Last month, ADM released the five global trends they believe will transform the food and beverage industry in 2021:

  1. A more proactive approach to nourishing the body and mind
  2. Sustainability takes center stage
  3. The gut microbiome emerges as the gateway to wellness
  4. Plant-based food boom expands beyond the bun
  5. Transparency builds consumer trust

These trends were identified using consumer behavior research from ADM’s proprietary OutsideVoiceSM insights platform, their network of trend spotters, and marketplace signals.

In an email interview with Ana Ferrell, Vice President of Marketing at ADM, we dug into the trends and how the industry can meet consumer demands. Here’s an edited version of the Q&A.

Please provide a brief overview of each of the trends ADM is predicting for next year.

Ana Ferrell: The common thread among these trends is the increasing consumer demand for products that go beyond sensory appeal. Consumers are looking to support immune function and gut health, enhance mood, and reduce environmental impact through food and beverage choices.

People are making increasingly educated decisions to choose foods and beverages that promote physical, mental and emotional wellness. Our research finds that 50% of consumers prefer foods and beverages that naturally contain nutrient-dense ingredients like fibers and proteins. Offerings with visible plant protein sources like nuts, seeds, ancient grains, and beans satisfy consumer demand for products with increased nutrition, as well as provide great taste, texture and visual appeal. In fact, our research finds that more than 70% of consumers rate protein from plant sources as healthy. Brands can also signal functional health benefits by using bright and exciting colors and citrus flavors with naturally occurring vitamin C for energy, while familiar flavors like vanilla, chocolate, and cinnamon signal warmth and comfort to support relief from feelings of stress.

The global pandemic has also heightened the awareness of the importance of the digestive system and its connection to aspects of physical, mental, and emotional health by way of the microbiome. Of particular interest is the microbiome’s ability to support immune function, address weight management and influence emotional well-being. There is significant potential for growth around prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics given their positive effects on digestive health and the microbiome.

We also see more shoppers reaching for plant proteins and close-to-nature ingredients. Consumers are looking for meat and dairy alternatives that use beans, soy, and pea as a protein base. Novel plant-based alternative seafood products are also on the rise as plant-based offerings expand and evolve.

Sustainability is another area for potential growth in 2021. Not only do people prioritize an environmentally conscious end product, but they also expect sourcing and operating standards to demonstrate sustainability as well. Consumers have also shown growing concern for transparency on ingredient labels and a preference for locally sourced foods and beverages. Plant-based flavors and colors, as well as natural sweeteners like monk fruit, are ideal for clean labels.

To what extent are the trends new versus continuations of what we’ve been seeing?

AF: Each of these trends is heavily influenced by behavioral changes that have emerged since the beginning of the pandemic and beyond. ADM has been tracking many of these trending areas for several years, demonstrating longevity. Trends often evolve into long-term or permanent changes rather than achieving short-term popularity before fading. While the global pandemic has changed the way we eat, drink, and connect with one another in the short term, we acknowledge the potential for these nutrition trends to continue evolving over time.

How do you think the pandemic has impacted what people are looking for in food?

AF: Now more than ever, consumers are making mindful decisions to improve physical, mental, and emotional well-being. In fact, our research finds eight in 10 consumers are trying to eat and drink healthier. They are seeking nutritious options that provide benefits like immune support, sustained energy, and satiety. At the same time, permissible indulgences like bread, ice cream, and hard seltzers help soothe high levels of stress. 

However, some people are struggling to balance good nutrition habits with regular exercise, which can negatively impact their weight and overall well-being. Our research shows that close to a third of consumers have been more conscious about their weight since the pandemic began. A study published in the International Journal of Obesity in 2018 indicates that postbiotics helped participants of the clinical trial significantly reduce waist circumference, which suggests a link between postbiotics and positive support of weight management. We look forward to continued exploration of the potential of microbiome-targeted products like prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics to have positive impacts on other areas of wellness, such as metabolic health, sustained energy, satiety, and immune function.

Do you think the industry is well-positioned to address these trends? What innovations have you seen?

AF: The global trends identified present challenges for the industry. However, product developers partnering with ADM developers can put themselves in a better position to meet consumer needs. Scientific research is at the core of our innovation efforts, and we’re prepared to help our customers develop new and exciting food and beverage solutions that evolve with consumer trends.

For example, our HT-BPL1 postbiotic, made by heat-treating the award-winning BPL1 probiotic strain, is a groundbreaking advancement for microbiome-targeted solutions, because it does not contain live microorganisms. This gives it increased stability, which makes it a flexible addition to a wider variety of applications, including those with harsh processing conditions like baked goods and pasteurized beverages. HT-BPL1 also targets metabolic health through its effects on visceral fat reduction. 

Another innovation we’ve developed for our customers is textured wheat and pea proteins, which can improve texture and density of meat alternatives. Furthermore, our Arcon® T textured pea proteins are well suited for product positioning that targets allergen-free designations and a clean label. Our team of experts is prepared with the knowledge and extensive ingredient portfolios to assist our customers in developing innovative products as trends evolve for years to come.

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