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The Rise of Flavor Combinations

As global influences become more mainstream across the U.S., people now expect sophisticated flavor combinations from their favorite foodservice providers. In particular, Millennials (people born between 1981 and 2000) are driving demand for flavorful food, having been exposed to a wide variety of culinary experiences since birth.

You can tap into this trend by using layers of spices and aromatics to enhance certain offerings, transforming food from mere sustenance to a memorable experience. Start with snacks and desserts, which give people the opportunity to explore new flavor combinations through small bites. Some ideas have already emerged as sure-fire winners. Sweet and salty desserts (e.g. salted caramel brownies) and ethnic twists on traditional snacks (e.g. sriracha mayo on fries) are particularly popular.

Inject Flavor Into Your Snack and Dessert Menu

Before you start experimenting, here are a few things to consider:

Know your customer base.

Don’t be afraid to take flavor risks, but always keep your typical customer in mind. For example, a school cafeteria menu can – and should – have a very different flavor profile than a gastro-pub menu.

Start small, but be creative.

These beverages are extremely portable and easy to consume on the move. Add some fruit, Greek yogurt and/or almond butter so it’s delicious and nutritious.

Test new flavors in tired dishes.

Refresh less popular menu items with unique flavors while keeping your biggest sellers unchanged. This will help you introduce bolder tastes and generate interest without completely changing people’s expectations.

Turn flavor into a competitive advantage.

Use flavor in a way that appeals to people’s heads (make it healthy) and hearts (make it desirable). For example, can you make a dish healthier by increasing spices and lowering salt content? Is there a regional taste or delicacy you can tap into? Do you have access to an underutilized and inexpensive but tasty cut of meat?

Be a flavor expert.

Calling out new and innovative flavors on your menu will help differentiate your offerings. But you must be able to accurately describe unusual new tastes in a pleasing way. Two or three words should be enough to convey the overall experience. For instance, a tamarind dressing could be described as "tangy, sweet and delicious."

Make sure it works.

Layering flavors in menu items can be a challenge. If you’re not sure about a combination, try an online flavor pairing site or flavor library. These resources can guide you to foods and ingredients that work well together.

Add your signature touch.

You can easily capitalize on a well-established flavor combination. Then, take it up a notch with some personal flair. For example, try serving spicy almonds in a sugar cone, or sprinkle your brownies with bacon bits. The possibilities are endless!


Sweet and salty Trail mix with OREO cookie pieces Crumbled RITZ crackers mixed into vanilla soft serve with caramel sauce for a salted caramel mix-in or shake
Asian spices on American classics Sriracha cream cheese spread served with RITZ crackers Caramel ice cream with Chinese five-spice and NUTTER BUTTER cookie pieces
Sweet with heat Jalapeno pineapple salsa served with RITZ crackers Ancho chile-spiced ice cream with OREO cookie pieces
Fruit with herbs Peach and thyme chutney served with RITZ crackers Blueberry pie with basil in a NILLA crust