Our Biggest 5 Restaurant Flavor Trend Predictions

From pumpkin spice to Chile de Arbol, here we dive into the restaurant industry’s top trending flavors and predict the ones that’ll last until 2021.

Fall Favorites

Fall flavors are dominating the market right now. Yelp’s recent data (from 9/21/2020) shows that searches for pumpkin spice foods were up dramatically from last year: pumpkin spice lattes were up 72%, pumpkin pie up 66%, pumpkin cheesecake up 242% and apple cider donuts were up 117% (1). Restaurants are taking advantage of this trend and accenting the flavors of fall in their menus. Take Bonefish Grill, for example, serving Grilled Swordfish & Pumpkin Ravioli with a Fresh Apple Martini made from house-infused apple cinnamon vodka, ginger liqueur, honey and apple juice (2). Meanwhile, Metro Diner is showcasing a variety of pumpkin themed breakfast items and desserts with their pumpkin style croissants, pancakes drizzled with pumpkin cream cheese icing and topped with cinnamon butter and candied pecans (2).


More consumers will be looking for foods tied with wellness and health during and after the pandemic, well into 2021. Immune-boosting foods high in vitamins, as well as fermented and foods high in probiotics have been trending this past couple of months, but botanicals have been the go-to trending “flavor” for being both healthy and delicious (3). According to The Hartman Group’s Functional Food & Beverage and Supplements 2020 Report, 29% of consumers said they were consuming more of these “functional foods” or beverages than before (4). “Functional flavors will shape the industry,” said Philip Caputo, marketing and consumer insights manager at Virginia Dare in an interview with Food Technology Magazine (3). “More specifically, the characterizing taste profiles from—or inspired by—highly functional ingredients, such as botanicals, spices, and healing herbs (e.g., turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, lavender, honey), will grow in popularity alongside the increased emphasis on emerging health trends.”

Japanese (2021 Olympics)

Demand for global flavors is up, particularly for Spanish, Middle Eastern and Mexican flavors, but the upcoming 2021 (previously 2020) Summer Olympics in Tokyo is spurring the resurgence of old favorites, such as matcha, as well as new ones like miso caramel (5). According to Yelp data, searches of Japanese glutinous rice “mochi” was up 96% from last year (1). Ibrahima Faye, a Senior Flavor Chemist at T. Hasegawa, stated that Yuzu, a Japanese citrus, could be a popular addition to the ongoing citrus trend, as yuzu offers an aroma “close enough to the well-known citrus fruits like lemon, lime, orange and tangerine; but they offer a characterizing aroma profile that clearly distinguishes them from the traditional fruits” (5). Kalsec, a leading producer of natural spice and herb extracts, stated that we’d also expect to see an “increase in Japanese dishes like souffle pancakes and taiyaki (fish-shaped ice cream cones)” (6).

Chilies and Heat

McCormick just published their “McCormick Flavor Solutions’ Flavor Forecast” on Oct. 14, and highlighted an ongoing heat trend that incorporates chilies and other spices (a.k.a. the “Chilies Obsession”) (7). The report put the spotlight on four different chilies that would bring out a “unique and distinctive” heat and flavor: the Aji Amarillo, Guajillo, Tien Tsin and Chile de Arbol. Meanwhile, IFT listed Gochujang, Calabrian Chile, Shishito and Harissa as the top 4 trending foodservice seasonings. “Globally inspired sauces and seasoning blends are trending right now,” said a report from FONA International, a global producer of food and beverage flavors (8). This is apparently due to the surging demand for a greater variety in spicy foods is driven by consumer desire to explore more authentic global cuisines and flavors. “Today’s consumers can easily differentiate jalapeño from habanero or ancho from Thai red chili,” the report added (8). A growing consumer appetite to not only try but educate themselves to a wide range of new flavors is what’s elevating this spice revolution to new levels.

Feel Good Flavors

Fall and Winter have always been about the comfort, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made more consumers lean towards feel-good foods and nostalgic flavors more than ever. According to Keera Perumbala, marketing manager at Sensient Flavors, “[comforting food] means different things to different consumers” (9). “For some, it means cereal for dinner on some days, and for others, it means a sea salt caramel fudge ice cream after dinner. Owing to this, we are expecting some classic favorites to make a comeback [but] with a twist.”

This can mean flavors like nut and toffee, molasses, s’mores, butterscotch, cinnamon and brown butter (10)—all warm and comforting flavors that could be easily incorporated into a dessert, a coffee or cocktail recipe. “Consumers now are programmed to go beyond the basics,” added Perumbala. “So adding a twist will help them feel adventurous while rooted in comfort.”


(1) https://blog.yelp.com/2020/10/pumpkin-spice-is-king-yelp-names-2020s-biggest-fall-food-drink-trends

(2) https://www.restaurantbusinessonline.com/food/big-flavors-come-menus-full-speed

(3) https://www.ift.org/news-and-publications/food-technology-magazine/issues/2020/october/columns/ingredients-flavors-of-change-taste-trends-evolve-in-pandemics-wake

(4) http://store.hartman-group.com/content/THG-Functional-Foods-and-Supplements-2020-About-Report.pdf

(5) https://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/News/Promotional-Features/Citrus-Flavors-from-Japan

(6) https://www.kalsec.com/food-trends-2020/

(7) https://www.mccormickforchefs.com/flavor-forecast-2020/spicy-revolution

(8) https://www.fona.com/1020sweetheat/

(9) https://www.ift.org/news-and-publications/food-technology-magazine/issues/2020/october/columns/ingredients-flavors-of-change-taste-trends-evolve-in-pandemics-wake

(10) https://www.thasegawa.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/2020-T.-Hasegawa-Flavor-Trend-Predictions.pdf

Goliath Consulting Group is a restaurant consultancy based in Norcross, Georgia. Menu development, product development, supply chain and sourcing are services that the company offers, following flavor trends and using consumer research to find the best solutions for our clients. To learn more, visit www.goliathconsulting.com or email us at getresults@goliathconsulting.com

Published by Jay Bandy

Restaurant and Franchising Professional. President of Goliath Consulting Group. A restaurant consultancy based in Atlanta, GA

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