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Food Trends to Watch in 2021: We asked influential experts on diet and nutrition to share their takes

Innovation

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed virtually every aspect of modern life—and made life more virtual in the process. People who formerly ate takeout lunches at their office desks and enjoyed restaurant dinners on weekends are now eating almost every meal at home. They are exploring new ways of cooking, sourcing meal ideas from their communities and generally shifting how they approach food. But this new reality isn’t just about baking more bread (we’ve all tried our hand at banana bread by now). Consumers are increasingly tying what they eat to their personal health and immune defenses—and the defense of a healthier planet.

Healthy and sustainable home cooking, plant-based proteins, a focus on gut health—these ideas weren’t born in the pandemic, but they’ve certainly gained ground as our habits have changed. ADM research has identified five global food trends that accelerated over the past year and will shape what and how we eat in 2021 (and beyond). We connected with chefs, tastemakers and experts in diet for more insights into these trends and how they’re affecting their communities.

A More Proactive Approach to Nourishing Body and Mind

Our research found that 31% of consumers are purchasing more items tailored for their health, and 50% report a preference for foods and beverages that naturally contain beneficial ingredients [1]. Now that we’re eating more meals at home, people are motivated to identify and stock healthier food and beverage choices in their kitchens.

“Healthy eating is a form of self-love,” says Desirée Daniels, a plant-based recipe developer and blogger. “I’m starting to see more businesses in Black and Brown communities that offer healthy foods and beverages that not only taste good but are affordable. There are segments of the food industry that can own this—grocery store chains and restaurants alike.”

Dietitian Lauren Manaker agrees. “People are realizing that their food choices can impact their own health. I think it may inspire even more businesses to jump on this trend in 2021.”

Sustainability Takes Center Stage

From specialized feed that reduces cattle’s methane emissions to regenerative growing practices, agriculture is responding to consumer demand for a more sustainable food chain. As climate issues take center stage, everyone is trying to do their part to integrate more sustainable practices into how and what they are consuming.

“Whether it’s purchasing foods at open-air farmers markets or growing individual home gardens, urban agriculture provides the public with an option to obtain food in a less expensive and more sustainable fashion,” says dietitian Lauren Cornell.

Chef Shakayla Houston says the boom in plant-based proteins reflects sustainability concerns. “The majority of my followers are flexitarians who come to me for advice on easy but delicious plant-based recipes that help us and have lasting impacts on our planet,” she says.

The Gut Microbiome Emerges as the Gateway to Wellness

What’s in your microbiome? Up to 1,000 bacterial species are living inside your gut, helping to digest food, regulate immune systems and keep us healthy. With increased public interest in the gut microbiome’s relation to personal health, consumers are seeking ways to enhance both immunity and wellbeing through pre-, pro- and post-biotics in what they eat.

“My followers want to know more about the link between prebiotic-containing foods – like fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole-grains – and immunity,” says May Zhu, a dietitian and nutritionist. “This feels most attainable for people looking to improve their overall gut health, since fruits and vegetables naturally contain prebiotic fiber to support healthy digestion.”

Karen Ansel, also a nutritionist, says “I’m seeing more interest from the media in eating for better immune health. Given the close link between the gut and overall immune health, I expect that we will learn more about its impact on our health in 2021.”

Plant-Based Food Boom Expands Beyond the Bun

Veggie burgers have come a long way—the latest versions don’t taste like a compromise, and sales are through the roof. As it turns out, alt burgers were just the beginning. Today, consumers are demanding plant-based protein alternatives to all sorts of food, and our experts are seeing this come to life in their communities in some unique ways.

Look no further than the humble mushroom. “The hot plant-based trend right now is mushrooms as a meat substitute,” reports chef Marlon Rison. “As a Black vegetarian chef, I’m seeing eating habits starting to improve in communities of color. You like pulled pork? No problem, king oyster mushrooms can be turned into shreds and taste incredible!”

Dietitian Sharon Palmer is seeing an increase in people recreating some of their favorite dishes with a plant-based twist. “Plant-based versions of retro and comfort food like mac & cheese, lasagna, pizza and chili have exploded on social media. Millennials, families, children and older adults all are attracted to this trend, which identifies budget-friendly, healthy, delicious and sustainable dishes to meet all needs.”

Transparency Builds Consumer Trust

Consumers are demanding more information about food sourcing, with an emphasis on safety for their own families and communities, and for workers throughout the food supply chain. A parallel development is the desire for “authentic” ingredients with detailed origin stories.

When we are more knowledgeable about how our food is grown and where it comes from, we encourage trends in the industry toward healthier practices and the preservation of food in its whole, natural state,” says dietitian Cornell.

Our takeaway from experts and influencers: The healthy eating trends we’ve identified will impact how we eat, drink, shop and cook in 2021 and beyond. The companies that come out on top next year will be those who bring sustainable, nourishing and delicious foods and beverages to the communities where they live, work and grow. And food-lovers will enjoy a broader path to improved nutrition, more choices of products that align with their values, and an exciting and inspiring range of tastes and experiences.  

[1] ADM OutsideVoiceSM

2021 Food & Nutrition Trends

2021 Food & Nutrition Trends