The firm's third annual 'Flavours of the Future' report has predicted influences from Chinese, Japanese and Korean culture; regions identified following the collation of trending cuisines paired with consumer insights and social media trends.
Emerging and growing flavours, such as Hojicha green tea and Japanese plum, as well as established flavours such as Dalgona biscuits, have been highlighted by the flavour experts as key trends for future sports nutrition products.
“Sports nutrition consumers tend to be younger adults, such as millennials, who are generally more open to trying different cuisines and foods from other cultures," says Chris Whiting, Synergy’s European business development manager.
"This natural curiosity when it comes to food means that sports nutrition brands have been able to be bolder in their flavour offerings, to continue to appeal to these curious consumers.”
He adds that the sports nutrition distribution model also lends itself well to being more adventurous when it comes to flavour.
"Roughly 58% of sales in Western Europe (and as high as 64% in regions such as the UK) are direct to consumer via e-commerce websites (Euromonitor Passport).
"By having complete control over their launch process, brands can be much more nimble when it comes to launching new products, and this allows them to take a more experimental approach to flavours. Brands can experiment with more novel flavours in the form of limited time offering (LTO) products, which dependent on their success can become core lines.
"This speed to market also means consumers have great opportunities to experiment with flavour, and given that sports nutrition customers may use these products daily (or even multiple times per day), having access to a multitude of flavour options can avoid flavour fatigue setting in."
Synergy has produced an extensive list of flavour profiles and pairings which it can see working well within this space, divided into three trend categories: emerging, growing, and established.
Variations on common taste combinations, such the classic pairing of sweet and salty, have been identified in the emerging flavours category.
One such ingredient includes salted egg custard, which is used as a bao bun filling in the classic Chinese dessert Lui Sha Bao. The report highlights the
success of the popular salted caramel pairing, suggesting this could be a novel twist on a long-established classic.
In addition, the Japanese green tea Hojicha has been identified for its’ smoky but sweet profile; a flavour achieved by roasting the leaves over charcoal which has reduced associated astringency. “The caramelized notes in particular lend themselves to a range of sweet applications”, the report states.
Synergy experts also report trends in utilising the historic Japanese plum, which is “commonly associated with the samurai who found the salt, citric acid and polyphenol content gave them additional stamina during battle”. Therefore, this ingredient may present interesting potential for sports snacks and drinks.
The market experts identify Dalgona biscuits as a growing trend as a result of the widely popular Korean Netflix show ‘Squid Game’, which triggered a spike in internet searches for recipes with the ingredient whilst doubling food vendor sales in Seoul.
The simple honeycomb confection plays into nostalgia trends, says Synergy, with its’ classic sweet flavour suiting it for pairings with ingredients such as caramel.
The Yuzu fruit of east Asia is also noted as being increasingly prevalent in product launches over recent years, with applications in a large variety of different categories. Synergy says the classic citrus flavours provide a familiarity, while the subtle floral notes make if feel adventurous.
Jasmine has also been picked out as a growing trend. Although jasmine launches are largely centred on the Asia-Pacific region, the Synergy team are seeing them grow elsewhere, particularly in Europe.
It is further highlighted that flavour pairings such as white peach and strawberry can improve its’ appeal and overcome overpowering flavours.
Discussing established trends, Synergy highlights the spike in interest for Lychee over recent years, with increased consumer demand for drinks and
desserts flavoured with the fruit.
However, 90% of lychee product launches remain in Asia Pacific regions, suggesting potential white space for its utilisation in Europe and America.
"There’s definitely scope for some of these flavours to extend beyond traditional sports nutrition products, and the fruitier flavours in particular, such as lychee, and Japanese melon, would all work well on a gaming energy base," says Whiting.
"Work has already started in this area, as we have developed a gaming energy drink application using the salted Japanese plum. The flavour profile is based on umeboshi, a dried pickled and salted plum, which has a long history of association with a myriad of functional and health benefits. The ingredient has long been referred to as a ‘samurai superfood’ as it was allegedly part of a samurai’s field pack."
Whiting says consumers are becoming more adventurous in their tastes across the board, and the lockdowns around the world over the last couple of years have only amplified this.
"Research from Innova found that one in two consumers globally have agreed that they want to be more adventurous in their food and beverage choices, so the market is poised for consumers of all ages to expand their pallet and try new flavours from around the globe.
"Typically, millennials have been the driving force behind the broadening of horizons when it comes to different cuisines through street food culture, however as Gen Z consumers enter adulthood, we expect them to adopt similar habits."