As the food and beverage industry eagerly awaits the annual Kerry Taste Chart trend predictions, the buzz is always greatest in the Kerry offices. This yearly analysis and forecasting of location-based taste trends is an essential tool for Kerry across a multitude of functions – from marketing and procurement to culinary, research and development and food science.
"If I look back at 2023, every single beverage customer presentation and engagement had taste charts in it because our customers are always interested in the taste perspective," says John Kelly, Kerry’s strategy director for the beverage marketing in Europe.
As in past years, the findings in the 2024 Kerry Taste Charts – which are now available – are an important reference tool for food and beverage brands at every stage of product development and portfolio review.
"Some of the brands we meet with are actively looking to add new offerings while others want to validate their flavors are still relevant and in demand," says Kelly. "And some are somewhere in between, looking to do a range of LTO beverages in a mix of flavors that could be perceived as a bit more out there and edgy."
It all comes down to taste
This focus on flavor comes from the industry understanding that, in food and beverage products, taste is the most important aspect to consumers. If a product tastes bad, or only comes in flavours that sound unappealing, product will go unsold.
Not all food and beverage brands have a robust consumer insights team to track how taste preferences are changing. And, even ones that do may be focused on researching a certain location or application.
"The real value add that Kerry brings with the taste charts is giving a beverage customer a targeted look at trends in their specific category while also providing an overall view of the entire food and beverages market, since there may be trends in the food category that are starting to come into the beverage category," says Kelly. "It gives our customers a broader view of the world because, although they may be able to see the top-selling flavors within flavored gins or flavored colas, the data they have access to is not necessarily showing the bigger picture and opportunities for growth."
For example, a beverage company may overlook the growing trend of spicy chilies in food, not realizing it’s the novel taste their consumers are beginning to crave. Or, if a certain type of citrus is trending in one part of the world, it may only be a matter of time before its influence spreads. There’s also benefit to keeping an eye on trends in general, such as having an awareness that more savory flavors are entering the beverage category, which can help influence innovation and development.
New year, new flavors and old favorites
"The Taste Charts come out in January and it sets us up well for the year," says Kelly. "It's directly usable and gives our commercial teams the right amount of insight to work with customers and gives our RD&A teams to stimulus and ideas. Even if we don't have a brief, we can be proactive with a customer or a category."
Of course, the point isn’t to pack the charts with all brand-new flavor suggestions. Sales and launch data and consumer insights are just some of the research used to create broad overviews or the whole spectrum of taste preference. While the Up & Coming and Emerging categories may include new and novel taste offerings, the more established Mainstream and Key flavors often include smaller shifts from year to year and feature more common and readily available offerings.