drinks in glasses

Multi-Sensory Food Trends Picking Up Steam Heading into 2021

Fizzy coconut water kefir, hot chile pepper donuts, and black charcoal ice cream are some of the bold approaches to engaging more of the consumers’ senses. Explore why multi-sensory foods and beverages are attracting more consumers and why this trend is expected to grow in the new year.

Why Interest in Multi-Sensory Food Experiences is Expected to Grow

The focus on providing a heightened sensory experience makes multi-sensory foods one of the more exciting consumer trends for the upcoming year. Manufacturers that succeed here go beyond taste, smell, and appearance to consider things like the way a product feels and sounds. They may also deliver the unexpected—like dried rose petals in a chocolate bar—to create a more memorable experience.

chocolate pieces

Products that offer new experiences have traditionally been the purview of foodies and so-called adventurous consumers. But wide-scale shutdowns due to COVID-19 are having ripple effects that are expanding the consumer base for multi-sensory food experiences. For example, with more people staying in, there’s been an uptick in creative food and beverage preparation at home—especially by home bakers, baristas, and mixologists—and viewership of popular food channels like the Food Network has surged.

In addition, the reduced access to favorite restaurants, cafes, and bars (that could previously be counted on to deliver engaging dining experiences) has created a new opportunity for retail products that can fill this void. Increased isolation has also led people to struggle with boredom or restlessness, with many turning to food for comfort.

Multi-Sensory Food and Beverage Trends for 2021

Here’s a look at specific consumer trends in multi-sensory foods and beverages with high growth potential for the upcoming year:


Consumers’ interest in indulgent comfort foods is going strong during the COVID-19 pandemic and so is their interest in snacking. Snackfections are the perfect solution. These confection-snack hybrids address consumers’ desire for a sweet chocolate treat with the added sensory excitement of crunchy nuts, pretzels, or cookie bits. The use of contrasting textures and flavors can create a more interesting and satisfying eating experience for consumers.

Superhot Peppers

From sriracha to gochujang sauce, consumers’ appetite for hot chili peppers is fierce. Companies are using hot peppers to add flavor and burn to chips, pretzels, sauces, jams, jerky, coffee, chocolate, chewing gum, bakery products, and more. Now the superhot chili peppers such as ghost pepper, scorpion pepper, and the Carolina Reaper are making inroads into mainstream products, driven by the growing consumer interest in extreme sensory experiences.

chili flakes on spoon

Effervescent Beverages

Consumers no longer have to rely on soft drinks or alcohol to get that fun, fizzy sensation. Kombucha, sparkling tea, and nitro cold brew coffee are a few of the newer and healthier options available. Whether the tiny bubbles are produced through carbonation, nitrogenation, or natural fermentation, they contribute an exciting mouthfeel, as well as visual and auditory interest. Effervescent beverages appeal as a treat that consumers can’t easily make for themselves at home.

Addressing Consumer Trends

There are so many ways for manufacturers to boost the sensory appeal of their products: dramatic color, spicy or cooling sensations, contrasting textures, and interactive packaging, to name a few. Impulse items like snacks, confections, and ready-to-drink beverages may hold the greatest potential for a multi-sensory makeover. However, attention to the total sensory experience is also important wherever sensory qualities might be impacted by nutrition targets like low sugar, low fat, or high protein.

Whether formulating indulgent treats or better-for-you beverages, engaging consumers through their senses is always a winning strategy. From our extruded Crunchie™ Milk Protein Bites and Crisps for use as a snack or inclusion to StimuFlav™, innovative flavor systems that you can feel, we have solutions to support your next multi-sensory project as well as a host of additional nutritional solutions. Contact us to learn more about our solutions and how we can assist you on your next project. 

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