Firmenich announces Magical Botanical as the 10th annual Flavor of the Year

Firmenich, the world’s largest privately-owned fragrance and taste company, has announced its 2022 Flavor of the Year, Magical Botanical, responding to a transformed society’s need for enhanced wellbeing and creativity.  

A limited-edition creative collection 

“This is our 10th Flavor of the Year, something our customers have really come to look forward to,” said Emmanuel Butstraen, president of Firmenich’s taste and beyond division. “To help serve the consumer-driven diet transformation with food and beverages that are better for people and planet, we aimed to develop a creation which embodies this transformation. We tapped into the extraordinary talent and creativity of Firmenich Flavorists across the world to create something entirely new, inspired by the transformative and healing notions of botanicals.” 

Firmenich’s 2022 Flavor of the Year, called Magical Botanical, draws its inspiration from the latest Pantone Color of the Year 2022, and the transformative power and magical nature of botanicals, ushering in a new era for inspired flavour creation.

The Magical Botanical flavours were designed around a core of intriguing botanical ingredients and culinary herbs of natural origin and traceable sourcing, and known for their healing and immunity-supporting powers. Firmenich creators paired these ingredients with dynamic elements of surprise and delight, transforming them into great-tasting flavours. The resulting flavour collection was designed to inspire new creativity in a wide variety of applications across sweet goods, savoury foods and beverages.

Creativity inspired by colour and trends

This marks the first time Firmenich has created a new flavour by blending a variety of natural elements for its Flavor of the Year launch. This year also brings the unveiling of a sensory partnership between Firmenich and the global colour authority, Pantone. Inspired by an unprecedented moment of global transformation, both Firmenich and Pantone have chosen to introduce entirely new creations as the Firmenich Flavor of the Year and the Pantone Color of the Year, respectively.

Pantone Color of the Year 2022 is PANTONE 17-3938 Very Peri, an entirely new periwinkle blue hue enhanced with a vibrant violet red undertone. It was created by Pantone using the universal language of colour to reflect these uniquely transformative times.

“Like Pantone Very Peri, Firmenich’s Flavor of the Year aims to capture the emerging themes we’re seeing in the world around us, by translating new trends and consumer emotions into positive sensory experiences,” said Mikel Cirkus, global creative director of taste and beyond. “For 2022, we have tuned in to the global transformation and heightened focus on wellbeing. Over the last 18 months, our collective experience of radical uncertainty has sparked a great transformation. From this, our perspectives, priorities and expectations are changing. Still unsure of what the altered landscape holds, people are none the less embracing its possibilities with hope. We created our Magical Botanical collection to reflect this societal transformation and the new consumer needs it is creating, as people nurture their own creativity, hopes and personal wellbeing.” 

Inspired by transforming markets

Firmenich’s consumer and market data tell the same story. Its proprietary Flavor Knowledge Portal, fuelled by Mintel GNPD data, leverages more than ten years’ worth of data across millions of launched products to uncover patterns and trends around food and beverage innovation. This data revealed that even before COVID, food and beverage companies had begun accelerating their bets on botanicals.

“Growth in products that announce botanical on front of pack has been exceptional, with over 1,300 launches expected this year and accelerating growth of 29% CAGR since 2017,” said Jeff Schmoyer, head of human insights at Firmenich Global. “What is particularly noteworthy is that brands are calling out botanicals across an exceptionally wide array of categories. Hot drinks, alcoholic drinks, and baked goods are the most common applications, and we also see substantial numbers of brands talking about botanicals on pack in applications from sauces and snacks to juices, dairy and nutritional drinks. However, now even confectionery and desserts are making new forays into using botanical blends as flavour and as ingredients, as a way to connect with consumers’ desire for natural, healthy transformations to their diets. In sensory terms, this is driving growth in the use of flavour notes that we classify as flowery, herbal, and tea tonalities within our AromaSphere™ flavour description system, across these same categories.”

The magic of combining botanicals

To stretch their creativity even further, Firmenich challenged their flavourists this year to create blends of botanicals that fit these trends and also evoke the Pantone Color of the Year 2022. Botanicals lend themselves naturally to creative blending in food and beverages. Over the past decade, the use of combinations of flavours had been on a steady increase in launched consumer packaged goods (CPG’s), cresting at 45% of all launches in 2018.

Schmoyer, remarked: “While we’ve seen a slight slowdown in the launch of multiway blends during Covid as manufacturers focused on single hero ingredients with benefits (such as our 2021 Flavor of the Year, ginger), there are clear indicators that consumers themselves have become considerably more creative at home in the kitchen, and are hungry for more interesting and complex flavours outside the home as well.”

In the most recent wave of Firmenich’s global consumer tracking across 22 countries, the top three behavior changes noted by consumers during the past year were “made a major improvement in cooking ability”, “became more passionate about food overall” and “increased use of herbs and spices”. According to Schmoyer, all of this points to a surge in intentional consumer creativity, and interest in learning to work with and combine nature’s most aromatic and culinarily relevant plants to create unexpected food and drink experiences for the future.