There was a time when alcohol basically meant straight up tastes, mainly on the rocks, and the simplest of mixtures, such as the classic G&T, or the Cuba Libre. Nonetheless, these days seem to be far behind us, and today’s consumers increasingly experiment with new ingredients and versions of their classic favorite drinks. In this context, according to recent analysis published by Diageo in collaboration with Ai Palette, there are five key spirits flavor trends expected to dominate consumption this summer and beyond.

Umami Universe

Umami, also known as the ‘fifth sense’, traditionally enhances the flavor profile of an alcoholic beverage and reflects consumers’ growing curiosity to learn about different cultures. In particular, the use of turmeric has increased significantly in the UK (+79%), with consumers growingly appreciating its health and flavour benefits in cocktails, including Margaritas. In addition, the new “Parmesan Espresso Martini” which has become quite well known in the USA (+12%) and is part of the Starbucks menu, makes an impression. Tahini (+45%) is also gaining traction in the US, reflecting the rise of Asian culture and a growing desire to consume new products -conversations also increase about the Korean paste Gochujang (+55%). Overall, the rise of Korean culture, exemplified by K-Pop’s export value and ‘Squid Game’ being Netflix’s most-watched show ever, highlights that consumers are seeking experiences that go beyond regular life, often inspired by diverse cultural traditions. This trend isn’t exclusive to Korea; the growing interest in Indian and Japanese lifestyle reflects society’s increasing curiosity in ‘Unique Products and Experiences’ linked to Asian culture, so it’s no coincidence that local Umami flavours like Gochujang and Tahini are also booming.

Spicy Spark

Spicy flavors are growing in popularity in the cocktail and beverage scene. With an impressive 15% of global consumers searching for greater excitement when socializing, vibrant cultures, like Mexican, are being incorporated into our daily lives, giving Latin and Tex-Mex tastes a heads-up in comparison with milder tastes such as the formerly ultra popular Italian. In particular, Jalapeño is a strong ingredient in cocktails, which is being increasingly discussed in the UK (+32%), Canada (+27%) and the US (+25%). Habanero, Aji Amarillo, and other Latin-inspired flavours are popular infusions for bartenders, with Italian chilli Pepperoncini experiencing a 53% growth in conversations in Australia. Last, but not least, Chilli, an equally popular flavour enjoyed in various ways, is today the fastest-growing flavour in the US (+36%).

Tropical Takeover

Adventurous and exotic experiences, known for the enjoyment and lightness they bring in everyday life, are causing a resurgence in tropical-based food and beverages. Furthermore, the rise of social media has exposed more people to ingredients like tamarind and guava, sparking both curiosity and the desire to experiment. The trigger for this has been the pandemic and lockdowns that frustrated societies, making ever more people eager to make up for missed adventures (almost a third of Brits aged 18-35 seeking activities like safari and island hopping when travelling according to YouGov). Tropical flavours deliver bursts of excitement that are hard to resist, with fruits like guava, passionfruit, and pineapple also aligning with consumers’ increasing focus on health benefits.

African Tamarind seams to be stealing the cocktail spotlight, with conversations about it up in the US (+50%), UK (+27%), and Brazil (+24%). Guava is having a moment in the UK, with conversations about it up 18% as people incorporate it in juices, eat it dried as a snack, and enjoy it in cocktails. As for the long-term popular Passionfruit, consumers are increasingly discussing its favourability in China (+14%) and Thailand (+25%).

Treating Temptation

New textures and innovative methods are transforming stereotypical ‘treating flavours’ into multi-layered experiences. In that context, 63%* of global consumers state that enjoying life’s little pleasures has become more important, choosing to savour moments at a slower pace. Indulgent, treat-focused beverages like the Espresso Martini and Affogato, dubbed ‘Fashion’s Favourite Dessert’ by Vogue, are gaining momentum, and even starting to replace traditional desserts – expect to see these become a staple part of celebrations.

Coffee-based cocktails are growing in demand globally (+12% in the UK), with the Latin American Carajillo growing by 118% and the iced Espresso Martini growing by 37% in Australia. Other flavors in this category that are in high demand worldwide in the spirits category are hazelnut (+91%), nutmeg (+78%), walnut (+50%) and cocoa (+18%).

Bloom Harvest

Already dominant in the world of fashion (the 2024 Met Gala theme was ‘The Garden of Time’, and in the UK, there’s a long waiting list for allotments and a 172% increase in searches for ‘how to forage’), the florals and the nature-inspired are set to dominate spirits and cocktail mixology, adding the sustainable and loccally sourced trend to the mix. Research says consumers are increasingly searching for ‘Betterment Brands’, with global conversations regarding locally sourced ingredients up 44% as society searches for goods that reflect their sustainable values. That said, Rhubarb is gaining momentum in Canada (+36%), Brazil (+23%), and the UK (+7%), in both sweet or savoury food and drink, Elderflower has become a popular ingredient, with consumers in the UK actively infusing it with gin and conversations about it being up 67% in France, and Hibiscus is the fifth fastest emerging trend in Thailand (+90), with it also popular in Mexico (+49%), the US (+15%), and the UK (+14%).

About the Forecast

Diageo’s ‘Flavour Forecast’ combines each flavour trend with insights from the company’s ‘Foresight System’, a digital tool first introduced within their inaugural consumer trends report ‘Distilled’, that monitors and tracks global conversations from web sources and social media platforms.

These insights explain what broader consumer trends are causing the popularity of these flavours. For example, consumers searching for ‘Betterment Brands’ that match their personal eco-conscious values is driving interest in locally sourced Bloom Harvest ingredients, or global desires for ‘Unique Products and Experiences’ driving curiosity in diverse, Umami flavours.

With Ai Palette identifying trends across food and beverage, and the company’s insights covering consumer trends that are relevant to any industry, Diageo’s ‘Flavour Forecast’ provides essential reading for any brand in the food and beverage sector looking for innovation inspiration.