The next salted caramel may be soursop, says Lynn Dornblaser, director of innovation and insights at Mintel, Chicago. Also known as guanabana, soursop is a tree fruit native to parts of Latin America and has a flavor that is described as a combination of strawberry and pineapple, with notes of sour citrus and a creaminess similar to that of coconut or banana.

Here’s why Mintel expects the flavor to expand in the United States.

“It’s from a country that is close by (Mexico), and from a country that is in the minds of many consumers in the U.S., which is Cuba,” Ms. Dornblaser says. “The flavor profile is very familiar to consumers. The product itself looks different, so success might come in prepared products.”

During the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition, held July 16-19 in Chicago, industry experts from Mintel and Innova Market Insights discussed emerging flavor trends.

“Why is thinking about flavor important?” Ms. Dornblaser says. “Consumers like intense experiences.”

Fifty-eight per cent of U.S. consumers last year said they like to try new recipes, up from 52% in 2008. Millennials in particular are open to experimentation; 35% said food should be fun to eat, compared with 21% of non-millennials. And the leading product attribute consumers said they look for in food and beverage is taste or flavor, ahead of value, health and convenience.

“Consumers are much more about collecting experiences than collecting things,” Ms. Dornblaser says. She cited examples of unexpected flavor combinations introduced in global markets, including McDonald’s McChocolate Potato, which was offered in Japan and features the fast-food chain’s french fries drizzled with two flavors of chocolate syrup.

Mintel charted the expansion of such wildly successful flavors as sriracha and salted caramel to identify what factors support the growth of an emerging flavor trend. Sriracha, for example, has demonstrated the potential to expand across geographies and product categories. The popular hot sauce has turned up in snacks, meals, spreads, beverages and bakery products in recent years. Launches this year include mustard and dry seasonings featuring the flavor.

Similarly, salted caramel products continue to increase year over year since debuting in 2008. The flavor has been featured in breakfast cereals, dairy, snacks, desserts and ice cream, ready-to-drink beverages and confectionery from large and small companies alike, illustrating “this is a flavor profile that has a lot of staying power,” Ms. Dornblaser says.

As for soursop, Latin America and Asia lead the way in global product introductions. Products launched in the United States over the past couple years have included Fage Total 0% mango-guanabana nonfat Greek yogurt and Glaceau VitaminWater Zero strawberry-guanabana enhanced water, and Mintel predicts future innovation will feature the flavor in juices, sorbets, and yogurts.

“Some things to think about when identifying flavor trends are to take a look at what’s going on in other countries around world,” Ms. Dornblaser says. “If you’re formulating for the U.S. market, think about where consumers are traveling to more often or if there’s interest in that cuisine. Take a look at what’s out there and what could come to the U.S. market.”

Read more about future big flavor trends at Food Business News.