As the wave of disruption from the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic spilled into 2021, the reciprocal tide of change continues to rip through every segment of the market. The public have had to improvise and adapt to a way of life that now seems normal, and their appetites for shopping have moved in tandem.
As true as with any industry vertical, the food and beverage industry has completely shifted its outlook to accommodate new demands of the consumer in the post-pandemic world. Lockdowns targeted people’s habits when it came to food, drink, and wider leisurely pursuits, leading to a surge in people making compromises at home. The emergent trends that came as a result either rolled on through 2021 or directly affected new ones that have emerged. Replicating the restaurant experience in the home setting, pre-mixed cocktails and plant-based alternatives have continued on their upward trajectory, as a host of other trends have rolled in. Here we will list four trends we’ve identified that have made their way into the mainstream this year.
IMMUNE BOOSTING FOOD AND DRINK
As the truth of life in confinement hit people and they realised their favourite pastimes were unattainable, the natural response for many was to eat and drink their woes. Baking, learning how to mix, extravagant home recipes were all the rage in the height of lockdown. As a response to these decadent tendencies, 2021’s trends have seen a rise in health awareness, with a focus on how diet affects the immune system.
Immune-boosting ingredients such as elderberries, turmeric and ginger have been popular superfood ingredients this year, as more manufacturers are reducing sugar and including probiotic qualities into their recipes.
In the beverage industry, the shift towards health-conscious products has permeated through the soft and hard drink markets. Products like milk alternatives, green tea, mushroom coffee have been on the rise, as have low sugar variants. As for immune-boosting drinks, water kefir and ‘Tepache’ soda have joined kombucha on the growing list of probiotic soft drinks.
Healthier alcoholic beverages have also seen a rise to prominence this year. More people experiment with low or no alcohol beverages, and healthier alternatives to classic drinks such as seltzers and hard kombucha are gaining popularity.
As a focus on health and ingredient awareness has flourished through 2021, the onus has been on food and beverage manufacturers to provide clarity on their processes and where they source their ingredients from. Consumers are developing an ever more critical eye on where their food comes from, and businesses have been employing means to give their customers more reassurances.
Big manufacturers have started to deploy blockchain in their supply process, giving people a clear representation of where food is handled and by whom. Manufacturers of products such as coffee, where there are large amounts of raw ingredients shipped around, now provide outward clarity to customers who may have concerns over the handling of raw produce down the chain.
Concerns over hygiene mean that single-use plastics and tamper-proof packaging are less of a bugbear as they were in the years prior, as the threat of contamination has taken precedence.
PLANT OPTIONS EXPAND
As the vegan and vegetarian markets continue to soar through 2021, more and more meat alternatives are coming out. Ingredients like jackfruit and mushroom have been used heavily in the past few years as meat alternatives, but this year more people have been trying plant-based food for its own sake. The market is soaring still as more products such as pea, soy and wheat proteins are gaining popularity, and beans and chickpeas are finding their own in the segment as dried snack foods.
Petri dish meat, made from vegetable proteins, is also gaining more of a foothold in the market. Some companies have set up their DTC (direct to customer) eCommerce channels, and online sales are set to have a major part to play in the rise of ‘clean meat’
People are finding ways to cut out animal products in their beverages too. 2021 has seen a further rise in the use of dairy-free milk alternatives, such as soy and almond milk. These two major players are now being challenged by a host of new dairy-free milk products sourced from oats, quinoa, hemp and nuts.
Beyond dairy replacements, plant-based waters, kombucha and plant-based hard drinks such as seltzers all gain popularity in the beverage industry. this trend is likely to continue to snowball in 2021 and onwards into 2022, as the plant-based market is coming into its own and shedding its mantel of a ‘replacement’ or an ‘alternative’.
Most people have gone over a year without escaping their local settings, leading to piqued interests in flavours from elsewhere in their kitchens. As people look to generate novel experiences in their own homes and have turned to flavours from around the globe. More interest in spicy food, as well as fare from Asia and Africa, has found its way into UK homes this year.
Manufacturers who are placed that offer more world flavours in their products this year are well placed for success on supermarket shelves. In addition, more meal or recipe delivery services are including exotic flavour combinations for people to wow their families at home.
In addition to meal boxes, home delivery mixology boxes have continued to grow in popularity. People will inevitably flock to the bars upon opening but exotic cocktail nights at home aren’t likely to go away. In addition to cocktails, home-brewed kombucha kits, and the aforementioned tepache soda (from Mexico) are finding their way into the global markets, displaying people’s thirst for exotic soft drinks as well.
Not so much a trend such as the others listed that exist in the realms of ingredients, but the increasing modernisation of the food and beverage market has rolled on further into 2021. Before lockdown, less than half of major food and beverage manufacturers had direct-to-consumer eCommerce channels and relied heavily on their existing channels to sell. The order-in culture that has arisen throughout the pandemic has changed that, and now more and more businesses get online to target their customers directly.
The use of blockchain by major manufacturers to display the transparency the article spoke about before is also on the rise. Currently, this is mainly employed by major players such as nestle, but expect to see a rise in the use of the technology across the board in the last half of the year and onwards.
We are all getting to grips with the new way of life that the pandemic has brought about, the new way of life that has developed continues to twist and turn into different trends with our eating and drinking habits. As new products and vogue ingredients continue to surface, many of the 2020 and 2021 trends are clearly here to stay.
We’ll continue to keep on the buzz with the latest development in the food and especially beverage markets, and as customer demands shift, so does technology. With new products in the pipeline for the food and beverage industries, our commitment to provide solutions for industry will continue.