'Tis the season -- to make predictions. AndMcCormick & Company, Inc. predicts that America’s preference for more complex and intense taste experiences will shape next year's taste trends. The Hunt Valley, Md.-based ingredient supplier released its McCormick® Flavor Forecast® 2011 report.

Officials note that spice consumption in this country is at an all-time high – growing more than three times as fast as the population and that it currently exceeds 1 billion pounds per year. This growth in volume has been matched by a growing desire for variety. Today’s pantry can consist of about 40 different seasonings, compared to less than 10 in the 1950s.

“For more than a decade, the Flavor Forecast has been on the leading edge of driving and shaping a passion for flavor,” said Alan Wilson, Chairman, McCormick president and CEO. “As consumers crave more flavor – in restaurants, in their kitchens and on grocery store shelves – the report serves as a catalyst for innovation in the food industry.”

One of the leading trends shaping this year’s report is craveable contrasts, which comes to life in 10 flavor pairings.

“Mixing and matching different tastes, textures and visual cues adds fun and energy to the basic pleasures of eating,” explained Larry Tong, McCormick chef.

He added,  “Whether it’s the unexpected zing of hibiscus in a Latin-inspired ancho chile sauce for ribs or brisket, or a clever twist on a cheesecake tart with an herb-popcorn crust, this year’s flavors really take the taste buds to exhilarating new places.”

McCormick® Flavor Forecast® 2011 Top 10 Flavor Pairings:

1. Fennel & Peri-Peri Sauce

2. Pickling Spice & Rice Vinegar

3. Roasted Curry Powder & Wild Mushrooms

4. Caramelized Honey & Adzuki Red Beans

5. Ancho Chile Pepper & Hibiscus

6. Thyme & Stone Fruits

7. Mustard Seed & Vermouth

8. Cilantro & Nut Butters

9. Herbes de Provence & Popcorn

10. Green Peppercorn & Goat’s Milk

McCormick said it also identified five underlying consumer trends bound to affect food formulation.Officials describe them as:

Spirit of Discovery– A hunger for international culinary adventure propels exploration of new ingredients and techniques

Flavor with Benefits– Eating for wellness is more delicious than ever

Invigorating and Uplifting– Exciting pops of flavor bring new energy to dining

Soul Satisfaction– Comforting favorites soothe the mind, heart and taste buds

Craveable Contrasts– The interplay of tastes, textures and visual cues adds fun and excitement to the basic pleasures of eating.