Tis the season for flavor formulation. Along with sugar and spice, such flavors as pumpkin, cocoa and gingerbread are appearing in various holiday-themed foods and beverages.
Gingerbread flavor has turned up in shakes and sundaes. Limited-time offerings of Pringles come in the flavors of cinnamon and sugar, white chocolate peppermint, and pumpkin pie spice. And does anybody want to be daring and lick a bacon candy cane?
“Seasonal offerings allow operators and formulators the chance to be a little bolder,” said Shane Maack, senior executive chef for Spicetec Flavors and Seasonings, Omaha. “Seasonal flavors, by nature, are limited-time offerings. So you have the opportunity to create more daring products. L.T.O.s are the perfect chance to try something new: It provides an opportunity for minimal risk with maximum return.”
McCormick & Co., Inc., Sparks, Md., lists the “seasonal seven” flavors as cinnamon, nutmeg, poultry seasoning, ginger, sage, vanilla and peppermint.
“The holiday season isn’t the same without these seven spices, herbs and extracts,” said Mark Garcia, a chef with McCormick. “They’re distinct, memorable and extremely versatile. These flavors are the essence of the most popular recipes for that perfect Thanksgiving dinner, weekend brunch, casual cocktail party and neighborhood cookie exchange.”
Formulators may venture beyond these seven flavors.
“Pumpkin spice, peppermint and gingerbread are the more familiar pillars of the holiday flavor group, but they’re being joined by new favorites, like mulled wine, fruit cake, hot cocoa, eggnog and candy cane,” Mr. Maack said. “During this time of year consumers are in a more indulgent mindset and want multiple flavor options for holiday entertaining. Homey, traditional varieties like butterscotch, white chocolate raspberry, sugar cookie and apple pie fulfill this need for variety.”
Bell Flavors and Fragrances, Inc., Northbrook, Ill., features such winter seasonal flavors as pumpkin bread pudding, apple chai and sweet potato.
Bacon candy canes really are available at www.amazon.com, said Jeanne Meeder, industrial and consumer products director for Wixon, Inc., St. Francis, Wis. For other potential holiday season innovations, she listed apple pie and cheddar cheese yogurt, wassail-flavored baked food items, apple and cranberry stuffing, Panini, pumpkin spice pancakes, fruitcake fritters, and pumpkin pie samosas.
Kevin Burke, category director of confectionery for Symrise, which has a U.S. office in Teterboro, N.J., said, “We’ve had an interesting holiday season. In my own area (confection), we’ve seen an explosion of interesting flavor concepts such as S’mores, toasted coconut, eggnog and tiramisu, to name a few. Two of the more interesting flavor concepts were chocochip/banana bread and cookies ‘n cream, each in a confectionery product.”
Flavor selection will depend on application.
“You need to know that flavors can taste drastically different depending upon the base,” Mr. Burke said. “For example, if a flavor performs well in ice cream, it is unlikely to work in a chocolate confection or a soft candy. Likewise, many factors such as solubility, pH, processing temperature, etc., must be taken into account when selecting the ideal flavor for your product.”
Ms. Meeder said, “Formulators and marketers need to consider perceived ‘fit’ in the consumer’s eye. Pumpkin spice flavor is available in a wide variety of offerings this year, with mixed reviews for some — ice cream, yogurt, shakes, latte, liqueur, beer, marshmallows, bagels, cupcakes, candy, chips and snacks. Crab ice cream or gravy soda never made a hit.”
Sweet and savory has become a holiday option, as evidenced by the Pringles flavor varieties.
“The growing trend of sweet paired with savory is really being embraced by the pretzel industry,” Mr. Maack said. “We’re seeing hard and soft pretzels being either dusted or enrobed with holiday flavors, such as apple pie, chocolate peppermint and gingerbread.”
Mr. Burke said in many cases savory flavors meld better with a dark chocolate profile. Caramel and sea salt are becoming a common combination, he added.
For sweet and savory combinations, Ms. Meeder listed apple spice and cheddar cheese, fruit and sea salt, fruit and soy sauce, bacon and maple, sea salt caramel, brie and fig, bacon and fig, and caramel popcorn chicken.
Starbucks beverages such as peppermint mocha and gingerbread latte, show coffee as a suitable vehicle for holiday-themed flavors.
“The coffee category is seeing a lot of innovation right now,” Mr. Maack said. “Coffee chains are offering a growing number of seasonal mochas and lattes, and retail products are joining the innovation as well. Coffee creamers now come in a huge variety of seasonal flavors, like cinnamon cookie and pecan praline.”
Wild Flavors, Inc., Erlanger, Ky., has gotten into the holiday spirit with its “mocktail” flavors. They may be used in such non-alcoholic applications as bakery, dairy, beverage and confectionery. Winter flavors include tickled pink, cocoa, crème sweet, rum, ginger and apple spice butter rum. Spring flavors are lady marmalade, bloody mary, gin and tonic, and Frenchy cocktail. Summer flavors are pineapple herbal mint, lava flow, peach sangria and pineapple lime. Autumn flavors are pumpkin spice rum, el diablo, vanilla rum and horchata rum.
Ms. Meeder said seasonable spring flavors may be rhubarb, watercress, asparagus, spring peas, cherry and mint. Summer flavors are watermelon, berry, lemonade, peach, mango, barbecue, salsa, and bacon, lettuce and tomato, she added, while fall flavors are apple cider, butternut squash, pumpkin, pecan, cranberry and pot pie.