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Natural Cinnamon Flavor | Trends & Innovation

Cinnamon has been indispensable in food and beverage applications for countless generations, and is a mainstay in many comfort food flavor blends. With its natural appeal and versatile flavor profile, natural cinnamon flavor deserves a deeper look. Join us on a journey to discover innovative applications for this popular and ancient flavor. Get ready for a delightfully spicy taste experience!

young boy in winter holding a cinnamon roll
Cinnamon’s enduring popularity stems from its distinctive, sweet-spicy flavor & aromatic warmth, making it a cherished ingredient through the ages.

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Where does cinnamon flavor come from?

Cinnamon is derived from a tropical evergreen tree species known as Cinnamomum. This tree, native to Sri Lanka and South India, reaches up to 10–15 meters in height. Unlike seed or fruit spices, the magic of cinnamon lies in its bark. The inner bark is harvested during the rainy season when it’s supple and full of flavor. It’s then rolled into sticks or ground into powder, ready to add its spicy-sweet, warming natural flavor to all kinds of food and beverage applications. Harvesting and processing cinnamon is no easy task, but its distinctive taste makes it well worth the effort.

Cinnamon cultivation in Sri Lanka goes back over 2,000 years. This spice was considered a precious commodity in ancient civilizations, often reserved for rulers and deities. It made its way through the spice routes, catching the attention of the Romans, Greeks, and Chinese. Widely appreciated for its medicinal properties and flavor-enhancing abilities, cinnamon became a staple in both the ancient kitchen and the pharmacy.

Cinnamon Coffee Cake
Cinnamon is a favorite spice for enhancing the taste of breads, cookies, pies, and other sweet treats.

Fast-forward to the Middle Ages, and cinnamon was still holding its ground as a high-value ingredient. It gained popularity in Europe, where it found its way into religious rituals and aristocratic cooking. Fifteenth century explorers were driven by the allure of cinnamon and other exotic spices, leading to a surge in global exploration and trade. Cinnamon spice continues to enchant us with its iconic flavor and timeless appeal.

What does natural cinnamon flavor taste like?

There are different varieties of cinnamon, each with its own unique natural flavor profile. Here are four of the most common types of cinnamon:

  • Ceylon Cinnamon (True Cinnamon): Originating in Sri Lanka and South India, Ceylon is considered the “true cinnamon.” Its delicate, sweet flavor, with subtle hints of fruit and clove, make it a favorite in desserts, pastries, and lighter dishes. It’s also perfect for subtle infusion in beverage applications.
  • Cassia Cinnamon (Chinese Cinnamon): This cinnamon, most commonly found in North America, has a stronger, more assertive flavor compared to the Ceylon variety. Its bold, spicy-sweet profile makes it suitable for dishes that require a significant cinnamon punch, like robust sauces, savory dishes, and spiced beverages.
  • Saigon Cinnamon (Vietnamese Cinnamon): Known for its robust and spicy profile, this variety has a high oil content that delivers a strong cinnamon flavor. It’s a great choice for dishes where cinnamon is a key player, particularly in bakery applications and bold, spiced beverages.
  • Korintje Cinnamon (Indonesian Cinnamon): This variety has a slightly milder flavor than its Saigon sibling but still packs a flavorful punch. Its sweet-spicy profile makes it a versatile choice for both sweet and savory applications. It’s widely used in spice blends and provides an excellent base for creating flavor profiles in various food and beverage applications.

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cinnamon churros, natural churro flavor

What makes organic cinnamon flavor different

In the past few decades, an emphasis on sustainable farming practices has contributed to the rise in organic cinnamon flavor. Organic cinnamon cultivation is a task that requires both precision and patience. The process begins with farmers planting the seeds of the cinnamon tree and nurturing them with organic fertilizers free from harsh chemicals. The trees are allowed to grow for two years before the first harvest. Harvesting involves cutting down the tree, removing the outer bark and scraping off the inner bark. The cinnamon bark naturally curls into quills, or cinnamon sticks, as it dries. By using organic methods, farmers ensure that the natural cinnamon flavor nuances are preserved, the final product is free of any chemical residues, and the land it is cultivated on is protected for generations to come.

Harvesting cinnamon requires hard labor and generations of local skill.

Natural cinnamon flavor for food

Cinnamon has been a popular flavor for a very long time! Classic uses for natural cinnamon flavor are on nearly every grocery store aisle. It’s the star of the show in bakery applications, lending its characteristic warmth and sweetness to cinnamon rolls, apple pies, snickerdoodles, and cinnamon raisin bread. Cinnamon flavor adds a familiar touch to breakfast cereals and nutritional bars, infusing them with a hint of spice for a flavorful morning meal or on-the-go snack.

Cinnamon Apple Oatmeal, natural cinnamon flavor
A staple ingredient, cinnamon brings a comforting, familiar sweetness to a variety of breakfast foods and beverages.

Natural cinnamon flavor for beverages

Beverages are no stranger to natural cinnamon flavor. Cinnamon stars in chai tea, horchata, coffee lattes, mulled wine, Mexican hot chocolate, and apple cider. Cinnamon-infused chocolates demonstrate how cinnamon can add nuanced complexity to the rich, bittersweet, and roasted notes of cocoa powder and dark chocolate. All these applications benefit from the use of natural or organic cinnamon flavor, which helps standardize the flavor profile and enhance the overall flavor impact.

Cinnamon Cocktail
Cinnamon enhances cocktails with its warm spicy undertone, adding a festive twist to libations.

Why is cinnamon spicy?

Cinnamon’s unique spiciness is not only due to its aromatic properties but also its chemesthetic characteristics. Natural cinnamon flavor delivers a warm, tingling sensation that at lower levels elicits feelings of comfort and nostalgia (apple cider) and at higher levels delivers a sharp and invigorating punch (cinnamon whiskey).

Cinnamaldehyde, the organic compound found in the bark of cinnamon trees, causes most of this warming sensation. Cinnamaldehyde reacts with our sensory neurons, triggering a sensation similar to heat. It’s this chemesthetic property that helps cinnamon create multidimensional sensory experiences. Understanding and leveraging cinnamon’s chemesthetic properties can help food and beverage developers craft innovative, sensory-rich products, such as zero proof beverages that authentically mimic alcohol burn.

Baked Apples Stuffed With Granola and cinnamon
In savory dishes, cinnamon brings an unexpected depth and complexity to everything from slow-cooked meats to robust vegetable concoctions.

Health benefits of cinnamon

Cinnamon contains a wealth of potential health benefits, too. For starters, powerful antioxidants like polyphenols may help protect the body against oxidative damage. Anti-inflammatory properties can help the body fight infections and repair tissue damage. Additionally, cinnamon has been linked to heart health. Studies suggest cinnamon can reduce levels of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides, while maintaining levels of the “good” HDL cholesterol. It’s even been associated with blood sugar control, inspiring recommendations for individuals with type 2 diabetes. All these potential health benefits make natural cinnamon a wise, multifaceted choice for food and beverage applications that promise not just great taste, but functional benefits too.

Cinnamon Pumpkin Dish, health benefits of cinnamon

Innovative cinnamon flavor trends

So, what new things can you flavor with cinnamon? Cinnamon’s warm, spicy sweetness can be the secret ingredient in some truly innovative food and beverage applications. Let’s dive into some out-of-the-box ideas where natural cinnamon flavor makes a splash.

Cinnamon food trends

  • Cinnamon Basil Gelato: This unique fusion brings a sweet-spicy twist to classic gelato. Natural cinnamon flavor deepens the sweetness of the traditional Italian dessert, while the basil adds a refreshing anise-tinged herbal note. Korintje or Cassia cinnamon are our recommendations for this exciting application.
  • Cinnamon Apricot BBQ Sauce: The sweet, warm spice of cinnamon adds depth to the smoky, tangy, and fruity notes of tomato and apricot in this innovative BBQ sauce. This bold blend is a good candidate for Korintje or Saigon cinnamon.
  • Cinnamon Maple Popcorn: Natural cinnamon flavor is a delightful companion to the sweet, caramelic notes of maple in this upgraded popcorn treat. We recommend trying Cassia cinnamon flavor for a crowd-pleasing popcorn.
  • Cinnamon Spiced Beet Soup: Earthy beets paired with warm, aromatic cinnamon flavor result in a soup that’s both nourishing and satisfying. Either the mild touch of Ceylon or the sharp spiciness of Saigon cinnamon can work in this savory application.
  • Cinnamon Chocolate Avocado Mousse: This creative dessert marries the creamy texture of avocado with the rich decadence of chocolate and the spicy sweetness of cinnamon. Higher fat content and stronger flavors call for a robust cinnamon – try Saigon for this innovative dessert.
  • Cinnamon Orange Matcha Mochi: This novel mochi combines the fragrant citrus flavor of orange with the earthy notes of matcha for a delightful and chewy treat. Try the milder Ceylon cinnamon flavor in this application.

Cinnamon beverage trends

  • Cinnamon Currant Cider: The warm, spicy notes of cinnamon perfectly balance the tartness of currants, creating a cozy and invigorating beverage that’s perfect for chilly weather. Try Ceylon or Cassia cinnamon flavor for a well-rounded flavor profile.
  • Cinnamon Black Cherry Shrub: This trendy beverage combines tart black cherries, aromatic natural cinnamon flavor, and a touch of vinegar to deliver a complex, yet balanced, sweet-tart flavor profile. Korintje or Saigon cinnamon would stand up well to the sharp acidity and strong fruit flavors in this beverage application.
  • Cinnamon Mushroom Adaptogen Coffee: This unusual blend brings the aromatic richness of cinnamon together with the earthy tones of Lions Mane mushroom, creating a wellness-boosting coffee that’s both comforting and stimulating. We recommend the robust profile of Saigon cinnamon for this application.
  • Cinnamon Pineapple Smoothie: Tropical pineapple and warm cinnamon come together in a smoothie that’s fruity-sweet and sweetly spicy. Ceylon is a great cinnamon variety to try in this application.
  • Cinnamon Turmeric Latte: The spicy-sweetness of natural cinnamon complements the earthy, slightly bitter taste of turmeric in this wellness-focused latte. Ceylon cinnamon is a good choice for this application.
  • Cinnamon Apple Kombucha: This fermented tea beverage gets a flavor boost with the addition of apple and cinnamon, resulting in a tangy, sweet, and slightly spicy drink. Classic cassia is our cinnamon of choice for this application.

Try natural cinnamon flavor

The versatility of natural cinnamon flavor in food and beverage applications is truly remarkable. Its unique balance of sweet and spicy can bring a fresh twist to classic concoctions and inspire innovative creations. As we’ve seen, cinnamon harmonizes beautifully with a variety of ingredients. Embrace the warm, complex notes of cinnamon and let its natural sweetness surprise your taste buds and customers alike!

Looking for natural and organic cinnamon flavor?  Request a sample today and start using the best cinnamon flavor in your products! 

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Food and beverage development services

We hope these ideas help launch your next iconic flavor!  Blue Pacific Flavors has been a leader in flavor trends and food and beverage innovation since 1993.  Learn more about our product development services in this video.

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