*By Sanjay Gupta,

Flavours play a vital role in completing and diversifying any food product range. Taste innovations can revitalize a brand’s offerings and keep customers constantly coming back for more. As globalization and connectivity brought the world closer, there was a natural democratization of tastes. Responding to growing demands, food industry is constantly forced to try “out-of-the-box” flavour solutions to appeal to the global consumer. However, what if the wacky new flavours that connect with millennials don’t excite the Generation Z? Crafting a flavour strategy that appeals to all consumer segments is a challenge.

Fast- Changing Demographics

There was a time when food industry heavily focused on the millennials who had tremendous potential spending capacity and influence on tastes. But today with Generation Z representing 32% population, the demographics are fast changing. The quest for indulgence could vary significantly across consumer groups. Modern consumers don’t like being restricted by choices, so also their preferences change on a daily basis! The adventurous consumer is here to stay. The flexitarians will keep demanding for new additions to the meat alternative segment. Some want it hot, others want it spicy and with a ‘kick.’ It is practically not possible to satisfy the palate of every consumer. For food companies, the cue here is to discover that perfect fine line in between!

Cautious Innovation

It is important to offer enough choices. Yet, not as many as to leave the consumers confused! The fear of not picking the best available choice due to lack of sufficient awareness will dampen the consumer’s overall satisfaction. Thus, instead of profoundly focusing on customization, it will be prudent to offer flavours that have a broader appeal. For instance, while offering new dessert flavours, it wouldn’t be a good idea to go big on fondant/ chocolate hazelnut flavours that interest Generation Z or Cinnamon raisin/ dutch apple flavours that interest baby boomers. Instead, a better strategy would be to focus on classic flavours like vanilla, dark chocolate and red velvet that have equal appeal among all consumer groups. Experimentation can be done on niche flavours by launching limited edition series to gauge popularity. Another way to introduce novelty would be to offer familiar flavours in fresh formats. At Stonefield, we recently launched laddoo flavour in cakes, which won wide appreciation.

Consumer Involvement

While it is safer to stay true to popular flavours, consumers embrace variety when they are also involved in the taste innovation process. Remember how Dairy Milk conducted a chocolate election campaign with real-time polling for choosing new flavours? Depending on the positioning, brands must take a stand on enlightening consumers on the nuances of the new flavours or simply become an active part of their daily conversations through moment marketing like Nestle’s Kitkat. This will ensure consumers are not alienated from the new flavours, instead are encouraged to try new experiences.

Understanding the dynamics of consumer behavior will continue to play a vital role in creating products in par with the evolving choices. Brands must take the onus on them to employ customized communication tactics to facilitate comfortable experimentation of new flavours.

* Chief Operating Officer, Stonefield Flavours