As the Director of Marketing & Industry Affairs at Bell Flavors & Fragrances, Kelli Heinz works with flavorists, perfumers, and R & D teams to push the vanguard of scents and tastes. She spoke with Trend Hunter about searching out the trends that will impact our senses today and in the future.
TH: How do you identify trends? What resources do you and your team use to spot trends and insights?
KH: Bell created a trend program called ‘Spark’ about four years ago. It ignites your creativity and inspires your senses. We wanted to be able to have a trend program that encapsulated trends from both the flavor and fragrance side — many times they influence each other and overlap.
So we wanted to envision it like how a spark or a sparkler lights up: sometimes it can be long-lasting and sometimes it burns out quickly, but it always leaves a lasting imprint on you. That can be the same case with trends. There might be something that’s a one-hit wonder, or you might have something that grows and becomes commonplace, like sriracha. Both of those definitely have influence in the market and on how consumers perceive things, especially when it comes to food products or any kind of personal care fragrance products.
Each year we launch a new round of Spark trends, and we do about six flavor trends and six fragrance trends. It’s not really that they’re projected to be the trends for that year; it’s more of the trends we see in the market. Each trend might be in a different stage, it could be in infancy, developing, matured, or evolving into something else.
What are some barriers to innovation? How do you get around them?
Our biggest barrier in the beginning was creating a trend that affects all of our customers. Because something that’s going on in the savory market may not be happening in the confection market. So we really needed to think at a macro level to find trends that apply to everyone.
And then another thing with trends is that they’re simply hard to predict. A few years ago, before we started this Spark analysis program, we really thought Peruvian food was the next thing. It did take a spike in the market, but it didn’t really hit the way we — and many of our customers and competitors — expected it to. So sometimes you can be very accurate with trends, but no one has crystal ball.
And something can come out of nowhere and change everything! This is a different example, but Snapchat changed the whole way journalism was portrayed. No one saw that coming really, and it was hard to predict because, well, it hadn’t been created yet.
Has there ever been an instance where another industry has influenced an innovation at your company?
I think almost every industry influences us, mostly because you can flavor or fragrance so many things. Packaging definitely influences both sides, color influences the fragrance side (the Pantone color trends are definitely a big influence on what’s going to happen throughout the year.) Technology is always something to consider, because technology can change the marketplace and you could end up having a new technology that may need to recognize scents or flavors, or it does something for a product that has a scent or flavor. So adapting to technology is also really important.
What are some examples of things you can do to create a culture of innovation?
We’re constantly meeting with our R & D team as well as our perfumers and flavorists, both of those are very creative groups. We’re always trying to pick their brains to figure out what they see in the market. So we have a constant, ongoing discussion.
We also share interesting things that we find with each other all the time, whether it’s an article or a new launch of something, a trend report, to keep the lines of communication open. Marketing looks at it one way, R & D looks at it another way, the flavorists and perfumers look at it a different way, so combining those viewpoints gives us a good idea of what’s up and coming.
What do you think your industry will look like in 10 years?
The great thing about our industry is that everyone is going to need to eat in ten years, and people are probably going to still like smelling things [laughs]. So we probably won’t go out of business like some of the other industries — like car insurance might not be around because of automated cars. There are a lot of industries that may not be around in ten years. But human bodies I don’t see changing; there are cosmetic things I guess you could do, but we’re still going to smell and taste things. It might be enhanced more, but that need will still be there.
Who knows? Maybe when you open your Coke can, the aroma of Coke will come out too. I see products becoming much more sensorial; everything’s going to be a sensory experience, and people will want things to be over the top. What if you’re in you hotel room, and you can pick the fragrance you want your pillow to poof out at night? There are endless possibilities.
What’s the craziest thing you have done to get creative inspiration?
I’ve traveled quite a bunch for work and for fun. I try to find a new place to go to every year, usually a new country, just so I can learn about the different people there and how society is different in all parts of the world. It brings it all together when you back go home, to see how differently other people are living their lives, what the family life is like in other countries, the food, music, traffic even, just everything to do with the way of life.
I’ve also done trend excursions where I’ve tasted a lot of weird stuff. When I was in China I would always try to order the weirdest thing off the menu. Even the Chinese would be like, “She’s so brave! She eats everything!” [laughs] If there’s a new experience, I’m definitely the first one to raise my hand and try it out.