A Tasty Disaster: How COVID-19 is Shaping 2021 Food Trends

January 21st 2021 Comments
2021 Food Trends

If there was ever a year to break up old, expected trends and send them packing, it was 2020. As we head into 2021 with all the changes the pandemic brought about, new food trends are emerging that show a mixture of old influences and new directions in how people think about food. 

Food Trends in 2021

Food trends in 2021 paint a picture of an exciting market with new opportunities at every turn. Health dominates the spectrum, whether it is personal health through functional foods and probiotics or the health of the environment through a focus on sustainability. New products are all the rage with meat-free jerky, alternative oils, and boozy kombucha topping the list of new trending foods major grocery retailers such as Whole Foods are expecting to see more of in the coming year. 

There is nothing quite like making your own food every day to increase your awareness of what you put in your body. With lockdowns and working from home a new reality across the world, many of us have taken the time to make the most of making dinner every night. As people become more aware of the ingredients in the food they eat, trends toward local, healthy, plant-based foods are beginning to strengthen.

At the beginning of the pandemic, lockdowns gave some of us visions of months at home in sweatpants cradling a tub of ice cream. This nutritional nightmare may have become real for some people, but it turns out many took up the challenge 2020 threw down by learning how to make new-found time in the kitchen count in healthy ways. 

The Importance of Quality Ingredients 

A renewed focus on ingredient quality is merging with an overall increase in awareness about wellness. This has been brought on in part by the health concerns of the coronavirus. Food trends had begun to lean toward healthier diets over the last few years, and the threat of COVID-19 only served to push more people in this direction. 

Quality ingredients have never been more important. Not only did the pandemic turn locked-down foodies into DIY home chefs, but it increased customer attraction to foods that present the impression of health and freshness. This means the bright, rich colors associated with straight-off-the-plant vegetables proved irresistible to customers in a trend likely to continue in the coming year. 

Looking Good: Helping Healthy Food Look the Part

This trend toward vibrant, fresh colors not only applies to citrus fruits high in vitamin C, and the colors that suggest, but retailers are seeing increases in purchases of other vegetables like cabbage (white, red, or savoy), broccoli, and others that are seen as packing the best nutritional punch. Foods that attract with vibrant, natural colors are increasing in popularity. This attraction is only furthered when natural colorants like beets, spinach, tomato, and carrots are used instead of artificial coloring agents. 

Trends toward visual pop and nutritional punch come together in the decision to include vegetables in your products. Silva's high-quality dried ingredients can help you add appealing, natural colors to your lineup that satisfy even the most careful customers.

Food Kits and Ghost Kitchens: Alternatives to Eating out in 2021

Heading to the grocery store has not felt safe for many people this year, and with restaurants closed, where are people going to turn if you don’t have the time, energy, or ideas to put together yet another dinner at home?

One answer turns out to be meal kit services. Popularized by the likes of Blue Apron, these companies offer the convenience of pre-packaged, thought-through meals that require only a little prep time, but pack a much stronger nutritional punch than some foods from the frozen food aisle. These services can also be a gateway for many home chefs into trendy, interesting foods they may not have tried.

For those consumers who may not want to sign up for a subscription service like HelloFresh or the vegan Purple Carrot, or don’t feel like taking a swing at a bold new chickpea tofu, there is yet another option popping up. Ghost kitchens are beginning to show up, or not show up as the case may be, in cities across the country. These delivery-only restaurant concepts radically reduce their overhead, and the chance of disease transmission, by not having a physical storefront where you can sit down and have a meal. Many of these restaurants have the flexibility to try new recipes and menus that can dynamically adapt to the health-focused trends moving the broader market.

Fruit Jerky: Meat Alternatives on the Rise

There will still be people who start 2021 with a new resolution to go gluten-free, keto, low-carb, or even vegan, but some research indicates there may be a decline on the horizon in strict dieting. Citing expensive diet plans and frustrating restrictions, many people are moving toward healthy but wide-ranging flexitarian diets high in veggies, with maybe a tasty bagel or some charcuterie still thrown in from time to time. 

This trend toward less meat and more diversity is more pronounced among younger consumers, with millennials leading a minor flexitarian revolution. Locally produced products and sustainability rather than carefully avoiding strictly forbidden foods are becoming drivers for consumer choice for many of these diners, as concerns about the environmental impact of high levels of animal protein in your diet are now weighed alongside personal health concerns.

The food trend toward sustainability is a timely one considering the economic challenges of this last year. Everyone is looking to save money, and the food industry is no exception. Many producers are finding ways to address both of these concerns by upcycling food waste. Ingredients that might have been thrown out during production in years past are finding their way back into new recipes. This is not only a win for manufacturers' bottom lines, but it makes food production more sustainable. 

Functional Foods and More in 2021

The health benefits people have been looking for in the past are now extending beyond just getting more veggies in your diet. In the next year, we expect functional ingredients to begin popping up more often. These ingredients include adaptogens, vitamins, compounds found in mushrooms, spices like turmeric, and even less familiar compounds like CBD oils. 

Probiotics have been trending over the last few years as gut health is seen as an increasingly important pillar of wellness. As people become accustomed to seeing this term on the labels of items like yogurt and sauerkraut, it takes more to catch customers' attention. Prebiotics are beginning to find their place on more and more labels as consumer interest grows about what lives in your intestines.

Fermented foods have long had in Korean and some European cuisines, but as people look for the same probiotic benefits beyond kimchi and sauerkraut, fermented ingredients are popping up all over in food and drinks. Kombucha has been increasing in popularity for years, but 2021 could prove to be a breakout year. Regular and even seltzer-infused, boozy versions of this lightly fermented drink are showing up on store shelves, some promising a wide range of health benefits over other drinks. 

Meat alternative foods are only increasing in popularity as we head into the new year. People are increasingly blending ease of preparation, sustainability, and a new penchant for superfoods with a trend toward reducing their meat consumption. This has led to improvements in everything from fruit jerky for snacking to part-meat burgers blended with fermented protein meat substitutes. Inclusion of vegetables like mushrooms, tomato, or jalapeno peppers (green or red) in plant-based protein also increases the flavor of these products.

Consuming other animal-based products like milk are also going to likely take a hit in the coming year. Research and new production techniques have allowed dairy alternatives like oat milk to hit store shelves with nutrients and promised health benefits traditional milk can’t touch on its own.

Let’s be Clear: Food Trends and Transparency

2020 cemented a trend toward increased consumer desire for openness and clarity throughout the food industry. Whether it is choosing to buy local to support struggling businesses or trying to be more knowledgeable about your carbon footprint, many consumers are increasingly conscious of the impact their food purchases have on their bodies, their communities, and their planet. This kind of thinking extends to manufacturing processes, with consumers beginning to gravitate toward natural ingredients and more lightly processed foods, even if the products they buy are manufactured in an industrial setting. Scrutiny can extend down the supply chain, with people wanting to know that quality processes are used at every step of manufacturing. 

Promising health credentials may be tempting, but increasing levels of customer scrutiny can make health claims a double edged sword. As consumers become more educated and intentional about eating as healthy as possible, touting health benefits you can’t back up might backfire. This is one reason Silva works hard to ensure the consistency and quality of our products will give you the confidence in the nutritional value of your products. 

At Silva, we see 2021 as a year perfectly fit for the high quality herbs, fruit, spices, mushrooms, and vegetables we offer in our wide product line. We have the ingredients you need to satisfy adventurous new consumers whether your products show up in a take-out box, a grocery store shelf, or as is the case with kit meals, somewhere in between. If you are interested in learning more about our products and how you could be using them to meet new customer demands in 2021, contact a member of our customer relationship team today.