Why so many wacky food mashups have taken over store shelves, from Sour Patch Kids Oreos to Pepsi Maple Syrup

Van Leeuwen Ice Cream typically draws customers with gourmet takes on classic ice creams like vanilla and pistachio. But every once in a while, the New York-based artisanal ice cream maker sneaks in a so-called “shock flavor,” like Hidden Valley Ranch or pizza.

Amazing flavor combinations – think gravy jones Soda or Sour Patch Kid’s Oreos are becoming more common in grocery stores and restaurant chains.

Hershey recently launched a pink lemonade-flavored Kit Kat, while iHop and Lay’s launched Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity Potato Chips, which taste like a strawberry-topped pancake with a hint of bacon. was released. In the UK, Little Moons will be making fish and chip mochi ice cream in 2021, and potato chip brand Walkers is known for celebrating Christmas with a Brussels sprout-flavored version.

Van Leeuwen Ice Cream typically draws customers with gourmet twists on classic ice cream flavors like vanilla and pistachio, but their macaroni and cheese might be a bit more unique. van leewen

Usually these are Limited time flavorHowever, sometimes they’re so popular that they stay on store shelves forever, as was the case with Lay’s Flamin’ Hot Dill Pickle Chips in 2019.

It’s tempting to dismiss these as social media stunts, but experts say there’s a deeper meaning to the story. Food companies are responding to changing and expanding consumer tastes while also striving to keep their brands relevant and unique in order to win space on crowded store shelves.

“We’re in a very exciting time in flavor development where the consumer is not singular. You’re not just a sour lover or a sweet lover. You want a little bit of this, a little bit of that.” said Kristen Brown, senior brand manager for Oreo innovation at the Chicago-based food and beverage company. Mondelēz International“Companies are finding the freedom to explore a little more and be more creative.”

Sour Patch Kids Oreos – vanilla cream-filled cookies dotted with colorful sour candies – are one of about 12 limited edition varieties. oreo flavor Mondelez plans to release it this year. Brown said the company takes one to two years to develop a product like this, and the product will be in stores for about nine weeks. She’s already thinking about future flavors that blur the lines between sweet, salty and spicy.

Oreo teamed up to create Sour Patch Kids Cookies. AP

Strange combinations are nothing new in the food and beverage industry. For example, Hubba Bubba introduced a bubblegum-flavored soda in the late 1980s. But as manufacturers and their suppliers have become more sophisticated and efficient, they can experiment more and issue limited editions more often, says Mark, a food marketing expert and associate professor of marketing at the University of Tampa. Lang said.

Kyle Shaddix, a corporate executive research chef at PepsiCo who has been involved in the development of beverages such as Pepsi Maple Syrup and Strawberry Shortcake Pepsi sold in Japan, says members of Generation Z are also driving innovation. he said. They are diverse, adventurous and quick to catch food trends through social media, he said.

“They’re every chef’s dream,” Shaddix said. He is currently experimenting with a variety of Mexican, Korean, and Japanese flavors. “Gen Z is going to make us go faster. They’re so open that we’re going to see a lot more exploration happening sooner than ever before.”

try flavors You can strengthen your brand in several ways. Sometimes it brings new customers to the brand. It could also encourage shoppers to buy the original flavor, said Russell Zwanka, director of the Food Marketing Program at Western Michigan University.

“Sour Patch Oreos look interesting, but no one wants to risk buying Oreos that don’t taste good, so people buy both,” Zwanka says.

When companies combine brands, they are trying to build associations in the minds of consumers. peeps flavor Pepsi, launched last year, sends a message that Pepsi is modern and fun, Lang said.mustard flavor skittlesLaunched last summer, this 104-year-old French brand looked playful.

Kraft Heinz approached Van Leeuwen Ice Cream a few years ago about macaroni and cheese flavored ice cream. Ben Van Leeuwen, the company’s co-founder and CEO, was skeptical at first, but then realized that Kraft’s powder blended well with the Brooklyn-based company’s ice cream. .

Pepsi Maple Syrup arrived in 2022 in IHOP restaurants nationwide. business wire
KitKat previously announced a pink lemonade-flavored chocolate candy. hershey company

Van Leeuwen’s Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Ice Cream was released in 2021 to positive reviews and was briefly re-released last fall.

“We only create shock flavors if we can make them something with great character. We don’t create shock flavors that are just shocking in name but taste like vanilla,” Van Leeuwen says. said.

But novel flavor combinations don’t always work. Van Leeuwen was only able to eat a few bites of the company’s Hidden Valley Ranch ice cream, which contains onion powder and garlic powder. And shock flavors typically aren’t on the permanent menu because they’re less “palatable,” he said.

“You taste our macaroni and cheese and think, ‘Oh, that’s delicious.’ But do you want to grab a pint of macaroni and cheese from the freezer and eat it all while watching something on Netflix? ? Probably not,” Van Leeuwen said.

Candy brand Brach’s ran into that problem with Turkey Dinner Candy Corn, a limited-edition 2021 version of the fall classic that tastes like turkey, stuffing, green beans, cranberry sauce, apple pie, and coffee. Katie Duffy, vice president and general manager of seasonal divisions for Ferrara Candy Co., which owns Brach’s, acknowledged there was a “gross-out” factor.

“We’ve learned from consumers that you don’t want someone to just eat a few candies and then throw them away, because that’s something you don’t want to repeat,” Duffy said. “You want it to be a delicious taste journey.”

Brach’s recently introduced Easter brunch flavored jelly beans, which met that goal, she said. Candy beans mimicked the flavors of blueberry maple pancakes, chocolate donuts, caramel cold brew, cinnamon rolls, berry smoothies, and mimosa cocktails.

CEO Ben Van Leeuwen scoops Kraft Mac & Cheese ice cream in Brooklyn. AP

Shannon Weiner, Ferrara’s senior director of insights and analytics, said the company closely tracks social media to understand what flavors are trending. More people are asking for desserts and dairy-flavored candies, he said. Also in demand are international flavors like Tajín, a Mexican chili-lime spice brand that recently collaborated with Pop-Tarts.

Lang believes that as people spend more time in restaurants and try new foods, they will seek out unusual flavors.

“We are diversity-seeking animals. We are always looking for something new and different. It’s in our wiring,” he said. “We like to experiment.”