2021: Food Trends on the Rise

Let’s talk about 2021. In particular, what trends within the food & beverage industry we can expect to take off in the next 12 months. Not to beat a dead horse, but it is no surprise that 2020 has greatly changed the way consumers think about food. However, the trends we want to discuss are not necessarily brand new. In fact, many of them have been on the rise for several years. But what has changed is why they are important to consumers now and how external influences have brought them into the limelight.

Recently, on our podcast Beyond the Shelf, we spoke with the VP of Global Culinary & Innovation at ADM, John Stephanian. We discussed ADM’s recently published predictions for the top 5 global food trends that will shape the industry in 2021, and how each of these trends was largely influenced by consumer’s shifting interests in 2020. Here is a breakdown of each of these trends:

1 – Nutrition Forward

Health and wellness have been on the forefront of consumer’s minds for a very long time. In the past few years, functional foods have become increasingly popular. Between the rotating trend of specific superfood ingredients as well as the influx of “healthier” alternatives to traditional snack foods – consumers have been trying to find a way to be more health-conscious. The difference this year is the heightened importance of wellness.

COVID-19 has shined a light on consumer’s choices in food. It forced shoppers to take a step back and ask, “Is this product good for me? Can this product benefit my health/wellness?” According to ADM, 31% of consumers are purchasing products that fit their individual health concerns, and 50% of consumers prefer products that contain naturally beneficial ingredients.

2 – Gut Health

Going hand-in-hand with the first trend, gut health has become a huge focus for many shoppers. According to ADM, approximately 25% of global consumers suffer from digestive health issues. These problems often exacerbate other health issues such as mental health problems and immune system support. Products such as kombucha, kefir, and yogurts have been huge sellers in the past year because of their nutritional benefits. They are loaded with prebiotics and probiotics which promote a healthy gut biome.

One thing that has changed this past year is the way in which we speak about gut-health. Naturally, it can be kind of an embarrassing topic to discuss, but many brands are opening up a dialogue with their shoppers to explain why gut health is important. In fact, check out our blog What’s the Deal with Prebiotics and Probiotics? to learn more about this trend.

3 – Plant-based Options

As expected, plant-based “meat” alternatives have continued to grow in the past year. Dairy alternatives and traditional beef substitutes can be found at almost any grocery store. But in 2021, our sights are set on new innovative products that will help to expand this category. Alternatives to chicken, seafood, RTE snacks, cheese, and many more are all on deck for 2021. Many of the biggest brands in this category have already shared their plans to expand their product line in the coming year, but the biggest question on everyone’s mind is how accessible will these new products be? The gamechanger for beef-alternatives was their introduction into national foodservice spaces (i.e. fast food). Can we expect a similar rollout for these innovative products?

To learn more about this trend, and the history of plant-based products, check out  Plant-Based Meat: The Past, Present, and Future – Part 2

4 – Sustainability

Similar to health and wellness, this trend has been on the rise for many years but has only recently taken on a new meaning. Instead of focusing on whether or not a product as a whole is eco-friendly, shoppers are factoring in more specific attributes that could contribute to unsustainable practices. Customers are shifting their attention to brands and are expecting them to improve upon their business practices. Whether that be ingredient sourcing or farming/manufacturing practices, shoppers are putting more pressure on brands to reflect on how they can improve upon their business practices and become more sustainable.

We have discussed this trend in more detail in a previous blog – check out The Rise of the Sustainable Consumers to learn more.

4 – Transparency

An overarching theme between all of these trends and a huge takeaway from this past year is the importance of transparency. Simply put, consumers want to purchase products from brands that align with their individual morals and beliefs. Clean labeling has been a growing trend in the past few years, but transparency extends much further than just products alone. The Black Lives Matter movement has drawn attention to the lack of diversity in the food & beverage industry, as well as the lack of attention to POC shoppers. Consumers are increasingly putting pressure on brands to be more open and direct with how they are diversifying their workplaces and what they are doing for their communities.

We’ve learned a lot this year. As an industry, we were given the chance to step back and rethink how are serving our customers and community. As we head into the new year, it’s important to keep the needs of consumers at the forefront of our minds and have an open dialogue with them. 2021’s biggest food & beverage trends have the ability to change the industry for the better.

To learn more about all of these trends, listen to our interview with John Stephanian of ADM on Beyond the Shelf.