The coronavirus pandemic shifted Americans’ food tastes — more meals cooked at home, far less dining in at restaurants but far more takeout and delivery.
So what does 2021 hold for food choices? A look at this year’s food trend predictions:
Testing out the kitchen
New recipes will flow, and so will new flavor profiles as Americans keep embracing home-cooked meals.
Anne-Marie Roerink, president of 210 Analytics, a research firm specialized in food retailing, told International Business Times that consumers are “tired of the same old and ready to try something new with their newly learned skills.”
“This means we’re seeing all sorts of new combinations and flavors pop up and innovation will drive continued experimentation, particularly in integrating international cuisines with American cooking,” she said.
Adding to the experimentation is the introduction of new products that will hit the shelves, delayed because of the pandemic.
Romancing the garden
Plant-based meats are still hot with consumers looking to drop those pandemic pounds or simply wanting be eat healthier.
“Eating less meat, more fresh vegetables and fruits is not only trending, but I think that people are really starting to prioritize what they put in their bodies,” Gina Fontana, a food blogger for Healthy Little Vittles and certified health coach, told IBT.
“Consumers are starting to care more about what is in their food and taking time to read food labels and choosing food items with a shorter list of ingredients,” she said.
Protecting mind and body
Foods that combine ingredients that are good for both the body and mind — yogurts labeles a probiotic, fruits high in vitamin C, broth, sauerkraut, and mushrooms — will get the attention of grocery shoppers.
“In addition to the change up of routines driven by the pandemic, there has also been a growing focus on well-being that has manifested in consumers seeking out more ingredients that support wellness, such as superfoods and adaptogens,” Kelly Landrieu, global coordinator for Local Brands at Whole Foods Market told IBT.
Easy going home or away
More and more Americans want convenience when it comes to meals, whether on the go or at home. Be ready a surge in more convenient packaging, from deli offerings to meal kits that range from pre-marinated meats and salad kits to all the ingredients for soup, spaghetti, or even apple pie, Roerink said.
“Consumers still like some skin in the game, but it’s all about the shortcut,” she said. “I suspect 2021 will also be the comeback year for deli prepared foods, albeit prepackaged versus the long grocery store buffets. It is going to be all about ready-to-eat, ready-to-heat and ready-to-cook.”
Spending less, getting more
Consumers are more concerned than ever about how and where they spend their money. And food is no exception. They’re planning more and avoiding those impulse buys that add up at the checkout.
But all that self-control could come with a different kind of price.
“As we are encouraged to stay home, we are shopping more online, which can be helpful in avoiding those impulse buys- you know, the candy bars staring at you in the checkout line,” Fontana said.
“But maybe that is also hindering consumers from purchasing fresh produce and swapping out an item for a healthier alternative.”
Waking up, chowing down
With more workers still stuck at home, the time to have a big breakfast is here. Now, Americans are cooking full breakfasts and forgoing those on-the-go bites as they get ready to settle into their home offices for the day.
“Personally, I’ve perfected my pancake making while working from home during the pandemic, ” Landrieu said. “Time saved not commuting put to good use!”
Waste not, want not
Consumers are becoming savvy when it comes to where their food comes from and how it is produced. Many are looking for unprocessed alternatives that are sustainable or even “upcycled.”
Upcycled foods come from ingredients that are typically thrown away after they’ve been used, saving on energy and reducing food waste such as peels and stems.
“Safety took the headlines in 2020, but shoppers are going to once more be looking for items that are better for them, the planet, the worker, and the animal. Including limiting food waste, package waste and produced more sustainability,” Roerink said.
A digital indulgence
Online grocery shopping will keep growing as consumers forget about going to the store and the infection keeps surging in states nationwide.
“In 2020, online grocery shopping jumped five years ahead on its growth trajectory,” Roerink said . “And restaurants rapidly perfected online orders with sophisticated delivery and pickup systems. While grocery e-commerce dipped a little over the summer, it came right back as COVID case counts started rising again in November/December.”
Assessing COVID’s impact
The pandemic undoubedly reshaped consumer behavior in 2020 and still is in the early days of the new year.
“Consumer behaviors shifted in 2020, there’s no doubt, and as we predicted in our food trends – some of those habits will continue into 2021,” Landrieu said.
“As those behaviors become long-standing habits, consumers will continue to seek out wellness in new aisles of the store. Their appreciation of the not-so-basic basics will mean that their palates will continue to seek out exciting new takes on pantry staples, and these items will become a permanent fixture on their grocery list.”
For the making
With Landrieu’s words in mind, here’s recipe from Fontana’s Healthy Little Vittles’ blog to feed 2021’s big breakfast hankering.
Meyer Lemon “Ricotta” Waffles
- 2 cups cassava flour (Bob’s Red Mill)
- 3/4 cup almond meal/flour
- 1.5 tablespoons arrowroot flour/starch
- 1.5 tablespoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1.5 cups unsweetened flax milk (or other plant milk)
- 2 Meyer Lemons, juiced and zested
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1/4 cup vegan ricotta (or unsweetened applesauce)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup plant butter (melted)
Meyer Lemon Syrup
- 1/2 cup organic powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons Meyer Lemon juice (1 large Meyer Lemon)
- whipped coconut cream
- powdered sugar
- star fruit
- dragon fruit
- Heat waffle iron while making batter
- In medium-large bowl, whisk dry ingredients together, then add wet ones and mix until well combined.**NOTE: Add butter last to keep from hardening
- Let batter rest a few minutes.
- Spray waffle iron with coconut oil (or other non-stick spray).
- For a belgian waffle maker, add 1/3 cup batter to each waffle well and bake until golden on outside.
- Whisk together Meyer Lemon juice and powdered sugar until smooth.
- Serve syrup and garnishes.