Liquid Thinking

Cherry, Cherry

The (nostalgic) flavour trend of the season

30th March 2022

Forget tropical. Move over orange. Nostalgic, pink, but still refreshing, cherry seems to tick all the boxes when it comes to flavour trends for summer and spring. Accordingly, it’s popping up across everything from soft drinks, to spritzes and even rum and whisky. Why?

Millennials may no longer be the shiny great hope of marketing teams everywhere, as they age out of coolness and their zeitgeist altering capabilities diminish. It happens to us all. But one of their seeming enduring legacies alongside a love of beards, great coffee, avocados, and craft beer, has been the colour pink.

Indeed, named in their honour, Millennial pink has never fallen from its perch as the trending shade for liquids, soft furnishings, clothing, and packaging, since it rose to prominence around five years ago. Colour merchants Pantone have named hues of ultra-violet, yellow, and pistachio as its successor for colour of the year since, but none have stuck quite like pink has.

And so, is it really any surprise that the flavour that’s set to define launches over the spring and summer of 2022, largely has the same hue? Yes, cherry – a flavour that by turns can be tart, sour, sweet or refreshing – is emerging as a frontrunner for flavour of the season. Let’s look at the evidence.

It starts with gin

And – as the category where you rightly most expect to see it – let’s start with gin. If Diageo are tipping a trend and indeed investing heavily in it, it’s time to pay attention. Alongside Tropical Passionfruit, it has added a Morello Cherry flavour to its Gordon’s gin range to cater for the seemingly endless demand of UK consumers for flavoured gins.

Also in the Diageo stable – and demonstrating the spread of flavours across all categories – comes the launch in the US of Captain Morgan Cherry Vanilla. Hoping to spur experimentation from mixologists and consumers at home-alike, it says the launch was informed by the power of cherry to tap into comforting nostalgia. Suggested serves include a coke-float, with ice cream.

"Captain Morgan has a history of experimenting with new flavors. For Cherry Vanilla we used inspiration from the past to create something new," said Sam Salameh, Vice President, Captain Morgan. "We wanted to give people the comfort of a flavor they love, our spiced rum, with a twist that would inspire experimentation whether an ice cream float or their own personal creation."

Unexpected categories

In recent times, RTDs have never been far from the picture when it comes to leading new launches. For cherry, that’s no different. But what is unexpected are the brands and categories taking the flavour up. Beam Suntory has added it to its Sauza tequila brand for its Agave Cocktails range, with flavour Black Cherry Smash.

And Mike’s Hard Lemonade says it is responding to demand for nostalgic flavours with its Slushie drink inspired range. Its collection of four “refreshing, throwback flavors” have been launched according to the brand, following insight that more than 70% of consumers crave nostalgic flavours, “reminding them of simpler times and carefree days”. Flavour, Red Freeze, is described as “just like the classic red cherry berry slushy you remember, now liquified. Perfectly balanced sweetness and tartness for super refreshment.”

Dark spirits dabble with flavour

But it’s not just global leaders or bigger brands playing with the flavour. Trickling down into the world of craft spirits, it’s being taken on by dark spirits makers, though it’s being taken in a less sweet, though no less nostalgic direction. Portland’s Eastside Distilling has recently launched a whiskey inspired by Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur. Though the liqueur itself is bitter, the resulting whiskey is intended to be approachable, with its notes of dry figs, oak tannins, cherry, vanilla, and yes, pie crust.

Cultural nostalgia

Cherry pie may be a specifically American nostalgia, but UK producers are now riffing on equally culturally engaging equivalents. Flavoured cider makers Brothers has created a Cherry Bakewell variant, inspired by the British cake. Which is interesting. Though the brand itself is arguably aimed squarely at LDA consumers, looking for sweet, non-challenging flavours, and has a deliberately vibrant, sometimes provocative image, it is reaching too for nostalgia. Rather than seeming old fashioned and outdated, it seems in these times, nostalgia instead is being viewed as both playful and comforting.

In its trend report for 2022 UK supermarket Waitrose called out nostalgic desserts as a trend to watch. Describing them as fun, comforting and easy, they cited a consumer desire after the events of the past two years, to return to simpler times. Particularly popular, it says, are school-dinner style desserts.

Simple times equal happiness?

Slushies too, seem to tap into what is becoming clear is a specifically childhood-related nostalgia, where consumers can comfortingly reimagine carefree days, and notably, a lack of responsibility, shielded from the complications and troubles of the world. Now with outbreak of war in Ukraine, that desire to return to lighter, happier times in ever more understandable.

As we emerge from the restrictions, and dire headlines surrounding Covid, into an era of genuine concern around world peace, expect that desire to become ever stronger. Cherry will continue to spread across more drinks categories, however brand’s references to its place in nostalgic and comforting puddings and desserts may be called out more strongly with specific versions of them.

Expect some return to the Pinnacle, Three Olives and Skyy Vodka-led era of birthday cake, pumpkin pie, and whipped cream era of dessert flavours. Except, in this health-led era, brands still need to be mindful of seeming to offer a least a little wellness-led nostalgia. Refreshment, low ABV, and low calorie products that seem to offer it all, will emerge as the trend continues to deepen.

Interested in finding out more about what this might mean for you and your business?

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