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“Breakfast All Day” and Trending Flavors Fuel Smoothie and Lifestyle Bar Categories

Editorial consulting by the Culinary Institute of America

Americans are opportunistic eaters. Rather than sitting at a table for three proper meals a day, we tend to graze our way through the day with little consideration to whether what we are eating is a meal or a snack. Because of our busy lifestyles, all-day dining is something today’s consumer is demanding. We want to eat the food we crave when we want it. According to a survey by the National Restaurant Association, 70% of Americans wish that restaurants would serve breakfast all day long.  While breakfast could mean bacon and eggs, it has also become synonymous with granola bars, trail mix, smoothies, protein drinks, or any number of high-volume packaged foods that would have previously been put into the snack category.


So that means, depending on how you look at it, snacking has morphed into either a limitless canvas for flavors or a war zone for share of palate.  In the flavor world, there’s a lot going on these days. For starters, upgrading and calling out familiar ingredients is a key strategy. Barrel-aged maple syrup, sprouted oats, and ancient grains all paint powerful flavor pictures at the moment the purchase decision is being made. Adding “wild” to an ingredient conveys an extra intensity and therefore value.  Here at the Culinary Institute of America, we recently worked with a snack manufacturer to call out their wild blueberries on the label for just that purpose.

Forecasts from Virginia Dare, a leading flavor and extract company, predicts that popular retro flavors with a twist such as “charred coconut” and “preserved cherry blossoms” will become more prevalent.  They also see a future for ancient herbs and botanicals, such as lavender, elderflowers, and flavored teas. McCormick & Company includes tropical Asian flavors, such as guava and cardamom, as well as “global heat and spice with a dash of citrus.”

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Other trending combinations, according to McCormick, include sweet heat, sour-salty-pungent, burnt bitter, savory caramel, fragrant fat, and vegetal umami. Techniques like toasting, searing, brining, fermenting, and preserving are also being called out for their flavor profiles along with the traditional roasting, grilling, and smoking. Wood is also crossing from the beverage industry into mainstream flavors – especially oak, cedar, and pine. Kombucha is pushing the sour envelope, and drinking vinegars, including shrubs and switchels, are right behind.

In the smoothie and juicing industry, what was once perceived as a high-sugar content beverage has adapted to include cold press and hydraulically chopped juices. Classic flavor combinations can be adapted to any number of the flavor trends of 2016 by adding sriracha, turmeric, or toasted coconut.

The juicing and smoothie phenomena really began with an iconic spokesman.  Jack LaLanne’s “as seen on TV” Power Juicer dominated the early years of juicing. The category has since evolved into a multi-billion dollar business by banking on the consumer’s desire for a quick, satisfying, and healthy “meal” on the go. Small wonder that Dole Packaged Foods estimates 60% of U.S. frozen fruit production goes into smoothies.

Lifestyle bars are a new category that’s rapidly growing, too. Manufacturers of these bars are targeting consumers who are looking for a nutritious snack or meal replacement. Chock full of nuts, ancient grains, and dried fruits, the more progressive brands are starting to use organic, exotic, and wild ingredients.  For example, Clif Bar has released a new Wild Blueberry Almond Trail Mix Bar, which features wild blueberries, almonds, cashews, and currants.  Kind bar has savory protein bars flavored with sweet Thai chili and roasted jalapeños, while Nature Valley just launched their Sweet and Spicy Bar.

Snacks are tied to meeting an emotional (and nutritional) need at a precise moment. And beyond their implied deliciousness, food manufacturers know that flavors provide critical cues for other benefits, such as performance, adventure, comfort, wellness, craft, and even self-expression. Combining wild blueberries with, say, ginger and turmeric, appeals across many of those.

It’s really pretty ironic to think back on my childhood and realize that the spoiled kid in me that held out for blueberry yogurt – fruit on the bottom of course – has become archetypal for today’s consumer. I might just be craving a spicy wild blueberry power bar and kale smoothie at eight o’clock tonight!

Try this recipe: Wild Blueberry Toasted Coconut Horchata

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About the Author 

Chef Rebecca Peizer, C.H.E. C.E.C.

Chef Rebecca Peizer

Associate Professor of Culinary Arts
Culinary Institute of America at Greystone

Rebecca’s passion for food set her on a path to the Culinary Institute of America where she graduated in 2000. From there, she set off to New York City where she became a private chef. She took her next big step in the culinary world when she moved to California and opened Roux, a restaurant in St. Helena in the heart of the Napa Valley. Roux quickly took off and theSan Francisco Chroniclenamed it Top 10 Restaurants in the Bay Area 2001. On the heels of that honor, Food & Wine named her Top 10 Sous Chefs in America 2002. Over the course of her career, Rebecca has had the opportunity to work with many great chefs including Jacques Pepin, Martin Yan, Bradly Ogden, Cindy Pawlcyn, and Julia Childs. She has catered events for presidential candidates, Napa Valley winemakers, and prominent artists, and now shares her passion for food and wine with students at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa Valley.