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How to tell what flavours will flourish

McCormick executive chef Michael Cloutier shares how he determined this year's ingredient trends

First launched in 2000, the McCormick Flavour Forecast looks at emerging culinary trends and how people around the world experience flavours. Trends for 2015 included global blends and a new take on cookies. Canadian Grocer spoke with McCormick’s executive chef, Michael Cloutier, for insight on how the company predicts the flavours consumers will fancy next.

READ: McCormick picks flavours to watch in 2015

Who helps create the flavour forecast?

There are multiple countries that participate in the forecast. We represent Canada. There’s a range of people from different backgrounds including culinary experts, marketing folks, food scientists, food bloggers and marketers who are involved.

How long does it take to determine next year’s trends?

It’s not something we decide in a day. It’s a year-long process. Most of the countries involved are doing data discovery throughout the year and we do a lot of homework before we meet once a year to dump that data.

Sounds like a pretty in-depth process.

We dive into things a lot deeper than food trends. You need to understand your consumer. We look at paint colours, car interests, and more than just food because that really dictates what people are eating. It’s all part of a much bigger issue.

How accurate is it? Can you name a few forecasts that you’ve seen successfully trend that year?

In 2003 we predicted chipotle. It’s now a household name, when back then some people couldn’t even pronounce it.  We predicted pumpkin spice in 2010, coconut in 2008, and wasabi in 2003. We also predicted cocktails being used in the kitchen, and superfoods like quinoa and farroah becoming more mainstream.

Is there a common theme in the trends you've forecasted for this year?

Ethnic is a common thread throughout–that’s what we’re talking about when we talk about the trend "global blends on the move". We’re familiar with foods like shawarma, but it’s about the capabilities of that spice blend, and taking it to another area of food than what it was originally used for. Middle Eastern food is all about the shareables, which we’ve seen with the success of tapas. We also looked at the liquid revolution, which is about blending spices and herbs and a way to get an extra serving of food and veggies in a unique way.

Do you think consumers are likely to waver from their standard spices?

If you look at the kitchen pantry, there used to be maybe 12 ingredients from a spices and herbs perspective. Standard spices like oregano or basil. Now we see kitchens with more than 40 spices–up to 50 maybe.

What are the major differences you're seeing in today's consumer?

The tastes of consumers have changed. They’re looking for big, bold and more intense flavours. Consumers are also interested in the art of discovery, which we see with their ability to travel. Shoppers are savvy, and they want to make sure the authenticity of their meals resonates at home. They have access to new countries, places or food magazines. For us, as food experts, we need to make sure we deliver on what the customer is expecting.

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