Food Consumers Have a Taste for Adventure

Flavor trends travel fast in the high-tech world of Instagram and Facebook.

July 20, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today’s consumers are becoming increasingly adventurous with what and how they enjoy food and beverages, reports Exotic ingredients, bolder flavors, new textures and unique experiences are important in everything from products on grocery shelves to restaurant entrees.

Daring food consumers are seeking out new and different flavors from around the globe, and the trend goes far beyond just one specific age group, said Lu Ann Williams, director of insights and innovation at Innova Market Insights.

“Increased globalization and the advent of social media has led consumers of all ages to become more knowledgeable of other cultures,” Williams said. “This has led to food and flavor trends travelling faster than ever in today’s connected world.”

Audacious eating does indeed transcend demographics and age, but younger consumers tend to be more open to trying new things, said Lisa Mabe-Konstantopoulos, founder and CEO of Green Purse PR.

“Millennials and Gen Z are proactively collecting experiences as opposed to stuff or junk around their homes cluttering up their lives and minds,” she explained. “They perceive experiences, such as an exotic meal, or an off-the-beaten-path vacation as something meaningful to collect and share with friends, in real life and online, as well.”

Consumers also learn about new cuisine from food influencers on Instagram or through Facebook posts from family and friends. C-store chain Kwik Trip adopted this method of Instagram advertising when it partnered with Kristen Carlson, who is the mind behind the account @missnortherner, back in March of 2020.

“When we look at it generationally, we know that millennials and Gen Z tend to gravitate toward more bold flavors,” said Darren Seifer, food and beverage industry analyst, The NPD Group. “It is a reflection of the multicultural makeup of their demographic.”

Those bolder flavors and multicultural influences are generating special interest in sub-regional cuisine. Everything from Oaxacan delicacies to West African dishes are in demand. In fact, Whole Foods Market counts foods and flavors from West Africa, such as moringa and tamarind, among its top food trends for 2020.

“Southern [cuisine] will break up into Appalachian, Lowland, Creole, etc.,” chef Josh Habiger recently told Food & Wine. “Mexican restaurants will be Veracruz, Oaxaca, Yucatan...It's a great way to learn about the food of other cultures.”

Today, 70% of global consumers believe texture gives food and beverages a more interesting experience, according to Innova Market Insights. “Consumers are stepping out of their comfort zones to explore bolder flavors and multisensory food experiences,” Williams said.

Grocers have a unique ability to share interesting products and experiences with shoppers. Last year, Kroger launched the On the Rhine Eatery food hall in a downtown Cincinnati location, inviting shoppers to try food from five local restaurants. 

“Cincinnati is Kroger’s hub for culinary innovation and experimentation, and the food hall is an example of the types of concepts and ideas we’re creating every day,” said Teri Rose, senior director of culinary development, Kroger.

When it comes to CPG products, twists on old favorites and unique textures and flavor combinations are among recent launches, such as spicy Skittles Sweet Heat candies and Kettle Chips’ Discovery potato chips featuring bold flavors.

While the pandemic has caused some consumers to shift back to the basics when it comes to making food choices, there has been an increase in snack food consumption, which could be an inroad for producers looking to introduce new products, explained Seifer.

Mabe-Konstantopoulos summarized what catches the adventurous food consumer succinctly: “Whether someone is a true foodie or simply just someone who enjoys eating good food, food experiences are a form of entertainment.”