McCormick Flavor Forecast: Q&A with Kevan Vetter, Mccormick Executive Chef

January 22, 2013

Find out how McCormick's annual Flavor Forecast is created in this Q&A with Kevan Vetter, Mccormick Executive Chef.

Every year McCormick releases their Flavor Forecast; in its thirteenth year, the report is an annual spotlight on the emerging trends that the company expects to drive in terms of flavor innovation over the next several years. 2013 is steeped to be full of interesting flavors from all over the world as well as a deeper connection to our food. The Forecast report is created by a team of McCormick chefs, sensory scientists, dietitians, trend trackers, marketing experts and food technologists from around the world. Find out how with Kevan Vetter, McCormick Executive Chef. 

What is the process of identifying new flavor trends?

Throughout the year, McCormick tracks culinary trends, flavors, products, cuisines, recipes, and restaurant menus from around the globe. Then a global group of McCormick experts, including chefs, culinary kitchens, sensory scientists, dietitians, trend trackers, marketing experts and food technologists collaborate over a year-long process to identify the flavors and trends in the annual report. We hold a global summit to narrow down potential themes pooling insights from McCormick’s regional locations across the world including Australia, Europe, South Africa, Latin America and North America. Flavors are reviewed based on fit with trends, availability, consumer landscape, variety, compatibility with other flavors and more. We select the flavors because we feel they promise the greatest impact on food in years to come. 

McCormick uses the Flavor Forecast as a catalyst for innovation in our own products, as well as to inspire innovation among the food industry, including many favorite retail brands and restaurant menus across the globe. 

Are consumers' tastes evolving? If so, how?

It’s an exciting time for flavor, with spice consumption in this country at an all-time high as consumers’ changing palate is craving more flavor. Growing more than three times as fast as the population,1 this growth has been matched by the growing variety of spices. According to McCormick data, today’s average pantry can consist of about 40 different spices, compared to less than 10 in the 1950s. Bold is replacing bland. 

And as we address in our Global My Way trend, we’re now seeing many international ingredients lose their ”global” label and in turn being used as versatile, everyday flavors. It’s no longer about an ingredient being labeled Japanese, Indian or Mexican, and limited to use in preparing those specific cuisines. Food fans are exploring a new way of cooking and eating inspired by global ingredients with unique flavors. For example, let’s look at how condiments have evolved. Ketchup to hot sauce and salsa, chile sauce to Sriracha and Peri-Peri or harissa sauces.  Soy sauce to fish sauce and sweet soy or Korean pepper paste – and now in the flavor forecast 2013, we’re anticipating the same growth for Japanese Katsu sauce, the next go-to condiment – which is a cross between BBQ sauce and steak sauce.

It seems like many of the trends focus on real food and real flavors, highlighting the potential of home cooked meals – is the goal to help home cooks achieve restaurant flavors?

Through the research we conduct annually to assemble the Flavor Forecast, we’ve seen that the traditional paradigm was for trends to trickle down, and now we are seeing the opposite. It’s a paradigm shift where trends are no longer cascading from high-end chefs to the consumers; trends can start from anywhere with the prevalence of Food Network, YouTube, social media, food trucks and pop-up restaurants, even fast casual restaurants. Now, inspiration for great food can come from anywhere – and can be enjoyed anywhere, especially the kitchen and the backyard.  Authentic, real ingredients are at the core of great food – and across the global it’s being enjoyed in increasingly innovative ways that satisfy today’s individualized palate.

No Apologies Necessary, this trend focuses on enjoying the moment and savoring each bite- do you think we’re headed in the direction of paying more attention to our food, spending more time eating and like many cultures around the world celebrating food (rather than demonizing ingredients or foods)? The No Apologies Necessary trend is focused around escaping from everyday demands of life and eating for pleasure with no guilt. It’s a perfectly delicious bite that transports you temporarily to another state of mind.  It can be an indulgence as well. Life today requires us to be “always on” – and food lovers are making a conscious choice to stop and enjoy the moment, wherever that moment may be. Giving ourselves the chance to dive headfirst into flavors, and savoring every detail of that eating experience, is a necessary break – whether that’s at your favorite local food truck, or on a culinary vacation.  

One of the flavor combinations we identified through the McCormick Flavor Forecast 2013 is Black Rum, Charred Orange & Allspice. This flavor combination represents an instant tropical getaway, and provides that escape moment food lovers continue to seek out.

Empowered eating or “finding what’s right for me” is something we’ve been talking about for years, do you think finally people will let go of diets, enjoy their meals and make them as tasty and healthy as possible?

The Empowered Eating trend is about creating health and wellness harmony through a highly flexible, personalized approach. We found that people across the globe are shifting their relationship with food to make it more thoughtful, personal and connected to their own overall health. They are finally finding harmony in a “what’s right for me, today” approach – and are making a cultural shift towards quality of life and positive health, but also enjoying food and being flexible about their diet.  

People want to eat and feel good about themselves – and this new balances allows just that. One of the flavor combinations McCormick identified for the Flavor Forecast 2013 that brings this to life is Market-fresh Broccoli and Dukkah.  It mixes flavors and textures, and unexpected varieties of broccoli with the up and coming Middle Eastern spice blend – and can be incorporated into satisfying dishes like Chilled Chinese Dumplings with with Creamy Dukkah Sauce and Middle Eastern Spiced Risotto. The combination is a great example of the important role flavor can play in helping people enjoy healthier meals.

1U.S. Census Bureau, 2009 Population Estimates, Census 2000, 1990 Census