The Hottest Food Trends of 2021

2020 was not an easy year for the food industry.  COVID-19 had a profound impact across the entire industry with restaurants closing, grocery stores struggling to keep food on the shelves, renewed interest in home cooking and baking, the list goes on. So, as we exit the challenging year that was 2020, we look forward to what the coming year has to offer. 2021 is sure to have some difficulties as well, however there are some exciting food trends on the horizon. In this post, we will explore top industry, food ingredient, and flavor trends that will be shaping the food industry in 2021. The food industry continues to change every year as it adapts to consumer’s demands. The following are some of the industry trends that are going to be in the forefront of consumer’s minds in 2021.

Food Industry Trends

Transparency in supply chains continues to trend as consumers want to know where their food is grown and produced. The Plant-based food market is booming, reporting a 36% increase in plant-based products introduced between 2019-2020. Meat and dairy alternatives are the key drivers for creating plant-based products.

The impact of COVID-19 has led consumers to also look for ingredients with immunity claims, such as food containing Zinc, Vitamin C and other natural sources of immunity boosting ingredients.

Also, the idea of “Modern Nostalgia” is a term emerging in the marketplace. Modern Nostalgia is the concept of comfort food with a modern twist, such as adding exotic flavors to familiar dishes or products.

Finally, the consideration of Baby Boomers will continue to drive the food industry as they now make up 40% of the American population. Boomers are looking for food products that will help them age gracefully. This includes products that are health conscious, offer body weight management, and contain ingredients like antioxidants, turmeric, oats and Omega-3s.

“The Plant-based food market is booming, reporting a 36% increase in plant-based products introduced between 2019-2020”

Food Ingredient Trends

Every year, there are new ingredients making waves in the food industry and 2021 is looking to be no exception. Function ingredients that are trending include:

  • Probiotics
  • Creatine
  • Inulin
  • Green coffee extract
  • Bone broth
  • Adaptogens

Adaptogens are herbal ingredients that are marketed as helping the body resist physical, chemical or biological stressors; think of herbs and roots used in eastern medicine, like ginseng. Other emerging adaptogens are ashwagandha, maca, astragolus and turmeric. Turmeric is predicted to be everywhere in 2021. As mentioned above, animal alternatives continue to gain market share.

Walnut, chickpea and mung bean are also developing as meat alternatives, whereas oat and cashew are growing as dairy alternatives. Ingredients like liquid aminos, mushrooms, dried seafood, kombu, miso and nutritional yeast are trending as natural taste enhancers. The popularity of kelp is rising rapidly, demonstrated by a 1075% increase in kelp on ingredient labels since 2017. Finally, consumer interest in fermented foods is still growing. Black garlic, miso, sauerkraut, tamari and, most importantly, Kimchi are the fermented foods leading the charge.

Flavor Trends

The tastes of consumers are ever evolving and the millennial population continues to seek out adventurous new flavors. While key flavors from the past few years, such as coffee, alcohol and sweet heat, have shown to hold popularity, there are many exciting up and coming flavor trends to keep an eye on.2021 Flavor Trends - Floral

Sweet: brown sugar, kiwi, cookie butter, pear and butterscotch are gaining traction.

Salty: Hatch chili, Korean BBQ, honey mustard, black peppercorn, smoke and vinegar as showing strong promise in the salty snack category.

Savory: ginger, kimchi, French onion, balsamic, tzatziki, black garlic, and tahini.

Beverages: nectarine, floral flavors, blood orange, cotton candy, vinegar, papaya, fig and yuzu.

Spices: One overarching flavor trend is the rise of pairing familiar flavors with spices. The main spices gaining popularity in this trend are black peppercorn, cinnamon, chili peppers, cardamom, basil, nutmeg, sage and ginger.

Historically, food trends have been set by restaurants in New York, Paris, Tokyo, Spain and London. However, with restaurants now scrambling to diversify by creating their own retail brands or becoming boutique grocery stores, 2021 may be the year retail foods begin to set the food trends for the coming years. Hopefully this blog post offers the insights needed to harness the trends that are driving consumers to buy products this year.

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