What’s in store for food in 2021? We reviewed the trend predictions and identified four that experts believe will define the food industry in the coming year.

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Plant-based

“Global phenomenon status” is how Innova describes the trend of plant-based food. The SFA calls it “more a movement than a trend” and expects annual growth of 10–20% through 2024.

Globally, 56% of plant consumers are attempting to eat more plant-based foods and beverages, according to ADM research. Consumers consider plant-based alternatives for four main reasons—health, diet variety, sustainability, and taste—Innova found. The company expects growing mainstream appeal of plant-based to accelerate demand for new and different products. 

ADM also says demand for products is quickly going beyond burger analogues to new and novel products. Double- to triple-digit growth in emerging categories—snacks, dips, sauces, cheese, spreads, creamers, etc.—are driving increased plant-based sales.

Meanwhile, Whole Foods gave a nod to plant-based with two trends: chickpeas and fruit and veggie jerky.

Read our interview with Ana Ferrell, Vice President of Marketing at ADM.

Functional ingredients

“The lines are blurring between the supplement and grocery aisles,” states Whole Foods. “That means superfoods, probiotics, broths, and sauerkrauts. Suppliers are incorporating functional ingredients like vitamin C, mushrooms, and adaptogens to foster a calm headspace and support the immune system.”

Sixty percent of global consumers are looking more for food and beverages that support immune health, according to Innova, with one-third saying they are more concerned about immune health in 2020 than they were in 2019. Immune-support and stress-management products will be in demand in 2021, says SFA.

Another growth area for functional products is those that target the microbiome. ADM says this area is “fertile ground for food and beverage innovation with functional solutions like prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics that support microbiome function.”

Sustainability

“Sustainability takes center stage,” states ADM, noting 65% of consumers want their everyday actions to positively affect on the environment. Lux Research’s report The Food Company of 2050 lists “increasing sustainability” as one of the six areas where companies must focus if they expect to survive and thrive for the next 30 years.

Concerns about sustainability cause some consumers to select renewable food sources, such as grains, legumes, algae, and seaweed, according to Grande. Also on trend are foods that help reduce waste, including misshapen fruits and vegetables, as well as by-products that can be upcycled into nutritious ingredients for soups, sauces, dressings, meal replacement bars, protein supplements, beverages, and more. Whole Foods also identified upcycled foods as one of its top 10 trends for 2021. The company notes a large increase in packaged products that use neglected and underused parts of an ingredient.

Transparency

“Transparency triumphs” is Innova’s leading trend for 2021. The company includes sustainability as part of that trend. “Transparency builds consumer trust” makes ADM’s top five, with the company noting consumers expect food labels to impart greater transparency around the entire life cycle of a product.

Grande sums it up with, “Consumers want to know where their food comes from, how it was produced and how it was sourced.”