Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

By Cathy Nash Holley
September 10, 2019

We open this issue with a recap of the recently held Flavor Experience, an annual event that has become the foodservice industry’s flavor mecca. As a measure of how flavor has evolved, it’s interesting to look at this event as a model to track changing trends and tastes.

At the inaugural Flavor Experience in 2005, on-trend items served included lettuce cups, panini and pomegranate martinis. Smoked meats, sharp cheeses and citrus fruits were the bold, flavor-enhancing elements. Key topics centered around the aging restaurant consumer, and Asian and Italian were still considered leading global opportunities.

Fast forward to the recent 15th annual event and consider how the discussion and execution of flavor played out—where ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) was a topic, and on-trend tastes included jalapeño-infused halloumi cheese fries and umami-enriched Bloody Marys.

We’ve evolved, and our interpretation and application of flavor has become more enlightened and complex. As an example, in this issue, Katie Ayoub takes a deep dive into the nuances of umami. Here, she explores umami’s role in furthering the delicate interplay of flavor, and in menu development.

In Gerry Ludwig’s third installment summarizing his annual street-level trends tour, nuanced flavor is key in his findings, from okonomiyaki with seven-spice brisket to confit parsnips with dried grapes.

Also, in our feature on plant-based purées, we track the evolution of flavor combinations in hummus, evidenced at places like Sababa in Washington, D.C., with offerings like Smoked Apple Hummus and Charred Carrot Hummus. And in our Flavor R.O.I. department that closes out this issue, Jeffrey Meyer of Romano’s Macaroni Grill discusses the brand’s approach of implementing a targeted flavor strategy to appeal to a new demographic.

In all, our understanding and execution of flavor is evolving to serve the needs of an increasingly enlightened consumer base, creating new experiences and opportunities.

Cathy Nash Holley
[email protected] | @GetFlavor

From the September-October 2019 issue of Flavor & The Menu magazine

About The Author


Cathy Nash Holley has been publisher and editor-in-chief of Flavor & The Menu magazine since it began nearly 18 years ago. Cathy started her publishing career with Diversified Business Communications, where she worked as an editor for Seafood Business and National Fisherman magazines. In 1998, she joined Media Unlimited Inc., to develop Flavor & The Menu, taking over as owner in 2013. In addition to overseeing the magazine, Cathy gives presentations on flavor trends at industry events, and also serves as President of the International Foodservice Editorial Council. Cathy hails from the Oregon Coast, but for the last 20+ years has lived in Maine with her husband Lex and teenage twins. She enjoys travelling, hikes with her dog Freeda and downtime with the family, and good food or drink, especially anything with Mexican flavor profiles and a cocktail with either Mezcal or St-Germain.