With the new year comes new insights as to what foods will be trending in restaurants, the topic of cooking shows and articles, and what we can expect to see on supermarket shelves. Each year, many sources predict which ingredient or region of the world will be center stage in recipes and dishes, which takes some deciphering to identify those most likely to be of great interest and have the most relevant impact. We have included a list of the more prevalent trends suggested by top industry associations and organizations and those that appear in several other reputable lists.
What is impacting food
Each year, at least one external force encourages us to seek one or two particular items to use in meals we create at home or when selecting a menu item at a restaurant. With the continuation of COVID-19 disrupting our households, the supply chain, leisure activities, etc., consumers continue to seek foods that promote health, emotional wellbeing, and mood-boosting.
Though COVID-19 impacts travel, our interest in authentic ethnic flavors has not subsided. Consumers are trying to "find ways to experience tastes from other countries outside their homes" and gravitating toward foods from foreign lands to deal with not being able to easily travel abroad to taste the dishes (Nutritional Outlook, 2021).
Reports have also indicated that we will continue to be interested in all things plant-based (PR Newswire, 2021), alternative proteins (IFTa, 2021), innovative ways to reduce food waste (upcycling) (IFTb, 2021), and sustainable food production methods (Food Navigator, 2021). In many cases, these trends are not mutually exclusive, and there is overlap between two or more. For example, spices trending in 2022 are often associated with trending ethnic cuisines and have potential health benefits, while traditional production of certain trending foods are noted as being sustainable. Thus, food trends are no longer strictly associated with just an ingredient or a flavor, but rather how consumers live their lives, what they aspire to be, and their environmental concerns. In 2021, EatingWell.com reported "views on articles related to food waste are up 1,242%" compared to 2020 (Eating Well, 2021).
Each year, Pinterest releases its predictions for the upcoming year based on what users search for on the social media platform. In addition to food, they publish predictions regarding travel, art, crafts, fashion, and more. Based on data gathered from October 2019 through September 2021, the company believes that "Ancestral eats" will be noteworthy in 2022, as determined by the year-on-year increase in Pinterest searches related to specific food terms (Pinterest Business, 2021).
The following describes the percent increase in searches for the term: "Filipino recipes authentic," a 35% increase in searches over the previous year, "Norwegian recipes traditional," a 120% increase, and "South African recipes traditional," a 150% increase. Consumers searched for "Arabic food traditional" two times more and three times more for "Traditional Russian food" during the October 2019 through September 2021 period than the previous year. A quote from the Predictions report provides insight as to how businesses can use these data: "If you're a food and beverage brand...Help people replace the modern meal with global cuisine. Inspire them to turn a basic chicken dinner into a South African or Filipino delicacy with specific spices and ingredients" (Pinterest Business, 2021).
Other resources, such as MSNBC, report that Filipino flavors will be important in 2022. The source also notes that "traditional flavors" from Vietnam and Singapore are also "gaining a stronger hold on everyday eating" (Fernstrom, 2021). We can also expect to see more North African and Western African foods on supermarket shelves and restaurant menus (Lentils, 2021).
Blending these flavors
Several sources describe an increased presence of dishes that combine popular "American" items with flavors and inspiration from other countries. For example, Datassentials lists Indian pizza with authentic "Indian flavors, ingredients, species" (Kostyo, 2021). At the same time, Nutritionaloutlook.com quotes Jennifer Zhou, Senior Director of Product Marketing at ADM, that we will see "complementary flavors through a mashup of cultures like Mexican-Korean burritos, Chinese-Peruvian bao buns, Greek quesadillas, or Banh Mi pizza" (Nutritional Outlook, 2021). We will also see turmeric, one of the herbs and spices The Fresh Market, Inc., a U.S. supermarket chain, indicates will trend in 2022. The herb supposedly has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and we can expect to see it used in "cereals, sauerkrauts, and plant-based ice cream sandwiches" (Food Navigator, 2021). It should be noted that these claims have been questioned – as "scientists have published the most comprehensive critical review yet of curcumin—concluding that there’s no evidence it has any specific therapeutic benefits, despite thousands of research papers and more than 120 clinical trials" (Baker, 2017). To see more, check: "The Essential Medicinal Chemistry of Curcumin."
As with years past, we will see the influence of flavors from specific regions within a country become the focus of menu items and recipes. Instead of generally describing flavors as "Indian," no matter where they derive from in the country, we are likely to see Indian food with more regional influence from Gujarat, Kerala, Kashmir, Tamil Nadu, and the Awadh area (Severson, 2021).
The plant-based food trend will continue to have a significant presence on consumers’ plates, as 48% of consumers who participated in a Hartman Group survey indicated that they "look for [food] products labeled 'plant-based'" (Hartman Group, 2021). Furthermore, retail sales of plant-based foods grew 27% between 2019 and 2020 (GFI, 2021). The three categories with the highest dollar sales were plant-based milk, which experienced a 20% increase in sales, reaching $2.5 billion, other-plant based dairy (e.g., ice cream, yogurt, butter, cheese), growing 28%, and plant-based meat which grew 45% in dollar sales during the period. Globally, plant-based meat alternative sales will likely reach $161.9 billion in 2030 (Wood, 2021).
Demographics that describe consumers who over-index for purchasing plant-based foods include those between 18-54, having a household income greater than $50,000, having at least a bachelor’s degree, being Asian, African American, or other races other than white, and living in a household with children (GFI, 2021).
While demographic profiles can assist with understanding "who" is purchasing and/or consuming these foods, behaviors and attitudes are more useful when developing a marketing strategy as to how and why we do things can be the basis for connecting with the end-user. Below is a list published by the Hartman Group (2021) that indicates the eating behaviors of those who participated in their study.
||Percent of survey participants (%)
||Description of eating behavior
||"no animal products of any kind"
||"no meat, but eggs or dairy are ok"
|White meat eater
||"no red meat, but fish and chicken/turkey are ok"
||"mostly vegetarian, but eat meat on occasion"
||"I love meat and make it a point to eat it regularly"
||"I eat a little of everything, with no restrictions"
Though vegetarians and vegans are "heavy users" and their diets rely on plant-based foods, 60% of flexitarians and 33% of omnivores "eat both meat and dairy alternatives." Focusing on these two groups is a strategy for increasing sales. The percentage of consumers who follow a flexitarian or omnivore diet is greater than those who claim to be vegan or vegetarian (Sloan, 2021).
According to the Mintel Group Ltd. (2021), 33% of survey participants responded that they eat plant-based proteins more often. Reasons for the increase ranged from these foods being "healthier than eating meat," 58% selecting this response, "for variety in meals," 46%, "trying to eat less meat," 45%, as well as more "meat alternatives," 41%, and "more options for prepared whole plant-based proteins." Twenty percent of respondents indicated that another household member "eats a plant-based diet." Thus, producers and retailers should survey their customers to learn about their households, who influences what is purchased, and utilize this information to develop marketing messages and offer suggestions for recipes and other foods that are likely to appeal.
Mushrooms are protein-rich, offering "nearly 33 grams of protein per 100 grams of serving" (Grandview Research, 2021). As a plant-based protein, mushrooms continue to dominate food trend lists based on their versatility, being a good source of several vitamins and minerals, and anti-inflammatory properties (Fernstrom, 2021). Research conducted at Penn State has shown that mushroom consumption can lower cancer and depression risks. Slightly more than half (55%) of U.S. households purchased fresh mushrooms in 2015, with global sales projected to grow at a compound annual rate of 9.5% between 2021 to 2028 to reach a revenue of over $95,245 million (Grand View Research, 2021).
Research supported by The Mushroom Council revealed that including nutritional labeling, specifically about the vitamin D content, could increase consumer likelihood of purchasing fresh mushrooms. While mushrooms are used in a variety of ways (e.g., raw in salads, grilling, roasting, stir-fried, and in soups, stews, and sauces), blending mushrooms with meat is promoted as one way to consume fewer calories and reduce fat intake while maintaining "the texture and volume" of a hamburger patty. Consumer awareness of using mushrooms for this purpose and blending them with ground meat to make "burgers, meatballs, tacos, etc.," was 42% in 2021 for those who "eat meat at least occasionally," a 10% increase from 2016 when only 32% of participants had heard of the concept. Sixty-six percent of those who ate "meat at least occasionally" and were aware of blending mushrooms with ground meat had tried this on at least one occasion, with over 36% of these participants responding that they "tried [blending] more than once, and will continue to consume" the meat/mushroom mix (Mushroom Council, 2021).
Though 2022 is not the first time seaweed is on a list of trending foods, the number of resources mentioning "underwater botanicals" continues to increase (Eating Well, 2021). According to one source, seaweed "is really a catch-all term that covers red, brown, and green varieties of this particular type of algae," with kelp being a brown seaweed that grows in saltwater (Grower Today, no year). A number of sources indicate that the crop is environmentally friendly and requires few inputs to grow.
While farmed seaweed production in Asia and exports to other countries decreased in 2020 due to COVID-19, the U.S. market for the crop is expected to grow by 10.8% between 2021 and 2028. In 2020, human seaweed consumption accounted for a majority, 81.4%, of revenue generated, with the remainder used in agriculture and for animal feed (Grandview Research 2021a). Seaweed is used in manufacturing meat and bakery products, to thicken and preserve "toppings, sauces, salad dressings, soups, and gravies," adding texture to foods such as ice creams and desserts, as well as a key ingredient for sushi rolls, soups, and salads. Alleged health benefits range from thyroid support, being an antioxidant source, to helping consumers reduce their body weight (because of the fiber content) (O’Brien. 2018). At the same time, it should be noted that seaweed may contain heavy metals, which may be harmful when consumed, and that research on this issue is ongoing (Chen, 2018).
Tastewise reports that there were over 11 thousand social media posts with the term "seaweed" and that ingredients and flavors that were associated with seaweed and were experiencing widespread growth were "sriracha," "salmon," and "sesame."
You Du Yuzu is a tangerine-sized citrus fruit grown in China, Korea, and Japan. While not very well known, the fruit is becoming more popular. It is especially suited for hard seltzers, vinaigrettes, and condiments like mayonnaise (Ga Yuzu was also listed as an emerging flavor in the fall 2021 Specialty Food Magazine issue, along with turmeric and sesame (Specialty Food Magazine, 2021).
Representatives from several different food industry sources, Synergy Flavors, Glanbia Nutritionals, FlavorSum, and Flavorchem, are cited in a Nutritionaloutlook.com article as one of the flavors that will become "more mainstream." This and other citrus fruits are heralded as an immunity-boosting ingredient, which remains important as consumers continue to focus on their health as the pandemic continues (Fernstrom, 2021).
According to the New York Times' food forecasters, hibiscus is the "flavor of the year," because it can add its red color and "earthy flavor" to a variety of foods, ranging from: “cocktails and sodas to crudos and yogurt” (Severson, 2021). Another source, Tastewise, provides an overview that indicates, based on a term (e.g., a specific cuisine, flavor, ingredient), how it is "trending." For example, using "hibiscus" as a search term, we learned that from December 20 through November 2021, over 43,900 social media posts included the term "hibiscus," that Chinese is "the fastest rising cuisine for hibiscus," and that vegan is "the dominating diet for hibiscus" (Tastewise, 2021b)
While you may not grow seaweed, yuzu, hibiscus, or other trending ingredients, knowing the potential of these categories is useful when deciding what future directions to pursue. Understanding consumer trends and growing populations are also key to future business growth. In 2020, Asians, those who indicated that they were "Asian alone or in combination" with another race, accounted for 7.2% of the U.S. population (Census, 2020). While only 4.6% of consumers living in Pennsylvania indicated they were Asian in 2020, a greater percentage live in boarding states: Maryland (8.1%), Virginia (8.8%), New York (10.8%), and New Jersey (11.3%), which, collectively, is a viable for these and other foods Pennsylvania who indicated that they were Hispanic or Latino was 8.1% of the population in 2020. As with the data for Asian consumers, the percentages were higher for surrounding states, with 19.5% of New Yorkers responding that they were Hispanic or Latino and 21.6% of New Jersey consumers indicating that they were members of these groups (Census, 2020). Each group has its traditions and preferences for ingredients they use in meals, which must be understood to meet their needs. In addition, as we laid out above, many consumers are interested in health-promoting foods and spices and discovering new flavors and cultures. The wide availability of flavors and their versatility makes this a trend that can be adapted gradually.