Firmenich, the world’s largest privately-owned fragrance and taste company, is excited to announce its 2023 Flavor of the Year, dragon fruit, celebrating consumers’ desire for exciting new ingredients and bold, adventurous flavor creation.
“This marks our 11th Flavor of the Year, which is something our customers have come to look forward to each year. Dragon fruit’s bold vibrancy is a perfect choice as we embark an exciting year of change,” said Maurizio Clementi, ad interim President, Firmenich’s Taste & Beyond division. “Our in-depth Human Insights have identified the strong shift towards wellbeing and sustainability in people’s food and beverage choices, as well as newly-emerging elevated expectations in terms of taste. As everything we do is rooted in nature and deep consumer understanding, this inspired us to choose a Flavor of the Year which captures both.”
Drawing Inspiration from Color & Trenz
This is the second consecutive year of a sensory partnership between Firmenich and Pantone®. The global color authority has just launched its 2023 Color of the Year, PANTONE® 18-1750 Viva Magenta™, which it describes as a “brave and fearless, a pulsating color whose exuberance promotes optimism and joy.” Mikel Cirkus, Global Creative Director for Taste & Beyond said: “In the same way that Pantone's Color of the Year captures the emerging themes seen in the world around us, our choice for Flavor of the Year does so by translating new signals into positive sensory experiences. Our 2023 choice of dragon fruit reflects the global consumer's increasingly adventurous palate and desire for the new or exotic when it comes to ingredients and taste.”
Jeff Schmoyer, Firmenich Global Head of Human Insights, said: “Dragon fruit’s subtle flavor creates a wonderful opportunity to bring the exceptional creativity and expertise of Firmenich’s Flavorists to the fore, providing the perfect canvas for them to dare to imagine bold, exciting and delicious new taste combinations.”
A Fruit by Any Other Name
Native to Central America, where it is known as Pitahaya, and thriving in tropical and subtropical climates across the world, dragon fruit’s flesh is rich in antioxidants and high in calcium. Dragon Fruit grows from a climbing cactus, making it a drought-resistant and naturally low water-use crop, requiring only a quarter of the water to grow compared to that of an avocado.
Much like the mystical creature that inspired its name, dragon fruit is fierce in appearance, with a scale-like skin in bold hues ranging from fiery yellow to bold magenta. However, its delicate flavor belies its imposing armor. With several different types varying in both color and taste, dragon fruit ranges in flavor from milder melon and kiwi-like to slightly sweeter berry profiles with notes of beetroot.
Enter the Dragon Fruit
Part of its industry-leading Human Insights capability, Firmenich’s Trenz™ forecasting team spotted a post-Covid rise in dragon fruit across almost every major city in the world. While always popular within niche segments, the exotic fruit began showing up more universally across diverse markets and food service venues, as well as product applications, from the more intuitive juices and smoothies to less traditional formats like tea and cooked savory dishes.
According to Mikel Cirkus, this is all part of a decade-long trend for boldness and discovery in food and drink. The pandemic increased the pace of this trend, with huge spikes in consumers broadening their palates for new seasoning. Notably, expenditures on spices & seasonings at home grew 27% CAGR1, Trenz™ found. New product innovation has followed, with on-pack claims such as “bold” and “exotic” up by 38% since 2017, and the use of three- and four-way flavor combinations in products now cresting over 25% of all Food & Beverage launches.
Firmenich’s renowned Emotions360 consumer research offered a second clue. This proprietary in-depth study of natural ingredients identified that people are very excited about dragon fruit. In fact, Emotions360’s latest wave, which surveyed 18,670 consumers across eight countries around the world, indicated that 88% of consumers have heard of dragon fruit, and 56% have tasted it. In terms of consumer perceptions, dragon fruit triggers associations with adjectives like bold, exotic, exciting, impressive and fun. Given this positive association, it’s not surprising that the same consumers ranked dragon fruit in the 90% percentile among all ingredients with a high likelihood to rise in popularity in the future.
1 Compound Annual Growth Rate (Source : Global Data LLC and Firmenich analytics)
A Fiery Future
As much as dragon fruit is on fire in juice bars, markets, and street vendors around the world, the packaged Food & Beverage world was initially slow to innovate around this trend. However, this trend is changing, with product launches containing dragon fruit callouts now accelerating in all regions. In fact, dragon fruit use in CPG (Consumer Packaged Goods) is growing more quickly in foods than beverages, where innovations typically appear first.
Firmenich, the world’s largest privately-owned perfume and taste company, launches Focus powered by EmotiCODE™, the first patent-pending fragrance design rules demonstrated to give consumers the benefit of improved focus and help them get into a state of flow. This new solution is the latest neuroscientific advancement and addition to the EmotiON program, bringing together proprietary consumer insights from across the world, cutting-edge neuroscientific research and the expertise of our perfumers, to deliver positive emotions to consumers.
Human responses to smell are at the root of consumers’ love for fragrances since scents can elicit emotions and evoke profound memories. In Firmenich’s global ‘New Next Now’ Barometer study1 on consumer insights, 73% of consumers say they “appreciate scent more than before” and 66% of consumers believe that fragrances can do more than “make products smell good” by providing added benefits. In fact, consumers are turning towards fragrance to provide holistic wellness solutions for mind and body, and help their overall mental well-being. Firmenich brings focus into peoples’ lives, through fragrance, which helps consumers achieve increased mental performance, making them more efficient in their tasks.
Firmenich has unlocked the code to Focus, thanks to an innovative three-step process:
1. Identify - Fragrances and emotions are intricately linked, as our sense of smell has a direct connection to the part of our brain that elicits emotions. Firmenich’s unique ScentMove® tool provides a template for verbalization of emotions and enables the evaluation of feelings elicited by odors and fragrances. Using a questionnaire based on this model, our Consumer Insights team were able to identify which emotions laddered up to Focus.
2. Create - Creation starts with unlocking EmotiCODE™, a set of design rules to create fragrances that evoke the emotional response linked to focus. Through the Artificial Intelligence model developed by Firmenich D-lab and leveraging on the unique IRIS database – an Interactive Research Intelligent System that stores data from more than 34,000 fragrances and over 1.9 million consumer interviews across 51 countries – these emotion-centered, fragrance design rules allow our perfumers to create fragrances shown to be associated with increased mental performance in cognitive tasks.
3. Certify – EmotiCODE™ Focus fragrances were tested for their impact on mental performance using two different cognitive tasks: the Stroop task (Stroop, 1935; MacLeod, 1991), a classical paradigm to measure interference and attention, and a mental arithmetic task that measures quantitative reasoning. These tests confirmed EmotiCODE™ Focus fragrances increased mental processing speed in both tasks, versus fragrances that did not use EmotiCODE™ creation rules and the control condition with no odor. The study confirms that a fragrance that was specifically designed to enhance Focus indeed boosted mental performance.
“At Firmenich, we have an industry-leading set of data, coming from extensive global research on consumer insights. We’ve done comprehensive analysis to be able study the emotional responses of humans to scents,” says Sarah Reisinger, Chief Research Officer. “For over 25 years, our scientists at Firmenich have been leading neuroscientific research on olfaction and emotion. Our research on scent perception and bioresponse is very extensive and paved the way for us to understand the transformation of molecular signals into odor, flavor and emotions. This is the foundation of our EmotiON program, which uses a range of R&D and market research tools to create a model or framework to identify, create and certify the emotional benefits of fragrance.”
There are many potential benefits that the Focus fragrance can bring in people’s homes, in their personal and shared spaces, and in their lives. “Focus is crucial to mental wellness,” says Ilaria Resta, President for Global Perfumery. “Now, for the first time ever, we can help consumers achieve focus, wherever they are, with fragrance. These fragrances can deliver related benefits, such as mental efficiency and clarity of mind, bringing the power of Positive Perfumery to consumers.”
Firmenich, the world’s largest privately-owned fragrance and taste company, is the first fragrance house to partner with the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), on the establishment of a scholarship created for BIPOC students. The Firmenich Foundation Diversity Scholarship at FIT aims to promote equal representation within the college’s undergraduate Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing (CFM) program and includes an internship and professional mentorship. The scholarship also provides tuition assistance for a graduate student in the Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing and Management master’s program.
Matthew Furner, President, The Firmenich Charitable Foundation, said: “Firmenich is a proud leader with EDGE (Economic Dividends for Gender Equality) certification, and has long prioritized an inclusive culture through diversity in its workforce, an absence of gender wage gaps as well as equitable recruitment, training, and mentorship programs. Building on this ethos, we’re thrilled to offer our first ever Firmenich Foundation Diversity Scholarship with FIT, which has been a leader in nurturing diverse talent while maximizing their professional potential. Together, we aim to set a high standard of excellence, encouraging the beauty and fashion community to reflect the perspectives and aspirations of our consumers.”
With this commitment, Firmenich hopes to alleviate obstacles and help accelerate racially and ethnically diverse talent advancement from the classroom to executive level. Robin Mason, President North America for Fine Fragrance, said: “As a proud alumnus of the FIT Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing bachelor’s degree program, I’m humbled to play a part in creating opportunity for the next generation of fragrance leaders. By prioritizing representation in our industry through academia, we help foster a crucial educational environment, otherwise seen as inaccessible. At Firmenich, we hope these efforts will champion ambitious students, helping them to thrive and surpass their personal benchmarks, setting the foundation for a successful trajectory ahead.”
"We are deeply grateful for Firmenich's commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion by establishing scholarship support for students of the Cosmetics and Fragrance bachelor’s and master’s programs at FIT,” said Dr. Joyce F. Brown, President of FIT. "This generous gift from Firmenich will transform the lives of deserving students through extraordinary educational and career opportunities, while helping to ensure that the fragrance industry represents and champions diversity in all its forms."
Jerry Vittoria, Firmenich President of Fine Fragrance Worldwide and The Fragrance Foundation Chairman, said: “The Fragrance Foundation also supports a scholarship at FIT and I’m elated to work with two fragrance industry leaders which are taking steps to pave the path for a new generation of diverse and talented industry experts through FIT’s Cosmetics and Fragrance Programs.”
In addition to a passion for the fragrance industry, scholarship applicants must meet certain academic criteria and present letters of recommendation to show their dedication to the cosmetic and fragrance marketing field of study. Alyssa Burch, a senior in the FIT program, was recently named the 2022 recipient. “As the beauty industry constantly changes, there is one thing that remains true: no matter your background, creativity thrives when everyone brings their diverse ideas to the table,” said Burch.
Established in 2010, the Firmenich Charitable Foundation was created to support the company’s philanthropic work. A separate legal entity from the business group, the Foundation is grounded in its responsible business culture and driven by a long Firmenich family tradition of giving within the communities Firmenich operates in. Today the Foundation is aligned with the Group’s ESG ambitions, placing a clear focus on supporting people, planet, and local communities. Learn more about The Firmenich Foundation here: www.Firmenich.com/FirmenichFoundation.