Consumers are taking a proactive approach to health and wellness because of the ongoing pandemic, explains Marie Wright, president of creation, design and development and chief global flavorist for ADM. In fact, 65% of global consumers are more concerned about immunity since COVID-191. Plus, 87% of U.S. consumers are interested in products with “immune-boosting ingredients,” and 78% of those consumers are interested in vitamin C1.

Consumers associate citrus fruits with vitamin C, and this health halo links to immune function, increased energy, and improved mood in the minds of consumers, Wright explains. Given these perceptions, citrus is becoming increasingly popular among shoppers and product developers. Additionally, greater appreciation for complex flavor profiles has consumers seeking out foods that are sweet, sour, smoky, spicy and more – flavor profiles that can be achieved by the vast assortment of citrus fruits as well as through fermenting, pickling or preserving.

Fermented and sour taste profiles are also gaining interest as consumer palates adapt to more potent flavors, Wright says. A growing number of brands have started launching food and drink products enriched with fermented ingredients2.

Of the 52% of global consumers aware of fermented foods as ingredients, 27% associate fermented foods with digestive health3. Additional research finds 64% of global consumers are taking steps to improve their digestive health over the next 12 months4.

On top of that, they’re increasingly aware of the role the gut microbiome can play in overall well-being, including supporting immune function, mental and emotional wellness and metabolic and digestive health. Brands are responding in kind: Mintel reports a 100% increase in new product launches with digestive health claims from 2015-20205.

Flavor adventures

Global citrus flavors are taking off as people embrace a sense of adventure, exploration and as a way to travel via their taste buds. Consumers are becoming more comfortable with diversifying their palates and are seeking ingredients and flavors often replicated in restaurant settings.

“As chefs create innovative flavor offerings, retail and foodservice are quick to follow, which gives consumers unique options at home,” Wright offers.

Regional and exotic fruits are attracting attention, and classic favorites are getting a fresh twist to meet demand for more nuanced taste profiles. Consumers are sampling calamansi, kumquat and yuzu, Wright says. Sicilian lemon and Tahitian lime, as well as varietals such as bitter orange, pink grapefruit and tangerine. Blood orange was once considered exotic but has become more common in baked products. Additionally, consumers are seeking even more rare citrus fruits such as finger limes, Buddha’s hand and kaffir limes that can transport them to places they are unable to visit right now.

The fruit and leaves of these citron fruits are often used in southeast Asian cooking. Unlike the lime familiar to Westerners, their flavor has more of a fragrant and spicy note.

Product applications

Retail bakers can leverage the better-for-you perceptions of citrus fruits by incorporating tart, juicy flavors into their offerings.

“At ADM, our innovative team of flavorists has developed four citrus profiles that are versatile and fun to play with in several food and beverage categories, including desserts like cakes, frostings, ice cream, crème brûlée, caramels, glazes and more,” Wright explains. “Each of these flavors are fundamentally familiar and are taken to the next level with formulation techniques that add complexity.”

Black limes, also called loomi or dried limes, are often used in Persian and other Middle Eastern cuisines. The lime is boiled in a saltwater brine and then dried in the sun until it darkens; color varies from pale tan to dark brown and black. With its now brittle texture, we can easily grind the limes. Dried limes have a tart and earthy flavor that is both sweet and savory, making them a fabulous infusion for goolab jamun or black lime halva.

Preserved lemons, inspired by Italian and Moroccan dishes, are cured in salt to deliver a more intense flavor. Preserved lemons have migrated throughout Middle Eastern regions and India, and now American chefs are experimenting with their unique flavor. Preserved lemon serves well in alfajores or paired with raspberry in a pie.

Yuzu is a tart citrus fruit found throughout Asia. Yuzu kosho is a traditional Japanese condiment made by fermenting yuzu peel, chili peppers and salt, developing a spicy, citrusy and umami profile. Yuzu kosho gives an intriguing twist to meringues, pavlova, and macarons with a burst of heat.

Flamed orange was influenced by a Patagonian open-flame barbeque cooking style. Whole oranges are tossed into a bonfire, caramelizing the internal juices and sugars, until the fruit is completely charred. The juice and pulp have a distinct smoky sweetness and can be used as a syrup poured over butter cake or to elevate rum cake batter.

Citrus flavors can add an element of surprise and delight in baked sweets and snacks. We help bakers develop these tantalizing creations by picking the right format, such as extracts, oils, juices and powders, and using our cutting-edge techniques, including our gentle cold extraction process, selective concentration for all folding levels and comprehensive separation and fractionation technologies. Plus, our vertically integrated global supply chain ensures that each flavor note used is consistently high quality. Moreover, many of our citrus flavors are organic, kosher and halal, meeting consumer demand for specific labeling claims.