5 food trends for 2021

Dan Ochwat
Executive Editor
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A third of consumers are buying more items tailored to their health and half prefer food and beverages that contain beneficial ingredients, according to new research by ADM. The trend toward buying more products that nourish the mind and body topped a list of five trends to keep an eye on in 2021 from the ingredients supplier.

ADM’s private label expert Collette Perozzi recently published a guest column on food trends for private brands to consider, leaning on the company’s OutsideVoice consumer insights platform. 

Similarly, in this latest trends release, ADM used its insights platform to pinpoint five trends that expect to transform food in the year ahead, and a bulk of the trends are all about getting healthier.

“The global health crisis has changed consumer preferences in new and unexpected ways,” says Vince Macciocchi, president, nutrition, ADM. “We are seeing a heightened demand for foods and beverages that support immune systems, enhance our mood and reduce our environmental impact, driven in part by emerging human tensions. This has provided a unique opportunity for brands to develop disruptive new products that will forever change the way we eat and drink. It’s going to be a year of innovation, marked by significant breakthroughs in nutrition.” 

The five trends as described by Chicago-based ADM are:

1. Nourishing the body and mind. ADM research found consumers are desiring health and wellness through foods and beverages, opening opportunities for store brands and national brands to build nutrient-dense products with functional health benefits aimed at supporting immune systems, enhancing mood and sustaining energy. Sensory factors like flavor and color are also playing an increasingly crucial role. Consumers are gravitating toward foods and beverages with bright and exciting colors that indicate citrus flavors, with their naturally occurring Vitamin C, as well as products with familiar, nostalgic flavors during these stressful times.  

2. Sustainability. Over two-thirds (65%) of consumers want to have a positive impact on the environment through their everyday actions and 32% of consumers buy sustainably produced items. One opportunity is in specialized feed to reduce methane emissions in livestock, for example, is helping to address consumer interest in more eco-friendly protein sources. New farming practices, such as regenerative agriculture, are being used to enrich soil, resulting in carbon drawdown and improvements to the water cycle. Renewable plant-based materials such as cornstarch and even seaweed are appearing in consumer packaging to reduce landfill waste. 

3. The gut microbiome emerges. A fourth of global consumers suffer from digestive health issues, per the research, and of those, half claim that it has a moderate or severe impact on their overall health. The pandemic has accelerated consumer interest in a more holistic approach to health, which includes a greater understanding of the foundational role of the gut microbiome on each individual’s health. 

4. Plant-based foods
Globally, 56% of plant consumers are trying to eat more plant-based foods and beverages, according to the research, and demand for plant-based protein products is rapidly expanding beyond just burger analogues to new and novel products, including alternative seafoods like shellfish and shrimp, plant-based cheeses, ready-to-eat protein snacks and more. Alt meat products also continue to evolve, with new technologies like 3-D printing and protein fermentation. The dairy alternative category also is growing to encompass other formats such as yogurt, ice cream, butter, spreads and creamers.  

5. Transparency. ADM found that 26% of global consumers look for the country of origin on food and drink labels, as they thirst for more transparency. The quest for cleaner ingredients extends to flavors and colors, with many seeking natural alternatives, whether it be elderberries to give a product a rich blue hue or peppermint and mint to elicit an energizing burst of coolness in foods and beverages. Sweeteners such as monk fruit and stevia are growing in popularity as consumers seek out natural ways to reduce their sugar intake.