Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

By Flavor & The Menu
July 8, 2020

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The bowls category offers so many advantages today. It has proven itself as a popular format with consumers so bowls bring with them a built-in fan base. Operationally, they’re an optimal format for the to-go universe and they invite easy cross-utilization of ingredients. With that backdrop, every character in the bowl’s narrative plays a significant role for a standout performance.

The bowl’s sauce, vinaigrette, drizzle or dressing is of course crucial to the story, delivering mouthfeel, viscosity and flavor. With strategic flavor development, it drives home the message of craveability.

Here are four flavor “themes,” each with trending ingredient combinations, that pack a signature flavor punch and aim to inspire.

1. Umami-rich

Umami-rich flavors are savory flavors that stimulate the palate and help round out other flavors. Diners have been embracing umami, so using its assertive tones can work beautifully in some modern bowl builds.

  • Black sesame-scallion aïoli
  • Kimchi vinaigrette
  • Nuoc cham vinaigrette
  • Parsley-olive pesto
  • Sesame-tamari vinaigrette

2. Packing Heat

Heat never goes out of favor, and today, it’s particularly appealing to consumers when tempered with unexpected ingredients. There’s also a play to be made by mashing up a chile pepper from one global hotspot to another region’s sauce for added interest.

  • Habanero tikka
  • Jerk-honey barbecue
  • Sambal aïoli
  • Tamarind-madras curry
  • Toum-jalapeño

3. Brightly Flavored

Light, bright flavors are a natural go-to for so many bowl builds that telegraph wholesomeness, particularly those that are built on greens or grains, and/or star grilled proteins. In fact, operators assigning double duty for marinades and sauces are looking to creative combinations to ensure flavor impact.

  • Avocado green goddess dressing
  • Chermoula crema
  • Orange mojo sauce
  • Yuzu-ginger vinaigrette

4. Intriguing

Call it eclectic or modern American, intriguing flavor innovation that melds the unexpected or the uncommon together—as long as they work—sparks curiosity. With bowls, eclectic sauces can complement a whimsical layering of ingredients, too.

  • Beet tahini dressing
  • Mint-pistachio pesto
  • Smoked yogurt with scallions
  • Za’atar-mint buttermilk ranch

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