The world of food and beverage development is always changing in response to new technologies and shifting customer demand. In 2021, we expect to see a number of new and developing trends, reflecting the latest changes in consumer expectations and best-in-class food and beverage development techniques. But what exactly are these trends, how are they manifesting, and how likely are they to stick around for the long term?
The Most Exciting Food Trends to Watch For
These are some of the biggest and most influential trends in the food world to look for in 2021:
- Plant based foods. Increasingly, consumers are trying to adjust their diets to be more plant-based. They’re looking for plant-based alternatives to meats and new plant-meat hybrids that can satisfy their appetite while still helping them achieve their healthy eating goals and reducing their environmental impact at the same time. Blended burgers and hybrid protein options (like chicken nuggets made from not just chicken, but also cauliflower) are becoming more popular, and will likely continue to become better-known over time.
- Nutritionally beneficial foods. We’re also seeing more restaurants and food companies creating and advertising foods that are nourishing, or nutritionally beneficial. Simple monikers that vaguely describe the nutritional quality of food, such as “low fat” or “cholesterol free” are seeing a decline, while companies are focusing more on things like protein, probiotics, and antioxidants.
- Increased convenience. The COVID-19 pandemic radically changed the way we lived our lives, forcing us to reconsider our previous habits and routines – and shop in fundamentally new ways. After quarantine, we saw an explosion of eating and shopping options, giving consumers access to services like takeout and delivery where there weren’t options before. The food industry expects these trends to continue even after the pandemic has ended, as people have grown to expect more convenient food; accordingly, we can count on seeing better packaging, more flexible options for service, and other innovations related to convenience.
- Nostalgia and comfort food. Comfort food isn’t just delicious; it also has emotional value to the person eating it. Consuming this meal may fill you with nostalgia or tap into some level of sentimentality. New food manufacturers are attempting to take advantage of these feelings, developing new food products that serve as “adult” versions of the classics you loved as a kid. A simple change of ingredients, or the addition of new ingredients, can take a kid favorite and turn it into a true delicacy.
- Stronger flavor combinations. The secret to a powerful dish is an unexpected, yet powerful combination of ingredients: like pairing something sweet with something salty. We have plenty of recognizable foods that contain synergistic combinations of ingredients (including the humble peanut butter and jelly sandwich), but today’s food innovators are experimenting in bold new directions using the same fundamental rules. For example, you might see chorizo tacos with a bright, contrasting watermelon salsa – or al pastor served with pineapple. Don’t be surprised to see more surprising mashups like these.
- A broader influence from Asian. Asian cuisine is highly nuanced, with profound variants in culinary styles between different regions – and even different cities. Today’s chefs and restauranteurs are zooming in, looking for inspiration somewhere closer to the ground level. For example, in Hunan, chile peppers are commonly used alongside smoked and cured ingredients. Contrastingly, the favorite flavors of Southeast Asian include galangal, makrut lime, and turmeric. Expect to see more innovative new dishes that attempt to put ingredients and flavors like these to good use.
- Chile flavors. Chile peppers have a well-earned reputation for being hot. But too many food innovators have used chile peppers only as an excuse to make a dish spicier – ignoring some of the nuances of their flavor. In 2021, creative food experts are using their refined palates to discover (and then integrate) subtle flavors in more than 50,000 different cultivated pepper species around the world.
- Alliums in food innovation. Alliums are a genus of plant that include a wide variety of pungently aromatic ingredients, including garlic, scallions, shallots, leeks, ramps, and chives. They’ve been a part of our cuisine for millennia, but thanks in part to relatively recently discovered nutritional benefits, they’re getting more attention. Food creators everywhere are attempting to use these ingredients more commonly – and in more disruptive ways.
Enjoying the Latest Trends
You won’t have to look far to see some of these trends in action, whether you’re ordering takeout from your favorite local restaurant or reviewing ingredients for your latest home-cooked family dinner. Force yourself to be more adventurous and try something new that you may not have previously considered; opening your mind and trying new foods can help you live a happier, more fulfilling life, even if it’s only on a small scale.