November/December 2021

Emerging food trends for 2022
By Melanie Epp

The world has seen much change in the past two years, and with it, consumer preferences and demands. After having their routines turned upside down, most have settled into some kind of new normal.

This new normal has made it possible — or more possible — to predict future trends. And that’s just what industry experts have done.

For many of us, life in lockdown brought time to reflect, and it seems many of us reflected on the same issues. Times of great disruption lead to great change and innovation. This was evidenced through purchases at supermarkets where consumers looked for products with a clearer focus on environmental sustainability, as well as products that would support health and well-being.

A Fruit Logistica special report on the impact of a global health crisis on the international fresh produce business points out that the status of fresh fruit and vegetables seems to have changed for the better. Driven not only by health concerns, the change is rooted in other important issues, including reducing food waste and limiting our impact on the environment.

Helping consumers make the right choices will require a compelling narrative, said Barbara Galli, an independent consultant who specialises in food and sustainability. “One that helps consumers better understand the challenge,” she added. “One that helps them explore and navigate their way through the many interconnected choices that will affect not just their own well-being, but the sustainability of our entire planet.”

It’s probably no surprise that consumers also reached for products that enhance the health and well-being of their families.

“Consumers are realizing more and more that fruit and vegetables can act as a kind of natural protective medicine,” Frank Vermeersch, head of customer relations and marcom at Fairtrade marketer Agrofair in the Netherlands, said in the report. “Replacement and shift from sweets and snacks to convenient grab-and-go fruit, and a tendency to discourage impulse buying of sweets and snack foods at the checkouts can be a great incentive for convenience fruit.”

Other trends in the last two years include the rise of e-commerce, food boxes and ready-made, convenience products. The drive behind this growth was likely twofold: Consumers were looking for convenience and inspiration after months of daily cooking. Consumers also put more emphasis on shopping local, as food supply chains struggled to adjust to unprecedented shifts in demand.

As the dust settled and consumers returned to somewhat normal schedules, trend spotters were able to more clearly see which products had picked up in popularity, and which had fallen away. In October, Whole Foods released its much-anticipated food trends list for 2022. Next year’s fads were spotted by a Trends Council, made up of more than 50 Whole Foods market team members. The council includes foragers, regional and global buyers and culinary experts, each of whom brings with them decades of experience in product sourcing and consumer preferences. The Whole Foods team also noted tremendous shifts in consumer habits.

“As the food industry slowly adjusts to a new normal, we expect to see consumers prioritise food and drink products that deliver additional benefits — like functional sodas and tonics — and products that support their sense of well-being, like urban garden greens and products grown with farming processes that help address soil health,” said Sonya Gafsi Oblisk, chief marketing officer at Whole Foods Market. “We look forward to watching these trends take form in grocery aisles and on our plates in 2022.”

The first of Whole Foods’ top-10 trends for 2022 is ultra-urban farming. The company points to the rooftop of its Brooklyn-based store as an example of what can be. Using a rooftop greenhouse system, Gotham Greens grows hyper-local crops for Whole Foods customers, including mixed greens and butterhead lettuce. And they’re not the only compay jumping on this trend. Plenty of rooftop gardens are sprouting up across America.

Yuzu, a small tangerine-sized citrus fruit, will make its debut in the coming year, appearing in everything from vinaigrettes, hard seltzers and even mayonnaise.

Whole Foods predicts that plant- curious eaters — those who aren’t ready to give up meat entirely — will drive growth in the plant-based foods sector. And when they do choose to eat meat, Whole Foods’ Trends Council says they’ll be grabbing for premium grass-fed meat and pasture-raised eggs.

Craft drinks will continue to rise in popularity, according to the Trends Council. In particular, they believe consumers will gravitate toward products containing hibiscus, moringa, turmeric and sunflower seeds. Non- alcoholic drink options will also continue to grow, as will functional fizzy drinks that offer healthful botanicals, pre- and probiotics.

Finally, much in line with the sustainability movement, Whole Foods predicts consumers will choose products that support a healthy planet. In particular, they pointed to Kernza, a perennial grain developed by The Land Institute. The grain is sweet, nutty and has long roots, which help with nutrient cycling and overall soil health. The grain is used in cereals and beer.

GlobalGAP spokesperson Ben Horsbrugh said he was surprised by the increased focus on sustainability and social responsibility. “We expect to see a strong focus on the environmental and social impact of food supply chains and a search for effective auditing and monitoring solutions,” he said. “These will also drive the development of digital solutions that can reduce audit burden and provide more data on the supply chain. Supply chain transparency is therefore a big issue.”

Regardless of which trends surface in the coming year, let’s hope they pave the way to some sense of normalcy and improved health. One way to do that is to keep reaching for those healthy fruit and vegetable products.


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