ADM’s 2021 food trends were strongly influenced by behavioral and societal changes that have emerged since the beginning of the pandemic, the company said.
Everything from heightened feelings of anxiety and stress, shifting priorities, changes in social connectivity, and the adoption of a more holistic approach to wellness played a role.
“The global health crisis has changed consumer preferences in new and unexpected ways,” says Vince Macciocchi, president, nutrition. “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 list of five trends ADM expects to see in the coming year is based on in-depth research from the company's proprietary OutsideVoice consumer insights platform. They include:
1. A more proactive approach to nourishing the body and mind
ADM research finds that 31 percent of consumers are purchasing more items tailored for their health, and 50 percent report a preference for foods and beverages that naturally contain beneficial ingredients.
The desire to influence health and wellness through foods and beverages is creating new opportunities for 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 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 takes center stage
Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of consumers want to have a positive impact on the environment through their everyday actions. This is a key reason why 32 percent of consumers buy sustainably produced items.
The growing awareness of our collective impact on the environment has elicited increasing demand for companies to demonstrate their sustainability commitment beyond just the end product to responsible sourcing and operating standards.
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 as the gateway to wellness
Approximately 25 percent of global consumers suffer from digestive health issues. Of those, 50 percent 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.
Products targeting the microbiome have been shown to help address specific metabolic conditions and issues such as weight management, immune system support and better emotional well-being. This provides fertile ground for food and beverage innovation with functional solutions like prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics that support microbiome function.
4. Plant-based food boom expands beyond the bun
Globally, 56 percent of plant consumers are trying to eat more plant-based foods and beverages, pushing alternative proteins into an increasingly mainstream phenomenon.
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 3D printing and protein fermentation playing a role in driving innovation. New plant-based meats on the horizon include whole-muscle products like steak and chicken breast, lunch meat, bacon and more.
The dairy alternative category, an early leader in the plant-based nutrition space, is growing to encompass other formats such as yogurt, ice cream, butter, spreads and creamers. To stand out in the dairy aisle, products must deliver more protein than traditional dairy, and feature a nutritional label fortified with vitamins and minerals or functional ingredients like probiotics.
5. Transparency builds consumer trust
Consumers now expect food labels to provide greater transparency around the entire product life cycle. This is helping drive the demand for locally sourced products as consumers seek greater clarity on where the ingredients in food and beverages come from. In fact, 26 percent of global consumers look for the country of origin on food and drink labels.
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.