The Food And Beverage Trends For 2022

Food Trends 2022
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

It’s always good to start the a new year thinking about what the food trends will be and 2022 will prove no exception when it comes to seeing what’s going to develop or suddenly appear.

First off, when it comes to actual meal times, I suspect that COVID-19 will still have considerable impact on the way we choose to dine. There will clearly be moments when as rules and regulations relax we feel more confident about leaving the home to dine out at pubs and restaurants. However, eating in has to be here to stay. Deliveroo and Just Eat have made us aware of the vast offering of takeaway foods and it is so easy to obtain big name or high street branded products at the end of a mobile.

We have a reluctance to travel still and whilst there has been a surge in interest in air travel and bookings for holidays in the summer and autumn months, the current situation is very much as it was last year. Could our tastes in food simply become more conservative if we are not trying new flavours and cuisines? US citizens for example tend to do most of their travelling internally so I don’t think they will be particularly concerned by a lack of travel outside the country but for Europeans this is a different matter.

I’ve noticed a sudden rise in E-commerce – I’m sure you have too. Lots of direct-to-consumer sales if the email distribution is to be acknowledged.

I’ve also noticed a resurgence in meal kits. Could this just be because of a desperate desire to make our own exciting food? If the COVID restrictions continue then all of us having to stay and work from home may well be looking at novel ways to spend our time – making our own food without having to venture out is probably the answer here. We’re also confronted with a variety of supply chain issues – it’s not just COVID but changes in tariffs and even expectations about delivery. 

We have ghost kitchens which started back in 2019 but are still making their presence felt and probably will keep growing in number as they did in 2021. Seem to be more of an American idea but out in the sticks where our business is you are more likely to see an actual ghost.

In the next phase of personalised nutrition, its more than likely that medical software applications will take on a multi-dimensional approach. Effective tools for managing the diets of people with severe health issues happens to be only round the corner and if the first marketable apps don’t appear this year then next year feels very definite. The first step will be diets for seriously ill patients which involve assessing the patients throughout the stages of their treatment and then organising a corresponding diet. If that takes off, by the end of the year it could be come more mainstream as we have our metabolic or health status monitored on a periodic basis.

Changes in automation mean we now have robotic chefs to prepare potentially our meals at home. It’s more than likely that in the factory  production arena these same robotics will construct our food as  they were programmed to do on a car production line. I’ve seen examples of robots now being used to prepare a range of pizzas – just ask that device with loads of arms to give you whatever you desire and it will come up with it without fail.

Climate change and the climate crisis continue to drive all sorts of changes. The messages from the UN Climate Change Conference and Food Systems Summit in Glasgow last year were very stark in terms of their warnings. Whilst diet is important, farming didn’t get the level of clout in conversation it deserved whereas its packaging that will be first and foremost. I bet we start asking questions around sustainability and recycling even more than we did before. Others will just throw it out of the car window whatever but it hopefully will be compostable now rather than designed to last a 1,000 years on the grass verge.

The trend towards veganism is still ongoing with a couple of market research reports from Mintel for example reflecting on 150% increase over straight forward meat eating. Let’s not forget vegetarianism either – that rose in terms of interest by 150% too. Reader’s letters to various newspapers hint at the decreasing lack of options for vegetarian ready meals because of the push to vegan versions. We shouldn’t forget from a product development point of view that there is still this market  out there where customers would still like dairy but not eat meat. Henry Doubleday’s comment in The Times this weekend was also illuminating – some vegan ready meals, especially the meat-free burgers are beginning to take on the hues of those products they are meant to replace. By that, I mean the use of all those ingredients which contributed to a sense that they were overprocessed and full of stuff that customers especially vegans did not want. One of those ingredients is monosodium glutamate which is used to create umami taste. Without it some vegan dishes are bland and uninspiring which is not desirable so alternatives need to be sought that make it possible to overcome this lack of flavour. The IFT in the USA suggests there is some movement back towards a more omnivorous diet in the Millennials demographic according to a variety of sources quoted at the Food Matters Live 2021 meeting.

The place for insects in the diet never went away but it doesn’t seem to have had the overarching traction that might have been expected. There may be options in the protein formulation world where cricket and mealworm take on some of the burden of dairy say. Having said that we will become more diverse in our food choices, the meat-free trend has really taken off and it’s certain that all retailers will be offering alternatives based especially on legumes to well established meat meals. It’s also likely more of us will choose a Flexitarian diet or one that is half and half meat versus vegetarian simply to cut meat consumption back down.

Flavours and new cuisines always seem to be worth discussing. I reckon we shall see more South American cuisine this time. Brazil and Hawaii should be the countries to monitor. Poke bowls for example offer some exciting opportunities in salad structures and flavours. I think Middle Eastern will become more mainstream as it moves itself away from specialist cuisines – the cross-over effects are really exciting to watch in product development. There’s lots of talk about mushrooms, especially regards their health benefits and it also ties in with the need for umami sensation.

Umami seems to be a buzz word which has been around for a few decades but it appears in a number of mainstream reports last year. This reflects a need to bring out extra flavour in plant based foods which often taste bland without the right level of spice or flavouring. We’ve already mentioned the issue of increased used of MSG in vegan foods but there are alternatives.  Those mushrooms mentioned earlier need to be of the right sort. Wild mushrooms produce a wonderful range of flavour which are ideal in savoury dishes lending a particular delicious note when roasted. It’s the roasting process which is critical here. It also reflects another key point which is some form of processing is needed to develop this particular flavour sensation – umami doesn’t develop overnight which is why fermentation or some form of cooking is needed to release those specific amino acids that contribute so much to taste.

Whilst many trend watchers predict we will drink less alcohol, the anecdotal evidence doesn’t bear this out although there are some exceptionally good low-alcohol products out there. Cider producers were unable to keep up with demand which suggests that home drinking may well have been the norm. There has been renewed interest too in spirits for example especially spiced rum and tequila whilst gin drinking in the UK appears very sound with an extraordinary range available. Cocktails have also been highly popular – every cooking or recipe magazine seems to have a page devoted to them if you notice. The premixed types appear really interesting. The type of low alcohol products that will gain traction are those with hemp as opposed to CBD, kombucha, matcha and clever flavour combinations that mimic an ale or lager. It may just be that we will drink a greater variety if our own evidence from the Amazon shop is anything to go by.

I suspect CBD will appear in all sorts of guises. It’s in beer so why not wine or even gin. There may be issues about it with alcohol but at the moment it looks to make for an interesting contribution to beverage development. The guide for 2022  will be prospective changes in legislation.

My own interest is potato milk. Need I say more? It should have some value as an alternative to those nut milks. A number of European players are looking at this as well because of the surplus of potatoes. 

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