Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

By Flavor & The Menu
November 10, 2021

This year’s Flavor Experience delivered three days of dynamic presentations, roundtable discussions, and trend-forward food and beverage tastings that explored menu opportunities built on flavor. The event also served as a jubilant celebration among friends, coming back together after weathering turbulent times, commiserating over shared challenges and brainstorming ideas on how to find a clear path forward.

Presented by Flavor & The Menu magazine and helmed by Cathy Nash Holley, president of the Flavor Experience, the event was held in early September in Monterey, Calif. The passion for flavor—still very much alive in the industry today—was on full display throughout the event.

Attendees were able to taste their way through trends that will inform menus in 2022 and beyond. Indeed, under the guidance of Executive Chef Valeria Molinelli and the trend-forward ideation from sponsors, the food and beverage menus provided a wealth of inspiring bites and sips. What follows are highlights from this very special Flavor Experience.

(Left) Operator panels were a highlight of the event, with chef attendees sharing winning strategies, stories from the trenches and participating in TikTok challenges like this one. (Right) Cathy Nash Holley, Maeve Webster and Katie Ayoub (left to right) presented Flavor & The Menu’s 2022 Trends Outlook, discussing trends to watch, their drivers and menu opportunities.

(Left) Operator panels were a highlight of the event, with chef attendees sharing winning strategies, stories from the trenches and participating in TikTok challenges like this one. (Right) Cathy Nash Holley, Maeve Webster and Katie Ayoub (left to right) presented Flavor & The Menu’s 2022 Trends Outlook, discussing trends to watch, their drivers and menu opportunities.

(Left) Tastings kept the inspirations flowing. Dot Foods/Savor Imports showcased a “Mexiterranean” Bowl with Savor ingredients including Chimi-Grilled Chicken Breast, quinoa, Kalamatas, roasted tomatoes and pickled red onions. (Right) Chef SyEnna Hackbarth garnishes a Blueberry Calypso Rice dish of blueberry jerked jackfruit and beans over a smoked blueberry-mango slaw and blueberry-coconut rice.

(Left) Tastings kept the inspirations flowing. Dot Foods/Savor Imports showcased a “Mexiterranean” Bowl with Savor ingredients including Chimi-Grilled Chicken Breast, quinoa, Kalamatas, roasted tomatoes and pickled red onions. (Right) Chef SyEnna Hackbarth garnishes a Blueberry Calypso Rice dish of blueberry jerked jackfruit and beans over a smoked blueberry-mango slaw and blueberry-coconut rice.

Inspiring Bites

Trend-forward tastes provided plenty of inspiration. Examples included:

  • Good Catch Foods’ Teriyaki “Salmon” with togarashi, rice cake, shaved cucumber
  • Idaho Russet “Loaded Potato” Takoyaki
  • Impossible Chimichurri-Avocado Crunch Burger
  • National Honey Board’s Apple and Bacon Baklava Bites
  • Barilla Penne with Mole Blanco
  • Pilgrim’s Okinawa-Style Crispy Chicken Sata Andagi
  • California Avocado “Cacio e Pepe” Grilled Cheese
  • Hot Cheetos-Crusted Boursin
  • EPI Breads’ Crispy Cheesy Buldak Bun with crispy chicken, fiery buldak sauce and Carolina Reaper Jack cheese on a mini gochugaru-studded bun
  • Australian Lamb Birria Slider with birria stew for dipping
  • Kikkoman’s Tamago Sando: Egg salad, smoked ponzu cream, soy-marinated soft-boiled egg, milk bread, signature togarashi
Kikkoman offered up a Tamago Sando, with egg salad, smoked ponzu cream, soy-marinated soft-boiled egg and signature togarashi on milk bread. Good Catch Foods’ featured its plant-based Teriyaki “Salmon” with togarashi, rice cake and shaved cucumber.

Kikkoman offered up a Tamago Sando, with egg salad, smoked ponzu cream, soy-marinated soft-boiled egg and signature togarashi on milk bread. Good Catch Foods’ featured its plant-based Teriyaki “Salmon” with togarashi, rice cake and shaved cucumber.

Sips to Savor

Beverages provided inspiration for trend-forward drink development. Examples included:

  • Monin’s Spicy Passion Fruit Cooler: Hornitos Cristalino Tequila, Bruxo Mezcal, passion fruit, fresh lime, mint, jalapeño, organic agave, hibiscus-Tajín rim
  • Red Bull Aperitif: Sparkling wine, Amaro Nonino, vanilla, and Red Bull Red Edition (Watermelon)
  • Fresh Apple Tonic: Tree Top 3 Apple Blend Juice with fresh lemon, honey, a splash of ginger beer and elderflower tonic
  • Leche de Tigre: Natural Brands Orange Juice, Natural Brands Lime Juice, ginger-turmeric-chile syrup, coconut, garnished with coconut rim, edible flowers, chile threads
  • Lavender Hot Cocoa: Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate and Cocoa Sweet Ground Powder, milk, dried lavender
  • Beam Suntory’s Forest Collins: Roku Gin, pinecone honey, fresh lemon, club soda, pickled huckleberries, edible pinecone, Douglas fir
  • Hard Seltzer Watermelon Summer-Rita: White Claw Hard Seltzer Watermelon, Silver Tequila, fresh sour, strawberry purée, fresh lime juice, salt rim
  • Pineapple Sour Barley Water: Dole’s Sweet and Sour mix infused with barley, honey and a touch of lime
  • Truly Rum Punch Cocktail: Truly Fruit Punch, dark rum, triple sec, fresh lime juice, pomegranate juice, Tiki bitters and fresh mint
Monin’s Spicy Passion Fruit Cooler was one of many trend-forward drinks on offer, made of Hornitos Cristalino Tequila, Bruxo Mezcal, passion fruit, fresh lime, mint, jalapeño, organic agave and hibiscus-Tajín rim. Truly showcased a Rum Punch Cocktail with Truly Fruit Punch, dark rum, triple sec, fresh lime juice, pomegranate juice, Tiki bitters and fresh mint.

Monin’s Spicy Passion Fruit Cooler was one of many trend-forward drinks on offer, made of Hornitos Cristalino Tequila, Bruxo Mezcal, passion fruit, fresh lime, mint, jalapeño, organic agave and hibiscus-Tajín rim. Truly showcased a Rum Punch Cocktail with Truly Fruit Punch, dark rum, triple sec, fresh lime juice, pomegranate juice, Tiki bitters and fresh mint.

The Nordstrom culinary team enjoys a moment around the firepit during the opening reception.

The Nordstrom culinary team enjoys a moment around the firepit during the opening reception.

Throughout the event, attendees took in engaging sessions showcasing menu innovations, flavor trends and consumer insights and participated in interactive, small-group think tank sessions.

Maeve Webster, president of Menu Matters, kicked off the Flavor Experience with an insightful look at the fundamental changes shaping the future of foodservice and the opportunities inherent in those changes for operators ready to evolve. She also pointed to a number of macro trends for 2022, including indulgent health, full sensory experiences and elevated off-premise offerings.

In his session, Mike Kostyo, trendologist with Datassential, pointed to Persian, Sonoran and Nordic among the global hotspots that operators should be tracking. Gerry Ludwig, former corporate consulting chef with Gordon Food Service and a longtime Flavor Experience presenter, came out of retirement to share a valuable retrospective on his crowd-favorite street-level trends tour.

And, knowing there is no better way to fully appreciate flavor trends than through tasting them, the Flavor Experience put forth its signature array of trend-forward tastes, provided by sponsor partners. The bites and sips throughout this year’s event offered memorable tastes and an abundance of menu inspiration.

Be sure to join us at next year’s Flavor Experience, August 15-18, 2022 in San Diego.

Cathy Nash Holley led a lively and poignant conversation with two icons in our industry: Roy Choi, the architect of the modern food truck culture, TV personality and cookbook author, and Robert Okura, the VP of culinary development for Cheesecake Factory, Inc. They discussed how their culinary careers intersected, how they leverage their brands to translate flavor trends for broad consumer appeal, using food as a means of inclusivity, and where they find inspiration.

Cathy Nash Holley led a lively and poignant conversation with two icons in our industry: Roy Choi, the architect of the modern food truck culture, TV personality and cookbook author, and Robert Okura, the VP of culinary development for Cheesecake Factory, Inc. They discussed how their culinary careers intersected, how they leverage their brands to translate flavor trends for broad consumer appeal, using food as a means of inclusivity, and where they find inspiration.

California Milk Advisory Board served a creative California Crema-based “flan” with roasted peppers, preserved lemon and blistered tomatoes topped with an herb salad, crumbled California Cotija and a California Dry Jack za’atar crisp.

California Milk Advisory Board served a creative California Crema-based “flan” with roasted peppers, preserved lemon and blistered tomatoes topped with an herb salad, crumbled California Cotija and a California Dry Jack za’atar crisp.

Led by chefs Josh Ogrodowski and Valeria Molinelli (front row, from left), the Flavor Experience’s culinary workforce is made up of Flavor alums like TJ Delle Donne (standing, in white jacket) and Johnson & Wales University culinary students.

Led by chefs Josh Ogrodowski and Valeria Molinelli (front row, from left), the Flavor Experience’s culinary workforce is made up of Flavor alums like TJ Delle Donne (standing, in white jacket) and Johnson & Wales University culinary students.

Natural Brands’ Baja Citrus Margarita featured mezcal and tequila, watermelon juice, Natural Brands Agave-Lime sour, and cilantro, garnished with a mini taquito clipped to the rim.

Natural Brands’ Baja Citrus Margarita featured mezcal and tequila, watermelon juice, Natural Brands Agave-Lime sour, and cilantro, garnished with a mini taquito clipped to the rim.

A special callout to supporters of both the Flavor Experience and Flavor & The Menu.

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