The start of a new year generally invites predictions on what’s happened, what will stay the same and what will drastically change. This issue includes the results of Beverage Industry’s annual New Product Development survey that sought the opinions of manufacturers regarding their outlook on industry trends. The survey documents research and development trends, and this year, results show that lemon is the new mango.

Reflecting a return to traditional flavors, lemon led the surge of citrus fruits – along with orange and lime – that usurped mango, pomegranate and acai. In last year’s survey, mango tied with orange as the most used flavors. However, lemon ranked No. 2 on 2010’s top-selling flavors list, and the citrus fruit also was the second most anticipated top-selling flavor for 2011.

In restaurants, predicted trends for 2011 were dominated by locally sourced and produced food and beverages as well as a focus on nutrition in children’s items, according to Washington, D.C.-based National Restaurant Association’s survey of more than 1,500 chefs. Sustainability also ranked highly on the association’s top 20 trends for this year.

The extension of existing and emerging trends highlights the 2011 forecast from Chicago-based market research firm Mintel International.

“These annual predictions represent continuations of current big-picture trends, rather than major changes in the marketplace and what companies are doing,” said Lynn Dornblaser, director of innovation and insight at Mintel, in a statement. “Understanding the major trend areas and how they change from year to year is essential for companies to be successful when developing and launching new products.”

One trend Mintel foresees is the blurring of categories through innovation of hybrid products. Hybridization includes marketing tactics that, for example, position sparkling beverages as a source of refreshment and sophistication, Mintel said. The firm reported consumers also are responsible for category blurring, including consuming beverages as snacks.

Food and beverage manufacturer PepsiCo Inc. also noticed the category-blurring trend. Commenting on PepsiCo’s recent majority investment in Russian dairy and juice company Wimm-Bill-Dann, PepsiCo chairwoman and chief executive officer Indra Nooyi said the acquisition fits in with the company’s plans for expansion in the nutritional products sector. Specifically, Nooyi said: “We see the emerging opportunity to ‘snackify’ beverages and ‘drinkify’ snacks as the next frontier in food and beverage convenience.”

One of the more adventurous annual forecasts is that of flavor and spice producer McCormick. Its top 10 flavor pairings for 2011 include mustard seed and vermouth as well as ancho chili with hibiscus. Respondents to Beverage Industry’s New Product Development Survey also offered their own predictions regarding new and unique flavors for beverages in 2011. Are you ready for huckleberry, jalapeno or S’mores flavored drinks? Or perhaps – as one respondent offered – banana bread beer? BI