HUNT VALLEY, Md. - More exotic flavors will curry favor with consumers this year, McCormick predicted in its annual Flavor Forecast.
The leading spice company here, working with some of the country's top chefs, TV personalities and cookbook authors, declared that the most-demanded spices would be anise, marjoram, sesame, caraway, paprika, saffron and chai (a blend of cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and pepper), driven by an increase in travel abroad, immigration and number of ethnic restaurants.
McCormick found that cinnamon, an ingredient in chai, is found in 89% of households surveyed and is used at home by 11% of people over a two-week period, making it the highest scoring of all the flavors in the forecast. Paprika came in second, with 4% of people saying they consume it in a two-week period and 79% of them keeping it at home.
Last year, McCormick projected allspice, annatto, cinnamon, curry, ginger, mint, pickling spice, sage and vanilla would be the top spices for 2005.
Tim Anderson, spokesman for spice maker Spice Hunter, agreed that a more global outlook would influence spice preferences, but predicted that the top flavors this year would instead be chipotle, curry and vanilla.
Chipotle, a popular smoky flavor from Mexico, had double-digit growth last year, he said. Curry is gaining use in savory dishes and desserts. Vanilla is making a comeback after a lack of supply in recent years sent consumers looking for alternatives, he said.
Of the top flavors in the McCormick forecast, chai and paprika are most likely to be sustained, said Harry Balzer, the NPD Group's longtime food analyst. Most of the flavors identified as the biggest for 2006 will probably wane in popularity as Americans move on to the next thing, though, he said.
"Americans are explorers of change," he said. "We like to try new things so we can talk about them."
For a new flavor to last, it has to be easily incorporated into an existing habit, Balzer said.
"If you're going to give people something new, it has to be attached to something they know, like a chicken wing," he said.