Firmenich has recently selected Hibiscus as Flavor of the Year for 2019 based on the growing appeal of florals in food and drink, and the trend towards curiosity in consumption.
“Hibiscus is a beautiful and tasty choice for 2019; it is natural, floral, and slightly tangy, and we know our customers will be delighted by this selection,” said Emmanuel Butstraen, President of Flavors. This marks the 7th edition of Firmenich’s Flavor of the Year tradition.
According to Mintel global database, the worldwide use of hibiscus in food and beverage new product launches has increased nearly 300% compared to 2012. Top categories for new product launches include yogurt, beer, tea and chocolates, with most occurring in the US, Brazil, Mexico and Denmark, and showing faster growth in European countries like Spain and Italy.
As with many popular flavors and ingredients, hibiscus has numerous health benefits and has been used as a medicinal remedy for centuries. Egyptians used hibiscus tea to lower body temperature and treat heart and nerve diseases. In African countries, the tea was used to treat cold symptoms; and pulp made from the leaves was applied to the skin to heal wounds. Recent studies showed promise for both the tea and the hibiscus plant extract to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Jeff Schmoyer, VP of Global Consumer Insights at Firmenich, said “A correlation we are making to explain the rise in hibiscus is between consumer awareness of sugar content - in particular in their beverages - and their desire to replace sweetness with other flavors that help deliver sensorial impact and provide interesting and novel taste experiences.”
To date, the most popular use of hibiscus has been in the form of infusions in beverages. However, according to Firmenich, the appeal is much broader. “Hibiscus is more than just a flower extract. It does have a strong floral aroma, with a woody-astringent character, but at the same time there is a subtle and delicate fruity undertone, even a hint of green, like freshly cut mint leaves,” said Fausto Carriles, Senior Firmenich Flavorist in Latin America.
In Mexico, hibiscus has been used in savory applications for years. Firmenich trend experts found other menu items with hibiscus including enchiladas and dried hibiscus garlic chips. The company is confident that with its sharp and warm nature, product development chefs all over the world will soon be embracing hibiscus in their savory creations.