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  • Hugo Walker

In-fashion flavours: Predicting food trends with AI



Just like clothing, music and other cultural phenomena, foods and flavours come in and out of fashion. With international products at our fingertips, alongside globetrotting tastes from consumers, and platforms such as TikTok catapulting recipes to viral status, flavour trends - particularly cross-cultural fusion dishes - are as fast-moving and far-reaching as ever. Think the recent indie UK restaurant hypes for burrata, miso, nduja, the sudden introduction of ‘smashed avo’ in the 2010s, and the rising popularity of fusion dishes, like the Dishoom bacon naan or viral social media recipes like gochujang pasta.


In the face of these fast-moving trends, Olam Food Ingredients (OFI) has developed new AI technology that predicts upcoming food and flavour trends across the world. By scanning thousands of online recipes and menus, machine learning can gauge trends before they catch on with the general public.


“This is a big opportunity for food and beverage companies to get ahead, but first they need to be able to pair the right flavours and translate emerging trends into great-tasting products in the development kitchen,” said Edward Norder, who heads up OFI Europe, Middle East and North Africa.


So far, OFI’s AI research has found that Asian flavours like sesame, matcha and dragon fruit are gaining popularity in Europe, while Western flavours like butterscotch, black forest and cookies & cream have found a foothold in South Asia. OFI has used its AI technology to develop new cocoa flavours which are designed to pair with emerging trends. For example, dragon fruit, which is breaking through in the UK bakery industry, pairs with one of OFI’s cocoa powders, while black forest, which is gaining popularity in Indonesian beverages, compliments another.


These cultural crossovers — European flavour-infused dishes in Asia, and Asian flavour-infused dishes in Europe — give precedent for ever-widening supply chains to export new food pairings and collaborate with new markets.


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