The 6 main trends in the food industry for 2021

Predicting the future of the agri-food industry is no easy task, especially after a tumultuous 2020 that turned the industry upside down. 

However, certain key elements of the past year will continue to have an impact on 2021 and probably beyond. 

With 85% of consumers claiming to have changed their food consumption due to COVID-19; knowing the top 7 food industry trends for 2021 is critical to the success of food manufacturers and food scientists. 

1- Transparency

To meet consumer demand, it will be more important than ever for brands to up their transparency game. From clean ingredients to the sourcing of ethical and responsible ingredients; consumer demand for a transparent supply chain and product label has never been higher.

In fact, according to an Innova Consumer Survey 2020; three out of five global consumers say they want to "know more about where their food comes from and how it's made". This means that the term "clean label" has moved on from transparency about being organic and additive-free to showing how sustainable and humane a product is.

2- Priority to the factory

While everyone in the food industry is now aware of the growing plant-based trend; 2021 will take plants to the next level with increased demand for plant-based products. 

It's true, plant-based products have become mainstream, leading to its rapid expansion into more market categories; particularly when it comes to alternative proteins and indulgence.

In fact, average annual growth in plant-based food and beverage launches increased by 36% compared with last year. 

At present, fewer than one in five consumers worldwide seek out plant-based alternatives because they perceive the taste to be better.

This presents a huge opportunity for brands that choose to partner with ingredient companies that offer flavor solutions specifically formulated for use in plant-based applications.

3 - Consumption on demand.

One of the biggest changes observed in response to the pandemic is the increase in omnichannel consumption. Consumers now have more access than ever to what they want, when and where they want it. 

Convenient meal solutions and restaurant-branded products have brought dine-in flavors to home cooking. And it's not just about meals, but also about finding familiar flavors in snack products; like Nashville Hot Chicken chips, which bring restaurant flavors into consumers' homes in a unique way. 

Indeed, it's officially more important than ever for food manufacturers to focus on convenience; richer experiences and accessible indulgence.

4- Science and nutrition

"Technology meets demands for food and beverages with increased nutritional value; sustainability or ethical impact," according to Innova - which is exactly what customers expect with four out of five global consumers agreeing with the statement, "I believe in food and beverage advances through science." 

Thus, food manufacturers need to leverage the expertise available in the food industry to meet consumer expectations; particularly when it comes to overcoming the challenges associated with creating healthy food that tastes great.

5- Product Mash-ups

Everyone knows that innovation is a constant requirement in the food industry. What that means exactly is a little less clear and may seem like a moving target. For 2021, we're looking at product mash-ups. Why do we do this? 

Innova's research shows that three out of five consumers are "interested in trying new sensory experiences (e.g.; aromas, tastes, textures, colors, sensations)"; with younger generations leading the demand for such taste experiences. Think ice-cream pizzas and cereals that taste like coffee. What innovative new products are your food scientists waiting to discover?

Pro tip: finding the right industrial partner early on in product development is essential to achieving the taste goal.

6. Modern nostalgia.

As many of us have experienced this year, times of unease, turmoil and uncertainty prompt consumers to seek comfort in foods that remind them of happier, less turbulent times. 

As the world continues to battle the pandemic and, hopefully; begins to heal in 2021, we expect the trend to continue. But it's not as simple as consumers falling back on nostalgic, familiar comfort foods. Consumers expect a modern take on their favorite classics. 

Food manufacturers can ride this wave by adding exotic flavors and ingredients to familiar products, and by using global trends to influence local products.

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Author: NAJI Faouzi