Preparing For The Next Normal - Deeper Flavour

In this article we look at Deeper Flavour that sits as part of the wider social trend 'the pleasure principle', a movement that is centred around food and drink as a source of pleasure and escapism. In these turbulent times it's more important than ever to find respite and fun where we can so in this COVID-era everything from snacking, cooking and mealtimes take on a greater meaning.

More than ever before, we are seeking solace in food and mealtimes... We eat not to just survive, but to enjoy life! And with the pace of life slowed down for some, that means taking the time to truly savour the flavours, textures and smells of what's on our plates. Familiar flavours and comforting formats rule the roost, setting aside bells-and-whistles cooking for the time being. But that doesn't mean that there isn't innovation and experimentation aplenty... Home cooking has become a national pastime, and food an obsession - thus creativity abounds.

Desserts Mean Business:

As we are faced with uncertain times, we're all turning to one thing for that small bit of comfort… dessert! Between 23rd March and 30th April, the most popular recipe searched for on the BBC Good Food website was, you've guessed it, banana bread. Actually, 13 of the top 20 searched recipes were sweet (cakes, biscuits or desserts). It seems that we are looking decidedly backwards to the 'old school' favourites and family comforts whilst indulging our sweet tooth as a means of escapism; think bread n' butter pudding, carrot cake, sheet cake, trifle, Eton mess, rice pudding as well as fusion twists on the classics like Dalgona Tiramisu!

Bell and whistles are out – simple soothing and (most of all) flavourful are in. Sweet, comforting, indulgent ingredients like caramel, treacle, chocolate and toffee are firm favourites. However, as the summer sets in we should expect the dense cakes and gooey pudding to be replaced by the lighter desserts such as pavlovas, lemon tart, burnt cheesecake and ice cream sundaes; still comforting and with the indulgence factor. If you think familiarity and comfort as key drivers, mean that innovation is out – think again. With so many home cooks increasing their skills on a day to day basis, and home baking becoming ever more popular, there is plenty of experimentation and twists on classic dishes being revolutionised. There is also still so much room for growth in plant-based desserts as the popularity for egg and flour-free baking continues to rise.

We're also seeing a rise in 'all day desserts' – desserts not restricted to a specific day part, cakes for daytime snacking, after dinner, after workout, mini sweet treats all trending as desserts go cross day part.

We mustn't forget that baking is for everyone, particularly in the COVID-era, but not everyone is a master baker. Thus 'easy' and 'no bake' desserts are rising in popularity - e.g. traybakes, banana bread and 'fridge cakes'. Also gaining momentum are dessert boxes/ kits, aka recipe boxes that are delivered to your door and come with ingredients pre-prepared.

Tasty Ageing:

We're in an era where food and drink is having to step up in the role that it plays in delivering our highs, our fixes and our memorable experiences – cue tasty ageing. We're all used to hearing 'the older, the better the flavour' when it comes to the likes of wine and whiskey, but we are progressively understanding that this also applies to all manners of food and drink. For instance, dry aged meats are praised for their intense, umami-laden flavour and of course, nothing 'ups the ante' more than dry aged beef patties in a cheeseburger. As we learn more and more about ageing foods, we see that it is not all about the intense, ultra-funky meats that have been aged for weeks, months or even years but sometimes just a few days ageing can make all the (flavour) difference; for example, a piece of sea bass or grouper that's air dried for, say, a week, will absolutely pack a huge flavour punch.

Ageing is being incorporated into all manners of unexpected (and exciting) places as consumers get more comfortable with the idea that 'age = flavour'. Pork belly is braised in aged vinegar, chocolate is made with aged cacao, vegetables are left in the ground for up to a year(!) to develop deeper flavour, sourdough is paired with funky aged butter… we've even seen steaks aged in a butter basing (the butter acts as a barrier while the meat matures). And with consumers increasingly looking for little touches of luxury and flavour hit on their dinner plates perhaps ageing across all food is worthy of consideration.

Flavoured Fats:

There is no denying that homemade bread is really having something of a moment – social media has been inundated with pictures of homemade sourdough and focaccia art. So, it's no surprise that bread's natural partners – oil, butter and mayonnaise, are also building on their already-surging popularity. On their own, these fats, and of course many others, enhance depth and flavour to a dish however, adding a little something extra such a fermenting, ageing or unexpected ingredients takes these fats to the next level. We're talking flavour on flavour here… just think aged beef dripping, cultured butter or turmeric spiced ghee.

Consumers are gradually realising that fats can actually be amazing flavour vehicles and are opening their minds to the possibility that butters, mayos and oils can be a cook's best friend; they should be sourced and treated the same way as other staple ingredients like meat and vegetables. Craft, artisanal/ organic butters, mayos and oils therefore abound; and cooks are getting ever more creative with how they are used.

There is boundless opportunity in flavoured fats from flavoured butter for cooking – think seaweed or oyster for fish, maple for desserts or masala for Indian cookery. Mayos offer a huge opportunity to make the everyday memorable from nori to hot sauce or 'Nduja to wild garlic.


We can't seem to get enough of all things floral and botanical, especially as the weather warms and gardens bloom. This year we feel an even stronger affinity to summer gardens and fresh flowers as after all, during such an unsettling period, they have brought us so much pleasure and joy. Floral notes and flowers are everywhere and certainly not as just a flavour addition; we are seeing edible flowers draped over summer dishes like salmon carpaccio or salad, garden scenes being created on focaccia loaves and tables being adorned with fresh bouquets. Campaigns such a #makeamealofit which is spearheaded by food influencer Laura Jackson, are encouraging people to turn their everyday meals into a celebration by 'tablescaping'... and yes, you've probably guessed it, floral bouquets are a main feature.

Then there's the flavour... if you want to evoke images of long summers days and warm evenings, the subtle, heady, distinctive flavour profile of florals are the perfect addition to any dish, drink or product – specifically elderflower, lavender, rose, jasmine, wildflower, hibiscus, cherry blossom and violet.

Florals offer an abundance of opportunity in beverages from tea, soft and spirits but also confectionary as well as influencing design and shape at a more holistic level.

In this article we've highlighted the relevance and shifts that are likely to evolve and develop in the COVID-era through the lens of Deeper Flavour. The opportunity to deliver deeper flavour for a deeper emotional connection and resonance in times of great uncertainly and flux is clear. From the comfort in elevated desserts, the use of ageing to develop flavour, the role that fats and floral can play a deeper flavour experience. By considering these shifts and how you as a business, brand, start-up or entrepreneur, pivot and adapt in consideration of them, will mean that you're well positioned to succeed in this COVID-era in food and drink.

In article 8 we'll be continuing looking at the 'pleasure principle' social driver, this time looking at the mega trend Elevated Experience through the lens of the COVID-19 pandemic and the longer terms shifts that we expect to see manifest.

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Stay safe and keep well and we'll see you in Article 8.