, and logging in from vastly different time zones, it was moving to see everyone committed to our mission to study emerging trends and identify the flavors that will undoubtedly spark inspiration for both the home cook and professional chef for years to come," said Kevan Vetter, executive chef and director of culinary development for McCormick.