Friday, December 3, 2021

Dairy Foods Flavor Trends 2022: Make it an elevated experience

Photo source: Balchem

It’s that time of year when food and beverage authorities make their predictions for what will be trending the upcoming year. No surprise, plant-based, keto and immunity are the consensus. 

Flavor forecasts are typically not category specific, so I like to review them and make them relevant to dairy. That’s the topic for today. 

But first, on a lighter note (because the emergence of the omicron variant and Thanksgiving COVID cases has many of us very stressed out)…

Yesterday--as was February 12th of this year--was 12022021. It’s a very rare date, and lucky us got to experience it twice this year! It is both a palindrome (reads the same backward as forward) and an ambigram, which is this case, it reads the same right side up and upside down (when viewed in digital typeface). 

If you use a zero with the month, February 2nd of last year provided the same phenomenon: 02022020. It was actually a “universal palindrome” because it reads the same whether written as month/day/year or day/month/year. The last universal palindrome occurred on 11/11/1111. The next one won’t come until 12/12/2121. (I hope the future is warned what comes next.)

Feb. 2, 2020, was a Sunday, in fact, it was Super Bowl Sunday. The Kansas City Chiefs had their first victory in 50 years. It was also the second day of official pandemic reporting, with a total of 11 confirmed cases in the U.S. That seems like a lifetime ago. 

And while it was “the end of the world as we know it” (love that REM song), if you add the numbers together (0+2+0+2+2+0+2+0 = 8), you get the number 8, which in numerology indicates assertion, determination and responsibility. Turn 8 on its side and it becomes the infinity symbol. In astrology, the number 8 often refers to Saturn, the planet of karma, practicality and resilience. In hindsight (2020), that date told us a lot about where we are today. We’ve pivoted, adapted (or still trying to) and recognized that we have to take responsibility for our health and the planet’s health. 

So what does all that have to do with dairy flavor trends? Well, consumers have a new-found appreciation for almost everything, from celebrating holidays in person with friends and family outside their bubble to traveling to in-person tradeshows. They are craving elevated experiences. That’s the flavor connection.  

Flavor development, have it be in milk, yogurt, ice cream or any other dairy product, needs to consider experience. This is delivered through taste, texture, appearance and yes, marketing. The world does not need another vanilla or chocolate ice cream brand, regardless of its nutritional composition or the addition of functional ingredients. 

Photo: Tahini swirled yogurt with cardamom blood orange from

With that said, there are three key flavor trends to consider going forward. All can be part of limited-time and seasonal flavor programs. Aldi’s holiday ice cream flight was one of the most innovative ice cream concepts this year and I hope there are more like it by the private-label retailer and others. 

The three key flavor trends are:

1. Immunity-boosting fruits, namely oranges, specifically blood oranges, are high in vitamin C and have a strong association with immunity. Elderberries, which are high in antioxidants, have become recognized as a superfruit during the pandemic. Using these fruits—alone or in combination with other flavorful ingredients—adds a healthful halo to dairy products.  

2. Mood enhancers, including botanicals and florals associated with states of being, such as relaxation, energy and sleep, readily combine with traditional flavors. Think lavender vanilla. Honey falls into this space, too, as it is a soothing flavor. It also includes indulgent flavors, which are simply meant to be enjoyed.   

Photo: Blood orange ice cream with ginger and dark chocolate chips from

3. Destination flavors, think of everything from cotton candy fairgrounds to a honey tahini Mediterranean cruise to apple picking. Marketing is very important in this concept, with seasonal availability creating an urgency to purchase. And, when there’s a story to tell that brings the flavor back to its origins, everything from the region from where it is sourced and the people who produce it, to how it’s grown and its impact on earth, tell it. 



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