Kerry Taste President Antoine Nourrain offers insights on the future of taste
In an industry that’s always innovating—from creating Instagram-worthy foods and beverages to developing functional ingredients and sustainable manufacturing techniques—taste can seem in danger of being overlooked during product development. Prioritising and optimising taste is, regardless of a food or drink’s other attributes, is all part of the job for Kerry Taste President Antoine Nourrain.
Nourrain and his team keep the focus on taste at every stage of development, whether they’re working on a new flavour for Kerry’s library or helping a customer reformulate a product. We asked Nourrain about the role of taste in today’s marketplace, and in the future. Here, his thoughts on optimising taste, including trends, new technologies, organizational shifts and the future of taste.
KerryDigest: In a world of increasingly niche and fantastical foods and drinks, how important is taste?
Antoine Nourrain: Taste remains the single biggest driver in consumer purchases, before price, healthfulness and novelty. Whether you make protein shakes or gluten-free crackers—no matter how healthy, convenient or interesting a product is, if it doesn’t taste good, you won’t get repeat buyers.
KD: Preferences change by region, but are there any universal truths about “good taste”?
AN: Home cooking is the original way of cooking, with people using ingredients that were grown nearby and making food from scratch. Over time, as lifestyles have gotten busier, technological advances helped food companies create products that are affordable and easy to prepare. Families enjoyed the convenience, but taste was sometimes overlooked.
The hunger for home-cooked taste is returning. Nowadays, consumers are looking for more natural, simple and recognisable ingredients, and they also want to eat foods that taste like an old family recipe. Still, they want preparation methods that are fast and easy. And, as our 2019 Kerry Taste Charts found, there continue to be taste trends worth paying attention to, with certain newly popular ingredients set to dominate a growing number of new product launches.
KD: Trends aside, what do you believe will most greatly influence the future of taste?
AN: I see growing demand for food that provides better nutrition, is less taxing on the Earth, tastes authentic and is enjoyable to eat. These new consumer expectations have put a spotlight on the food industry and highlighted the need for food trust around ingredients and processes.
Luckily, this is the space in which already Kerry plays. We work directly with growers around the world to source high-quality natural ingredients and we have the in-house expertise to develop a range of innovative, better-for-you solutions.
For example, when working on a nutritionally optimised yoghurt, we might suggest the inclusion of TasteSense Sweet, our natural taste modulator, to rebalance taste while reducing sugar. But we could also leverage our enzymes technologies to eliminate even more sugar while improving the mouthfeel. By combining our taste and nutrition technologies we’re able to develop better products for consumers.
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KD: In what ways do you see the business of taste changing?
AN: For centuries people have been using extraction and fermentation techniques to deliver an extensive range of flavour solutions. Although there have been some developments, these methods are still in use today, so in some ways things haven’t changed.
Nevertheless, whereas previously many companies specialised in one part of the taste component such as yeast extracts, cheese powders, botanicals extracts or flavours, acquisitions have accelerated the creation of more generalists companies. In an age where consumers don’t want to compromise on taste and also expect the industry to offer more natural, more authentic, more sustainable solutions, companies are rapidly expanding their offerings and capabilities to deliver.
KD: How is Kerry addressing taste beyond flavour?
AN: Flavour is an important part of food and beverage creation, but we’re more focused on the full taste, which includes the way the product looks, smells, and feels—the whole experience. Growing our extensive portfolio of unique ingredients and solutions allows us to tackle a vast range of taste challenges, including flavour, mouthfeel and the masking of off-notes. But it’s not enough. What really helps us succeed is our understanding of all the complexities that come with delivering the right solutions at the right time to the right target market.
Taste is incredibly complex, with various elements that must be understood and acted upon to deliver consumer preferred foods and beverages. Our global teams of food and sensory scientists, consumer insights experts, marketing strategists, regulatory professionals and culinary chefs and baristas collaborate on projects, often from ideation to the product’s launch. This allows us to approach solutions from all angles, weaving together a taste proposition developed through art and science. While our R&D teams tackle meeting taste, aroma, texture and mouthfeel expectations, our insights teams ensure preferences match point of sale and regulatory ensures labelling parameters can be met.