Menus of the future: Taste trends from Unilever, Kerry & FrieslandCampina

By Teodora Lyubomirova

- Last updated on GMT

GettyImages/Thomas Barwick
GettyImages/Thomas Barwick

Related tags Cheese Dairy Sustainability vegan fusion food Clean label

From fusion cuisine to contrasting textures, we look at what are 2023’s common flavor trends for the foodservice industry, as identified by some of the sector’s most respected players.

Unilever Food Solutions, part of the CPG’s Nutrition Business, recently compiled data​ from more than 1,600 chefs to identify the hottest global trends. Earlier this year, Kerry Group​ and FrieslandCampina Professional​ each issued their own trend predictions for foodservice.

Here, we highlight some of the common themes from the three reports.

Fusion kitchen & familiar yet different dishes

Preparing popular dishes with a twist, for example by merging ingredients from different cuisines to achieve new flavors and textures, is one of the common themes that stand out across the three trend reports. In its 58-page Future Menus Report, Unilever calls this ‘modernized comfort food’ and highlights how different ways of preparing and presenting popular meals could help consumers re-discover their favorite foods. One example, from chef Katerina Menti, is a ‘dropped moussaka’ – a ‘deconstructed’ moussaka that includes sweet potato and a cheese cream sauce instead of straight-up béchamel.

Kerry also predicts a hunger for unconventional ingredient combinations and emerging taste profiles, with savory foods such as Korean fried chicken and European-style cheeses like gouda, emmental and parmesan among the fastest growing savory flavors according to the company. Heirloom recipes and age-old cooking practices will make a come-back, Kerry predicts, as consumers place more importance on tradition and provenance.

Meanwhile, FrieslandCampina Professional characterized a similar trend towards fusion kitchen ‘Weastern’ or ‘Frasian’ cuisine. “Where culinary influences from the West and East meet, they flourish on one plate and let consumers travel the world through their taste buds,’ the company said. ‘Frasian’ meanwhile is a mixture of French and Asian flavors.

Bold flavors and contrasting textures

In a similar vein, the three firms see exciting avenues in combining unusual texture and flavor profiles in a single dish. FrieslandCampina Professional reported that around 67% of global consumers were keen on sampling foods with different textures, with ‘contrasting flavors, textures and temperatures brought by new versions of edibles and peculiar food ideas’ making eating ‘a whole new adventure’.

As part of its 2023 Taste Charts, Kerry highlighted that young consumers in particular will be seeking mash-ups of familiar food and drinks, combined with new flavor tonalities. According to the company’s research, the share of consumers who are open to trying new flavors inspired by global cuisine has risen from 73% to 79%.

Unilever Food Solutions has also identified a trend towards flavor contrasts for a multi-sensory dining experience, highlighting chef Jiraroj Navanukroh’s salmon katsu with Thai Spicy Wasabi dressing and shoyu mayo.

Leaner dishes, low-waste menus, and finger food

The trend towards healthier food ingredients and recipes was another common theme running across all three reports. Kerry identifies health and wellness among its fastest growing nutrition themes, with digestive and immune health among the key nutrition drivers in the near future. Lactose-free, no added sugar, vegan, organic and gluten-free were also highlighted among the top mainstream nutrition trends by Kerry.

For Unilever, low-waste menus that utilize all parts of an ingredient – e.g. a vegetable or an animal – or leverage fermentation and curing to preserve and extend the lifespan of ingredients will be a key strategy in foodservice in 2023. Using foraged ingredients would provide a similar appeal, as will using leaner, lighter food ingredients such as fish or lean meats.

A common theme for both Unilever and FrieslandCampina is sharable food, such as barbecues and mezzes for the former and finger-food like cone-shaped pizza for the Dutch company.

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