Asian flavors, home-cooked meals, tequila top Kroger’s 2022 food trends

The Our Brands team of product developers and culinary specialists issued its fourth-annual report on flavors and consuming habits to watch in the year ahead.
Dan Ochwat
Executive Editor
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After pouring through consumer behavior insights in the marketplace and broad industry data, Kroger’s Our Brands product developers and culinary specialists have released its annual food trend predictions — and 2022 will be about health, convenience, Asian flavors and more. 

At the forefront of its fourth-annual report is convenience, driven by the trend of at-home meals like its partnership with Home Chef, a newly minted billion-dollar own brand.

10 packages of product

"Last year, even as many Americans returned to work and eased back into social gatherings, it became apparent that new habits were formed in 2020 and that they are here to stay — including cooking more at home. Customers are enjoying the convenience, affordability and just plain fun that comes from preparing meals at home," said Stuart Aitken, Kroger's senior vice president, chief merchant and marketing officer. "As at-home meals remain a staple, Kroger is proud to provide customers with fresh food options that meet them where they are in the kitchen — whether that's a fresh heat-and-eat meal on a busy school night or a four-course recreation from your favorite restaurant you've missed."

The Our Brands team organized the 2022 Food Trends Report into 10 key trends that look at flavors but also what will influence consumer purchase decisions. The trends not only help Kroger understand its shoppers but it helps the Our Brands team to develop items for the year ahead under its Simple Truth, Kroger brands and Private Selection line, according to newly hired VP of Our Brands Juan De Paoli.

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Juan De Paoli

"Unlocking these trends allows us to prepare for the year ahead, adapt our offerings, and innovate within Our Brands to ensure we continue to provide customers exactly what they need and want to delight themselves and their guests in 2022 and beyond," he said. "At-home meals hold major significance for our customers, and we take the importance of supporting these moments very seriously. The Our Brands team is endlessly striving to provide quality items that become the perfect backdrop as customers pridefully serve as they celebrate holidays, birthdays, milestones, anniversaries, and other get-togethers. We're excited to unveil new offerings in the year ahead that will add a wonderful — and tasty — touch to these gatherings."

The report has 10 trends broken down into three areas: emerging flavors, item premiumization and behavior shifts. Here’s Kroger’s 2022 predictions along with store brand products that highlight the trends:

Emerging Flavors
1. Umami. Asian cuisine has long understood how ingredients high in umami help elevate other ingredients and round out flavors in a dish, but the umami trend is exploding across new products, multicultural cuisines, traditional cooking, and hybrid mash-ups. Store brand examples:

  • Private Selection Chile Crisp Condiment
  • Private Selection Chile Crisp Sauce
  • Private Selection Premium Truffle Butter
  • Private Selection Sweet & Spicy Soy Chile Sauce
  • Simple Truth Plant-Based Korean Style Meatless Meatballs
  • Kroger Teriyaki Style Cook-in-Bag Pork Tenderloin
  • Kroger Wild Mushroom Ravioli
  • Private Selection Sweet & Savory California Tomato Jam

2. The “everything” seasoning and flavor. Everything seasoning is the trending flavor for 2022, as consumers top their favorite meals with a savory touch, per the report. Be on the lookout for everything-inspired foods from the bakery, to dips and even specialty cheeses to follow the trend. Store brand examples:

  • Simple Truth Everything Bagel Seasoning Blend
  • Kroger Everything Bagel Sour Cream Dip & Spread
  • Private Selection Everything Bagel Flavored Bacon
  • Simple Truth Everything Bagel Seasoned Mashed Avocado
  • Simple Truth Organic Everything Seasoning Keto Seed Crackers

3. Tequila tastes. The biggest beverage taste of 2022 follows the umami trend — savory tequila. As consumers continue to host at home, tequila is a shareable spirit that opens the door to experimentation. With tons of mixes to explore and custom cocktails to create, consumers are using tequila as a base to delight guests with diverse palettes. Store brand examples:

  • Simple Truth Organic Cilantro Lime Jalapeno Margarita Mix
  • Private Selection Bloody Mary Cocktail Mixer
  • Simple Truth Organic Ginger Lime Mule Mix
  • Simple Truth Tropical Turmeric Juice Cocktail
  • Simple Truth Organic Paletas Caribbean Style Mix Frozen Fruit Bars
  • Kroger Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice
  • Big K Pineapple Passion Fruit Soda
  • Private Selection Strawberry Mango Pineapple Blend Frozen Fruit
  • Private Selection Tequila Serrano Beef Jerky

4. #TBT flavors. As consumers cook more at home, nostalgic recipes deliver comfort and joy. Store brand examples:

  • Kroger Deluxe Fluffer Nutter Ice Cream
  • Kroger Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich Cookies
  • Kroger Mini Pizza Bagels
  • Kroger Pimento Cheese Spread
  • Kroger Edible Cookie Dough
  • Kroger Corn Dogs
  • Simple Truth Organic Sour Cherry Fruit Chews
  • Private Selection All Beef Hot Dogs

Item Premiumization
5. Eco-friendly foods. Consumers continue to focus on the health of the planet, not just through plant-based foods, but also by reducing their waste impact with upcycled ingredients and more recyclable packaging. Customers can also recycle flexible plastic packaging from Kroger Our Brands products through a national partnership with TerraCycle. Store brand examples:

  • Kroger Egg & Cheddar Croissant with Plant-Based Breakfast Patty
  • Simple Truth Plant Based Cheesecake, Cupcakes, Mac & Cheese
  • Simple Truth Plant-Based Baking Mixes made with upcycled Okara Flour Sugar Cookie, Chocolate Chip Cookie, and Dark Chocolate Brownie (coming soon)
  • Simple Truth Non-Dairy Cheese Shreds, Slices
  • Simple Truth-Kipster Carbon Neutral Eggs (launching in 2023)

6. Restaurant quality at home. Cooking at home isn't just about convenience anymore; emulating restaurant and travel experiences at home with upleveled, "Instagram- able" meals is trending today. Consumers are raising the bar when recreating dining experiences at home and have been met with the premiumization of frozen food as well. Store brand examples:

  • Private Selection Duroc Baby Back Ribs, Bone in Pork Chop, Boneless Pork Chops
  • Private Selection Macarons
  • Simple Truth Grass-fed Beef Burgers, Beef Hot Dogs
  • Simple Truth Organic Flavored Nitro Coffee
  • Kroger Bavarian Pretzel
  • Kroger Family Size Broccoli & Parmesan Sauce
  • Private Selection Goat Cheese & Crispy Bacon Pinsa Crust Style Pizza
  • Private Selection Ruby Chocolate Ice Cream Bar
  • Simple Truth Organic Plant-Based Meals Kimchi Meatballs

7. Hyper-local: Consumers are more conscious about the environmental and social impacts of their purchases and are making it a point to purchase products grown or made close to home. Alternative farms have created a way to get locally sourced, natural ingredients at their peak freshness — so everyone can support and enjoy their local farms — and in-store bakery items are providing consumers a chance to support small businesses.

Last year, Kroger launched Go Fresh & Local in 2021, which offers additional opportunities for fresh suppliers to become part of the organization's supplier network. Last year's winners will soon be appearing on shelves and include Maazah, Nona Lim, Queen Charlotte's Pimento Cheese Royale, Simply Southern Sides, and Soupergirl. As part of Kroger's Framework for Action: Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion plan, the organization is committed to increasing its spend with diverse suppliers to $10 billion by 2030 — after reaching $4.1 billion in spend in 2020, representing a 21% increase from the previous year.

Behavior Shifts
8. Natural health and beauty. Consumers are seeking out natural products to increase beauty from the inside-out. Eating for beauty and medicine is trending with food and beverage products that have health and beauty-boosting benefits are trending in 2022, with examples including fermented kombuchas, collagen-rich bone broths, antioxidants, probiotics, reductions of sugar, and additions of omega-3s. Store brand examples:

  • Simple Truth Beauty Crate Avocado Coconut Papaya Bar Soap
  • Simple Truth Beauty Crate Almond + Oatmeal + Honey Effervescent Bath Bombs
  • Simple Truth Organic 2% Reduced Fat Milk with Omega-3s
  • Simple Truth Organic Low-Sugar/Zero Sugar Kombucha
  • Simple Truth Organic Tropical Turmeric No Sugar Added Juice
  • Simple Truth Body Oil – Rosemary Mint and Coconut Papaya
  • Private Selection Drinkable Chicken Bone Broths

9. Shareable for all. Whether a consumer is vegan, organic, gluten-free or otherwise, one trend is to prepare foods that people of all diets can share in and enjoy. Store brand examples:

  • Kroger Family Size Migas Egg Bake
  • Kroger Pork, Beef, Pepper Jack & Cheddar Party Tray
  • Kroger Carbmaster Classic White Bread
  • Simple Truth Plant-Based Cupcakes
  • Simple Truth Vegan Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • Private Selection Protein Pancake Mix – Toasted Coconut

10. Charcuterie. Building boards, especially for breakfast and dessert, is expanding. Charcuterie boards have branched out beyond appetizers to offer consumers a variety of small portions to make the most out of every meal. Store brand examples:

  • Private Selection Dipped Cheesecake Bites
  • Private Selection Caramelized Onion Burger Topper
  • Kroger Mini Quiche Duo
  • Home Chef Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Peppers Stuffed with Cream Cheese
  • Bakery Fresh Goodness French Toast Fritters
  • Bakery Fresh Goodness Loaf Cakes
  • Murray's Cheese Wild Blueberry Preserves
  • Simple Truth Almond Butter Filled Pretzels

Kroger, based in Cincinnati, is the largest grocery retailer in the United States, and has been seeing strong penetration from its private brands, which overall delivered a 3.1% increase in same-store sales and a 14% increase on a two-year stack basis, per its latest quarterly report ending Nov. 6. The company’s Our Brands are a key pillar of its “Leading with Fresh” strategy.