With many aspects of 2021 tentative – travel, consumption preferences, health and wealth – predicting food trends for 2021 is challenging. Covid-19 restrictions are still affecting how people consume food, purchase groceries, eat at restaurants and interact with quick-service restaurants in 2021.

Kalsec 2021 Food Trend Predictions

Kalsec global market research experts are predicting six trends that we expect to guide the global food industry in 2021. From functional food and beverages to celebrating culture with cuisines, our experts carefully selected the top six food trends that we expect to see in 2021. Additionally, we collected and analyzed a master list of food trend predictions from top industry sources and summarized them for you below. We created one place to view all major food industry trend predictions.

So what is in store for 2021? Here are Kalsec’s top six food trend predictions for 2021:

Functional Food and Beverages

food trends 2021The pandemic has ‘fast-tracked’ many consumers to take a higher interest in the nutrition of their food, and the health benefits of ingredients and specific ‘functional’ foods. As consumers had more down time in 2020, we saw them use this time to understand what they eat. Functional foods does not necessarily mean new ingredients being added to a food or beverage, although this may be the case as well, but the repositioning of products to include new health and label claims. For example, ingredients that provide immunity boosting, a beverage that also works as a sleep aid, and kombucha as a functional beverage.

One of the biggest functional categories that we expect food and beverages to incorporate more in 2021 is those with a focus on mental health and mood modifying ingredients. We also expect repositioning around food and beverages that are not always deemed healthy. For example, beers for running, hard seltzers, and fermented foods that provide probiotic benefits.

Celebrating Culture with Cuisine

Each year we typically see a new global focus on specific regional flavors. With limited travel in 2020, we saw many cultures celebrating their heritage with food. For example, in the U.S. we saw an increase in African American cuisine and businesses as people delve into these tastes, and we expect to see this continue and expand in 2021. We also predict an increase in Latin American foods and flavors like chimichurri, horchata and salsa macha following the global trend for Mexican flavors.

In the Asia-Pacific, we are seeing a localized fusion of specific country flavors that are being adopted into other country’s cuisines; for example, Mala, which originated in Sichuan China. “Mala” is composed of the Chinese characters ‘numbing’ and ‘spicy.’ Mala cuisine became popular in China and other countries in Asia, and as a number of Asian cuisines now incorporate the pungent spice, it is now spreading throughout the rest of Asia in the form of snacks and instant noodles.

A Force for Good

Consumers continue to want more out of companies than just products. They want alignment with their core values, and there is an increased interest in supporting people and the planet. We see this expanding beyond premium options to mainstream aisles as brands adopt a sustainable mindset. In some ways we may see the food system sustainably reinvented.

Many companies made large climate change and carbon footprint goals recently, and we can expect to see further results as companies work toward these goals. This also means improving supply chains, and in many cases making supply chains as local as possible. This ties into the macro trend for transparency across the supply chain. With global economies down and many consumers forced to stay and eat local, we expect an increase in support for local businesses and local supply chains. From sustainable supply chain practices to transparency and driving local economies, the food industry is focused on becoming stewards for good.

food trends 2021

Innovations in Prepared and Takeout Meals

In 2020 we saw businesses and restaurants adapting their operations and as a result, an unprecedented increase in prepared and takeout food innovation. Some consumers gained new disposable income from saving money on their work commute, and were looking to support their local restaurants. We expect to see this continue in the form of premiumization, such as specialty to-go cocktails and meal kits from your favorite restaurants to make at home. This will expand by taking traditional flavors and evolving them into other applications, such as snacks. We expect to see more prepared meals trying to give the sit-down experience in a packaged and/or processed meal.

Adapting takeout and food hand-off with consumers has also seen innovation that we expect to continue into 2021. This may be in the form of better packaging for delivery or outside eating, and understanding new factors to maintaining freshness in those foods. Technology will also continue to play a large role in the ease for consumer, with online ordering, social media profiles and mobile applications becoming imperative to success.

Specific Spices and Ingredients 2.0

In previous years we have predicted spicy specificity as a trend. This meant adding pungency to foods and beverages with specificity, beyond ‘mild,’ ‘medium,’ and ‘hot.’ Now, the trend for specific spices and ingredients has expanded into front of pack claims for other spices, alliums, fruits and vegetables, like black garlic rather than just garlic. The desire for specific ingredients ties into the macro trend for transparency across the supply chain as consumers want to know more about the foods and flavors they are eating and the craving for uniqueness.

Consumers have an increased interest in their consumption habits, and the storytelling of the products they purchase. This story may include twists on traditional flavors, understanding the cooking techniques that add depth of flavor, or stories built for specific transparency in the products. Examples from Europe include roasted jalapeno chips and sundried tomato toast, and go as far as yogurt brands including the names of the cows that produced the yogurt.

Classics with a Modern Twist

Classic flavors and comfort foods have been on the rise, but with consumers cooking at home for extended periods of time, they want to add a twist and experiment. This includes adding non-traditional ingredients to their favorite comfort foods, and specialized culinary techniques, like roasting, toasting, caramelizing and smoking that add complexity to the flavors. We also expect to see an increase in consumers trying plant-based proteins and vegetarian diets, whether it is in the form of groceries or meal kits. A trending example of a classic with a twist is non-traditional charcuterie; whether it is made from candy or snack foods, there are many colorful and flavorful possibilities.

Another illustration of adding a popular flavor to comfort foods in Asia is wok hei, which translates to “breath of a wok.” It refers to a smoky flavor imparted by cooking the fresh ingredients in a hot wok under conditions of intense heat during stir frying.

Top Food Trend Lists for 2021

How did Covid-19 affect the food industry as we head into 2021? Our market research experts analyzed some of the top food trend prediction lists and summarized each predicted trend to make reviewing food trends for 2021 easier for you. Additionally, we reviewed the lists for any meta trends and found a few key words (like plant-based, health and sweet) that describe what is in store for 2021, according to some of the industry’s top sources.

Here is a compilation of some of the top trend lists for 2021:

TRANSPARENCY TOP TREND FOR 2021

SOURCE: Innova

  1. Transparency Triumphs: Increasing transparency to meet evolving ethical, environmental and clean label consumer demands
  2. Plant-Forward: Rising mainstream appeal will drive expansion to different regions and categories
  3. Tailored to Fit: Personalized nutrition and experiences
  4. New Omnichannel Eating: Consumers seeing convenience, richer experiences and accessible indulgence
  5. In Tune with Immune: Prioritizing immune health
  6. Nutrition Hacking: Technology providing enhanced nutritional value, sustainability and environmental impact
  7. Mood – The Next Occasion: Growth of new products addressing specific moods
  8. Product Mashups – When Trends Collide: Hybrid innovation that broaden dimensions of indulgence
  9. Modern Nostalgia: Global trends go local and regional trends gain modern relevance
  10. Age of the Influencer: Shift to more reliable influencers
THE NEXT BIG THINGS: TOP 10 FOOD TRENDS FOR 2021

SOURCE: Whole Foods

  1. Well-Being is Served: Functional ingredients like vitamin C, mushrooms and adaptogens for a calm headspace and immune system support
  2. Epic Breakfast Every Day: More people working from home and spending time on breakfast – pancakes, sous vide egg bites and “eggs” made from mung beans
  3. Basics on Fire: Home chefs creating reimagined classics
  4. Coffee Beyond the Mug: Coffee-flavored foods
  5. Baby Food, All Grown Up: Portable, on-the-go squeeze pouches full of rhubarb, rosemary, purple carrots and omega-3-rich flaxseeds
  6. Upcycled Foods: Packaged products that use neglected and underused parts of an ingredient as a path to reducing food waste
  7. Oil Change: Walnut, pumpkin seed and sunflower seed oils on the rise
  8. Boozed-Up Booch: Alcoholic kombucha
  9. The Mighty Chickpea: The new cauliflower – chickpea in the form of pasta, tofu, flour and even cereal
  10. Fruit and Veggie Jerky: Mushrooms and jackfruit being served jerky-style
MINTEL’S 2021 GLOBAL FOOD & DRINK TRENDS

SOURCE: Mintel

  1. Feed the Mind: Food and beverages for mental and emotional wellbeing
  2. Quality Redefined: New views of trust, quality and reinventing convenience
  3. United by Food: Food and beverages brands connecting with consumers on an individual and community level
  4. Identity 2021 – Coming Together: Consumers connecting in like-minded communities, driven by the global pandemic
  5. Value 2021 – Priority Shift: Return to the essentials with a focus on flexible possessions and reframing of ownership
  6. Experiences 2021 – Virtual Lives: Increased need for escapism and improved technology, digital experiences
  7. Rights 2021 – Collective Empowerment: Push for equity, agency and rights around the world
  8. Surroundings 2021 – Sustainable Spaces: Accelerating demand for sustainability
  9. Wellbeing 2021 – Health Undefined: Wellbeing is at the forefront of consumers’ minds
  10. Technology 2021 – Digital Dilemmas: Concerns about negative impacts of a digitally connected life
TECHNOMIC’S TAKE: 2021 GLOBAL TRENDS OUTLOOK

SOURCE: Technomic

  1. It’s a Plant-Based World. Now What?: Creating points of differentiation in the market – local, healthy, indulgent and sustainable
  2. Value Gets a Jolt: Altering messaging from low prices to convenience, health, and comfort. Chains tapping into subscription models and meal kits
  3. Experience Matters More than Ever: Videos to go with meal kits and quirky attempts to create experiences and environments that drive patio, parking lot, and street dining
  4. ‘New and Improved’ is the New ‘Limited-Time Offer’: Chains upgrading fried chicken, coffee, burger patties, and pizza toppings with higher-quality ingredients and enhanced preparation methods
  5. The Great Outdoors: Chains looking to develop outdoor friendly foods and beverages – functional for active lifestyles and packaged for outside consumption
  6. Menu Cleansing: Items that cleanse the body and environment – immunity boosters, new leafy greens, non-dairy milks and plant-based proteins
  7. Investing in Digital Differentiation: Consumers becoming more aware of their spending habits and increasingly trade down to lower-priced occasions across foodservice segments
  8. Revisiting the Big 3 International Hotspots: Traveling restrictions have sparked interest in the top three global favorites (Italian, Mexican and Chinese)
  9. Social Justice – Beyond the Buzzwords: Companies are communicating definitive messages about their stance on social justice issues, in the food industry we see this leading to the exploration of Caribbean and sub-Saharan African cuisines, as well as the celebration of specialties from Black American chefs
  10. New-Mami Flavor Exploration: Momentum towards non-traditional fruit vinegars (beyond apple cider), new mushrooms, protein swaps, eggs on eggs, tomato jam, tamari sauce
  11. What Will Stay and What Will Go?: Modern concept trends that relied on social interaction are changing, distancing and off-premise initiatives will be prioritized
  12. An Industry Unleashed: Capacity constraints, service suspensions and lingering guest hesitation may persist, but it will be met with medical advances and aggressive strategies resulting in growth
PINTEREST PREDICTS 10 FOOD TRENDS TO DROOL OVER IN 2021

SOURCE: Pinterest

  1. Breakfast Boards: Charcuterie featuring fruits, waffles, spreads and toppings
  2. Sweet Feasts: Candy charcuterie
  3. Baked Art: Bread art using herbs and toppings to add creative patterns and designs to bread
  4. Taco Time: Mexican charcuterie boards like DIY taco and nacho building
  5. Hot ‘n Sweet Sauces: Extra spice in all kinds of foods, hot honey
  6. Zesty Jellies: Adding heat to jellies and jams
  7. More Tea Time: From making your own healthy tea blends to homemade tea recipes for tea lattes and iced teas
  8. Bringing the Restaurant Experience Home: New takeout and delivery options
  9. Plating Like a Pro: A focus on creating beautiful plates of food at home with gourmet food plating
  10. Basque Burnt Cheesecake: The next trendy decadent dessert
YELP PREDICTS THE TOP TRENDS OF 2021

SOURCE: Yelp

Restaurant Trends

  1. Digital Dining and Restaurant Technology: QR codes on menus, waitlist to curbside pickup
  2. Groceries: Adapting pantries into mini grocery stores, unconventional takeout opportunities
  3. Meal Kits and Catering To-Go: Alternative to typical takeout fare for local businesses
  4. New Takes on Takeout: Boosts in Indian and Thai takeout
  5. Gratitude: Boosted gratuity to help support local workers

Food Trends

  1. Birria: Juicy, spiced meat stew
  2. Detroit-Style Pizza: Sicilian pizza recipe with a Motor City twist
  3. Hard Seltzer: Popular beer brands taking advantage of the trend
  4. Hot Honey: Honey with a kick
  5. Fried Chicken: Japanese, Korean and Nashville hot chicken
  6. Japanese Sandwiches or “Sandos”: Katsu sandos will be everywhere
  7. Seafood Boils: Dine in or take home seafood
  8. Boba: Bubble tea with new flavors like brown sugar, fusion desserts like boba flan, popsicles and ice cream
MCCORMICK FLAVOR FORECAST: LOOKING BACK TO LOOK FORWARD

SOURCE: McCormick

  1. Sweet and Seasonal Satisfaction: Sweet, smoky and limited-time-only indulgences
  2. Spicy (R)evolution: Heat and spice offer a sensory experience like no other, creative pairings of heat in applications like cocktails, baked goods, marinades and more
  3. Global Finds: A fusion of hyper-local and global cuisines
  4. Empowered Eating and Drinking: Health and wellness remain top of mind without sacrificing flavor
DATASSENTIAL’S 10 FOOD TRENDS TO KNOW IN 2021

SOURCE: Datassential

Macro Trends

  1. The Future Chef: The chef’s role will continue to evolve and become more personal with technology
  2. Modern Comfort: Expanding definition of comfort foods
  3. Plant-Based Evolves: Even more mainstream plant-based options, more plant-based chicken and pork
  4. Rethinking Service: Defining hospitality for different generations as the next generation of consumers believes less is more
  5. What is a Restaurant?: Rethinking the definition of ‘restaurant’ with the implementation of ghost kitchens, virtual brands and salad vending machines
  6. Understanding Authenticity: Embracing a more nuanced view of what authenticity means from a consumer, chef and manufacturer level

Flavor and Ingredient Trends

  1. Fermented Honey: A new, tangy and sweet version of a classic natural sweetener
  2. Chicory Root: Caffeine-free coffee alternatives that may show up in baked goods and desserts
  3. Sudachi: This Japanese citrus fruit is the new yuzu
  4. Future Produce: Unique produce varieties
  5. Carob: Everything from carob flour to carob molasses
  6. Honeysuckle: Next-level take on floral flavors like elderflower and rose
  7. Guisada: Carne guisada as a rich, comforting taco or bowl protein, made with chicken, pork and seafood
WAITROSE IDENTIFIES TOP 2021 CONSUMER FOOD TRENDS

SOURCE: Waitrose & Partners

  1. Support for British Food: Those in the UK want to support local producers
  2. Consumer Trends: Meals inspired by social media platforms, slow cooked meats, organic foods and winter barbecues
  3. Tornado Omelette: Korean dish that grew in popularity due to social media
  4. Slow it Down: Home working has allowed for consumers to spend time slow cooking meats
  5. Winter BBQs: Korean and Thai cuisines have had a surge in popularity for Al fresco eating
  6. Asian Essentials: Store cupboard essentials from Asia were some of the fastest growing ingredient range
  7. Posh Coffee at Home: Coffee machine sales were up for at-home brewing
10 FOODS AND DRINKS YOU’LL SEE EVERYWHERE IN 2021

SOURCE: Food Network

  1. Breakfast – Batter Up!: More people have time for a proper first meal rather than to-go breakfasts
  2. Sweet Stuff – Mochi Moment: Mochi doughnuts
  3. Plant-Based Foods – Cheesy Impersonators: Dairy-free cheese
  4. Fizzy Drinks – Hard Seltzer 2.0: Canned versions of popular mixed drinks
  5. Sustainability – One Person’s Trash…: Upcycled foods
  6. Restaurants – Climate-Friendly Cuisine: Foods with low-carbon footprints
  7. Social Media – Sweet Boards: Charcuterie boards touting sweet treats
  8. Alcohol – Good in Paper: Plastic-free, paper-based liquor bottles
  9. Viral Bites – TikTok Food: TikTok is the new place to find food trends (fancy coffee, booze hacks, dinner shortcuts, restaurant re-creations and DIY Cereal)
  10. Flavor of the Year – Hot Honey: Honey infused with chilies and spice
HOW WILL WE EAT IN 2021? 11 PREDICTIONS TO CHEW ON

SOURCE: The New York Times

  1. Meal Kits from Chefs: As meal kits became more popular with the onset of the pandemic, chefs began curating meal kits for consumers as well
  2. Drinks from Cans – The Planet: The environmental shift among craft brewers from bottles to cans went into overdrive as bars saw a huge decline in keg consumption due to the pandemic
  3. Vegetable of the Year – Take Your Pick: In 2021, any vegetable will do as health and immunity are concerns
  4. Flavor of the Year – Basque Burnt Cheesecake: A crustless cheesecake baked in a hot oven so the top caramelizes and the inside remains soft
  5. Food for the Bedroom: Food and drinks that promote relaxation and sleep
  6. Homegrown Tastes: Hyper-regional American food
  7. Labels Worth Reading: Labels that go beyond government-required information to detail the product’s environmental and social impact
  8. Waste, Trimmed: Covid-19 brought less concern about packaging waste as many consumers prioritized safety and convenience, but concern about waste and compostable/reusable will rise once the threat of Covid-19 decreases
  9. Delivery, Evolved: Realignment in food delivery with technological advances and hospitality concerns
  10. Lockdown Habits that Linger: Online grocery shopping, plant-based eating, ghost kitchens, direct ordering from local farms and culinary self-reliance
  11. Cause of the Year – Hunger: An immediate need to feed hungry people
KROGER UNVEILS 2020’S TOP TRENDS AND WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2021

SOURCE: Kroger

  1. Futureproof Foods: Functional food and beverages
  2. Seeking Comfort: Easy-to-prepare comfort foods that balance convenience and quick preparation times with flavorful meals
  3. Ketotarian Foods: A plant-based spin on the traditional keto diet
  4. Global Flavors and Restaurant Favorites Hit Home: Experimenting with global flavors and cuisines at home
  5. Mushroom Mania: Mushroom will star in new products like blended plant-based proteins, condiments, spices, seasonings and more
  6. For the Planet: A focus on the environmental impact of food and beverage choices
  7. Fresh Innovation: Innovative solutions to keep fruits and vegetables fresher longer
SEE YA 2020, 10 TASTY FOOD TRENDS WE’LL BE DEVOURING IN 2021

SOURCE: Food Network

  1. Chickpeas, Please: Chickpeas used as flour, pizza and other creative recipes
  2. Plant Jerky: Fruit and veggies turned into jerky
  3. Whole Grains: Less-processed grains like millet, barley and teff, wheat varieties like spelt and farro
  4. Big Breakfasts: Decadent breakfasts as people trade commute time for cooking time
  5. Kombucha, with a Twist: Alcoholic kombucha
  6. Savory Sauerkraut: A top driver of the health and wellness trend
  7. Embracing Other Oils: Walnut, pumpkin seed, sunflower seed and avocado
  8. Cup-Free Caffeine Boosts: Coffee-flavored foods
  9. Upcycling: More products that use parts of common ingredients that would otherwise end up as food waste
  10. Snack Time: Swapping meals with snacks occasionally
TREND PREDICTIONS FOR 2021; IS BREADFRUIT THE NEW SUPERFOOD?

SOURCE: Food Technology Magazine

  1. Breadfruit, the New Superfood: A fruit that has long been a staple in tropical and South Pacific countries, it can be eaten on its own or dried and ground into a gluten-free flour
  2. Front-of-Package Labels Promote Nutrition: Voluntary, highly visible nutritional labeling on the front of packaging will be effective
  3. Climate Change May Help Improve Rice Yields: An extended growing season for rice in Japan may allow farmers to harvest more rice from the same fields
  4. 3D Printing of Milk-Based Products: Researchers from the Singapore University of Technology and Design have developed a method to perform direct ink writing 3D printing of milk-based products at room temperature while maintaining temperature-sensitive nutrients

Food Trends

  1. Sugar Rush: Pressure to reduce sugar content in food products is paving the path for sugar replacer allulose and other efforts to maximize the efficiency of sugar
  2. Garbanzo – Good to Great: Chickpea flour and aquafaba for flatbreads, crusts, dairy-free ice cream, macarons and meringues
  3. CBD Adjacent: Copaiba, an essential oil, provides therapeutic benefits similar to CBD
  4. Climatarians Are Coming: Increase in eliminating foods with a high carbon footprint from diets
  5. “No Bones” About It, Carob Will Make a Comeback: A supplement to counter HYP deficiencies in vegan diets
  6. Fats Forward: Return to liberal use of extra-virgin olive oil and away from coconut oil
  7. Everything in Moderation: Blended foods, with both meat- and plant-based products, will thrive
  8. Ghosting Restaurants to Ghost Kitchens: Restaurants adapting to new expectations for service, delivery and experience
THE FLAVORS YOU’LL START SEEING EVERYWHERE IN 2021, ACCORDING TO EXPERTS

SOURCE: Better Homes and Gardens

  1. Aji Amarillo: Chili pepper with an intensely fruity profile and low heat
  2. Black Lime: Dried version of a key lime with a tangy-sweet, slightly fermented flavor
  3. Coffee: Many different foods highlighting coffee flavors
  4. Garam Masala: This go-to spice for savory stews will find its way into unexpected dishes like ice cream
  5. Ginger: As a functional ingredient
  6. Lavender: In high-end teas and sweet treats, and maybe even potato chips
  7. Passion Fruit: Standing on its own, this tropical flavor is on the rise as consumers long to travel
  8. Sumac: Key ingredient in za’atar spice blend, it has a bright acidity, fruit-forward profile with a pleasantly chewy texture and salty bite
5 TRENDS FUELING FOOD AND BEVERAGE INNOVATION IN 2021

SOURCE: Food Dive

  1. More Companies Jump on Health and Immunity Bandwagon: Adding benefits and claims that prioritize health
  2. Tech-Enabled Transparency is Clearly Critical: Transparency throughout the supply chain
  3. Next-Generation Plant-Based Options Expand: Expect more plant-based options from different plants than previously (pea, soy and wheat)
  4. Demand for Flavors with Global Appeal and Health Cred Intensifies: A growing interest in wellness has elevated global flavors that consumers view as healthy
  5. CRISPR and Gene Editing Move from Crops to Consumers: Fresher and tastier foods as gene-editing techniques improve taste, texture and production of fruits and vegetables
TOP 4 FOOD TRENDS TO WATCH IN 2021

SOURCE: Baum + Whiteman

  1. Expect Fewer Restaurants: A rebalance of the dining industry as it recovers from the pandemic – fewer restaurants, higher prices and higher wages
  2. Reduced Human Interaction: Touchless ordering and paying at restaurants and limiting number of menus
  3. More At-Home Dining: Meal kits, food delivery, and shopping locally but eating globally
  4. Battle Against Food Waste: New apps linking overstocked local restaurants with nearby hungry residents
10 FOOD TRENDS FOR 2021 ALREADY ON RESTAURANTS’ MINDS

SOURCE: LIZ MOSKOW, FSR Magazine

  1. Packaging Design, Labeling, and Messaging Take Center Stage: Contactless label and menu designs and descriptors, technology that allows for communication between server stations and tables, augmented reality
  2. Differentiated Design for the Digital Shelf: The use of online grocery means more competition on the digital shelf
  3. Handmade Has Become a Tale of the Past, Now onto the Future: More focus on safety, contactless and hands-free
  4. Sustainability “Light”: A focus on sustainability became less important during the pandemic, but a resumed interest can be expected in sustainable and plant-based packaging
  5. Digital Restaurants Rise and Test Rapidly – Trial and Influence: Ghost kitchens and digital restaurant concepts
  6. DTC Faster and Fresher: Shipping produce directly to consumers faster and fresher
  7. Experiential Dining to the Doorstep: Culinary experiences curated with small groups of friends, delivered at home or via Zoom
  8. BIPOC Food Companies Matter: Consumers seeking out BIPOC-owned restaurants, food trucks, businesses and products
  9. Building Back Better: Learning from the pandemic and implementing better sizing portions, food safety and service protocols
  10. OTT Vegan: Over-the-top vegan comfort food
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