Not only is experimentation with flavors from around the world ongoing from a taste perspective, but consumers are open to richer cultural experiences from food, according to 2024 trend predictions set forward by Specialty Food Association’s Trendspotter Panel, which is made up of professionals from diverse segments of the specialty food world.

Some tried-and-true flavors never die but cycle back into the spotlight when the timing is right to reinvent or re-evaluate unexplored facets of this particular flavor. In the coming year, peach as a flavor and ingredient will excite consumers with some new variations and re-interpretation, said the panel. While increasingly used in traditional categories like jams and teas, peach is also showing up in baked goods like the 2023 SFA sofi Awards New Product winner, Peach-Lavender Bundtlet from Lily Maude’s.  

Black Sesame, ube, and milk tea – three iconic Asian flavors – will follow the path of matcha and continue to enter a more familiar sphere among makers and consumers. These flavors are cropping up in new and unexpected formats, such as the milk-tea–filled donut and ube hot chocolate from Bear Donut in the Penn District of New York City.

New York City’s Angelina Bakery opened its newest location, featuring a new gelato menu experience merging rich traditions of Italian gelato side-by-side with vibrant Korean-inspired flavors, including a black sesame flavor.

As people explore, they are becoming more deeply aware of more obscure regional ingredients and recipes. “In all corners of the U.S., restaurants featuring lesser-known cuisines and specific dishes within those cuisines will prime consumers to realize that it's actually quite easy and accessible to try new things,” said Melanie Bartelme, Mintel.

Consumers will continue to look for ways to make the most of the flavor and quality of their food and drink while becoming more open to using shortcuts that can help them easily achieve this.

Convenience extends beyond at-home meal prep. On-the-go, convenience will also continue to drive innovation with lives back to busy schedules.

“Maximizing pleasure and minimizing stress, as one Trendspotter put it, encapsulates the panel’s picks for 2024,” said Denise Purcell, vice president, resource development, for SFA. “Maximizing pleasure—in the forms of simple ingredients to global flavors to upscaling the everyday—and minimizing stress, whether that means slowing down, seeking convenience or value, helping to address environmental worries, or finding ways to boost health and mood, are all reflected in the emerging and continuing trends we expect to impact store shelves and restaurant menus in the coming year.” 

Other key trends include Calabrian chili peppers, as well as tahini. Chiles continue to trend but the market has crested on Sriracha and Gochujang so marketers are eager for the next thing to capture imaginations and tastebuds. Calabrian chili peppers are appearing in both conventional and slightly unconventional products: pasta sauce, hot sauce, cured meats, snacks, relish, hot honey.

Awareness of tahini as a flavor in its own right is a relatively fast-growing phenomenon. “It’s been increasingly viewed and applied outside of the Middle Eastern specialty lens, and being married to foods and beverages that are served in a more mainstream or non-adjacent capacity,” said Cirkus and Rogers. Noted examples are tahini milk shakes and coffees, cookies, and pastries featuring tahini popping up in metropolitan areas like New York, San Francisco, and Philadelphia.