Pink sakura is a blossoming flavor trend in pastry and chocolate

18 Apr 2024

Trend Updates
Hype & Trend Signal

The cherry blossoms called sakura encapsulate the essence of spring for the Japanese. Besides admiring the dramatic cherry trees in bloom, eating sakura-flavored foods is a way to celebrate the new season. 

Although Japan is still the largest market for sakura-flavored foods, we are seeing an increase in online discussions about cherry blossom flavor around the world. After Japan, pink flower foods are provoking the most discussions in the US, Spain, France and China. Why exactly has the delicate blossom taste captivated the imaginations of patissiers, chocolatiers and R&D professionals? 

The streets of Tokyo are filled with soft pink floral drinks and snacks in spring, but they can also be found on supermarket shelves abroad. Enter the search terms ‘Japan + spring’ in Google and you’ll find pretty much exclusively dreamy soft pink imagery. Consumers around the world are mesmerized by the dreamy looks and the Japanese flair of sakura.  

Let's delve into the origins, applications and some examples of the sakura trend in pastry and chocolate.

The origin of sakura

The cherry blossom isn’t popular just because of its beauty. The cultural significance in Japan dates back thousands of years. To the Japanese, the sakura blossoms represent the transient nature of life, beauty and renewal, making them a cherished cultural symbol. 

Sakura-flavored foods have been around for quite some time. Think of liqueur steeped with cherry blossoms, rice with salted cherry blossoms and sakura mochi, a Japanese sweet consisting of sweet glutinous rice cake filled with sweetened red bean paste (anko) and wrapped in a pickled cherry blossom leaf. 

Sakura mochi

What flavor is sakura?

Cherry blossom has a very gentle aroma and flavor. Many say that sakura’s subtle charm is reminiscent of the joy of spring. The delicate taste has floral notes and a hint of sweetness. Contrary to what you might expect, the cherry blossom leaf has a stronger flavor than the flower. 

Use of cherry blossom in food

The cherry blossom season lasts no longer than a couple of weeks and the flowers are frail, so most of the sakura food applications don’t come from fresh produce. Traditionally, the cherry blossom petals and leaves are pickled in salt and vinegar to conserve them. The leaves are then used as a wrap for mochi or glutinous rice desserts and the flowers serve as flavoring and decoration for pastries. Freeze-dried sakura is perfect for drinks showing whole flowers or petals and as decoration. But sakura powder is most often used, as it offers both color and a gentle flavor to cakes, sweets and other desserts.

The pink season

It’s not just the parks and trees that are turning pink in spring nowadays, the offering in food outlets gets a soft pink glow as soon as winter’s over. Major companies are releasing limited edition Sakura-themed products in matching packaging with cherry blossom designs. 

Beverage brands Coca-Cola and Asahi celebrate cherry blossom season with seasonal packaging, Pocky releases cherry blossom-flavored cookie sticks and Starbucks’ Sakura selection has turned into a merchandising line with thermoses, mugs and all sorts of products in an explosion of pink.

Starbucks’ sakura collection

Not all that’s pink is sakura

Every major fast-service chain in Japan offers a limited sakura menu with mostly hot and cold beverages and sweet snacks. No wonder, since our latest global Taste Tomorrow consumer survey pointed out that 64% of consumers agree that food that looks good is tasty too. Those pink foods are a surefire hit among customers. As a botanical, cherry blossom is also rated high on both tastiness and healthiness, adding further appeal to sakura sweets.

But when consumers bite into one of the pink sakura foods, chances are they're tasting something other than cherry blossom. Because of the delicate flavor of sakura, it is sometimes combined with  other flavors such as red bean paste, chocolate or matcha. But more often, snacks and drinks celebrating sakura are actually strawberry or fruit flavored. Sakura spring looks are more important than an actual cherry blossom flavor. 

Inspiring sakura concepts for bakers, chocolatiers and patissiers

Curious how brands apply the sakura trend to their pastry and chocolate? Here are some interesting examples to explore:

Sakura & Cream chocolates by Lindt

Especially for the Japanese market, Swiss chocolatier company Lindt launches a spring-only sakura chocolate each year. They’ve given their signature chocolate bonbon a make-over: Sakura & Cream. This white chocolate with strawberry powder has a cherry blossom flavor filling. The special package with a cherry blossom motif is only available for a limited time.

Sakura Mont Blanc at Pronto

The highlight on the spring menu of Japanese cafe chain Pronto is the Sakura Mont Blanc. The mont blanc pastry usually consists of sweetened chestnut purée in the form of vermicelli, topped with whipped cream and dusted with powdered sugar. The Sakura Mont Blanc is made out of matcha green tea sponge cake, topped with whipped cream and finished with a mixture of white anko (sweet bean paste) and sakura cream that mimics the vermicelli-like texture of the mont blanc pastry.

The Double Chocolat au Sakura at Yoku Moku

Japanese confectionery brand Yoku Moku was inspired by European-style butter cookies. Founder Noriichi Fujinawa was determined to bring those to Japan and create his own versions. Specialties are rolled-up cigar-shaped cookies and double cookies with a filling in between. This spring, the brand has a limited collection of sakura cookies: The Double Chocolat au Sakura, two faintly pink cookies, filled with white chocolate, cherry blossom powder and almonds. These gentle, blossom-flavored treats come in a beautiful packaging with blooming cherry trees against a bright blue sky. 

Sakura Mochitto Doughnut at Mister Donut

The seasonal spring assortment at Mister Donut features the ‘Sakura Mochitto Doughnut’. This special collection boasts four varieties of chewy mochi-textured donuts, each adorned with unique toppings and fillings. The four mochi donuts are designed to mirror the progression of cherry blossoms, these doughnuts symbolize the stages from budding blooms to full-fledged blossoms, and finally, the gentle fluttering of petals. Available exclusively from late February to late March, patrons can find these exquisite treats at Mister Donut outlets across the nation.

Discover French-Korean patisserie

Classic madeleines flavored with rich and salty soy sauce or a traditional Korean hwagwaja cake with crunchy walnut praline. Delve into the burgeoning trend of French-Korean patisserie fusion. From Seoul's bustling pastry culture to Paris's esteemed culinary landscape, uncover the innovative blend of flavors and techniques reshaping our craft. Read the article now to spark your creativity and stay ahead in the ever-evolving world of pastry.

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