What we eat impacts our lives in myriad ways. According to the staff at Phrases.org, a French lawyer by the name of Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, published the first version of the phrase, “You are what you eat.” In a book entitled Physiologie du Gout, ou Meditations de Gastronomie Transcendante, published in 1826, he wrote, “Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es.” Translated into English, it says, “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.” Through the years, and for a variety of reasons, what people eat, or prefer eating, has changed. The latest reason consumer eating behavior changed was the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The International Food Information Council (IFIC) staff writes, “As the world begins year three of the COVID-19 pandemic, we find ourselves in a decade that proves the adage, ‘The only constant is change.’ The food system is hardly immune to turmoil.” Alicia Enciso, chief marketing officer of Nestlé USA, adds, “Food is not static. Our tastes change, our priorities rearrange, and the way we enjoy food and beverages evolve as a result.” Below are some of the trends affecting the food and beverage landscape.
Food and Beverage Trends
Return to Healthy Foods. The IFIC staff predicts, “Unsurprisingly, the pandemic lockdowns for many Americans marked a period of food indulgence and dietary backsliding. But IFIC data also suggest that wellness is becoming a watchword for many of us. Our recent surveys show that consumers are proactively looking for positive food attributes like whole grains and fiber, and they’re exploring immune health more so than previously.”
Interest in Plant-based Products Growing. The past several years have witnessed a growing interest in meat substitutes, with both lab-grown and plant-based meats finding their way into the headlines. The Food Dive staff writes, “Plant-based meat, which has seen tremendous growth during the past two years, will continue to evolve, with more progress made on the form and texture of products. And Generation Z is maturing into adulthood and will shape trends with its interest in ethical sourcing, sustainability and local food.” Enciso adds, “Every day, more Americans are embracing plant-based options as part of an increasingly popular flexitarian diet. In 2020, 57% of American households purchased plant-based foods.”
Getting High on Cannabidiol-infused Products. Interest in cannabidiol (or CBD) products continues to increase. Peter Grinspoon, a primary care physician on staff at Massachusetts General Hospital, explains, “CBD, or cannabidiol, is the second most prevalent active ingredient in cannabis (marijuana). While CBD is an essential component of medical marijuana, it is derived directly from the hemp plant, a cousin of marijuana, or manufactured in a laboratory. One of hundreds of components in marijuana, CBD does not cause a ‘high’ by itself.” Lifestyle journalist Ellie Swain (@lifesawindow), reports, “The CBD market is booming thanks to the growing demand for healthier foods, along with CBD’s claimed benefits for wellness and mental health. While you’d typically have to seek out a health-food shop for CBD-infused goods, lately, the trend is moving into your more standard food retailers, making CBD treats more accessible than ever.” Journalist Jeff Gelski cautions that the health and wellness benefits of CBD have yet to be certified. He explains, “Foods infused with cannabidiol could become more mainstream even though the US Food and Drug Administration has not approved it for use as an ingredient in foods, beverages or dietary supplements.”
Drinking Dairy Milk Alternatives. Almond, coconut, and oat milk have become popular substitutes for traditional dairy milk. Swain believes potato milk might join them on the grocery shelf. She writes, “Could potato milk be the next best milk alternative? With non-dairy milk like oat, almond, and coconut milk consistently being snapped off the shelves, there’s no reason to believe that potato milk won’t also do well. According to food experts, potato milk isn’t just a sustainable dairy-free option but offers a tasty, creamy flavor. Not only that but this new milk alternative is low in sugar and saturated fats. Its sustainability credentials come from the fact that potatoes use around half the land it takes to grow the equivalent amount of oats.” The supply chain may be a hurdle to potato milk production in the short-term. Journalist Clarisa Diaz (@Clarii_D) explains, “While there is still copious trade in potatoes going on around the world, backups at ports, unseasonable weather, and an unexpected fungus, have made certain potato varieties hard to come by for the businesses that rely on them.”
Enjoying Flavors Old and New. Jennifer Clancy, a customer experience marketing leader at IFF, asserts. “The flavors of 2022 will inevitably be influenced by the pandemic and the unpredictable world around us. Tapping into all areas of life, we see flavor being an avenue to health, comfort, nostalgia, adventure, and luxury. Each category has its own flavor profile and delivers a unique value consumer are seeking.” Derek Holthaus, director of innovation and solutions, FlavorSum LLC, agrees. He states, “As the world continues to feel the stress-related impacts of COVID-19, we predict consumers will look to their favorite, classic flavors for a feeling of nostalgia and comfort. Mintel reports that 71% of U.S. consumers enjoy things that remind them of their past, and we believe flavors can play a big role here.”
According to Gelski, some individuals will expand their palates and do a little exploring with the food and beverages they consume. He explains, “Consumers reluctant to travel still will be adventurous, checking out exotic foods and flavors like hibiscus, yuzu, turmeric, kelp, gochujang and ube. They will savor the taste of umami and become better acquainted with the richness of kokumi.” If you are not familiar with umami and kokumi, read my latest article about our sense of taste. Soumya Nair, a global consumer research and insights director at Kerry, agrees with Gelski that consumers will venture beyond the tastes of comfort food this year. She states, “Tastes that offer novelty, indulgence, and health benefits are set to drive consumer preference in 2022. Trends that were accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic have developed and will become more sophisticated in 2022, with consumers seeking new tastes paired with familiar formats and flavors — leading to surprising new combinations. We will likely see mainstream flavors combined with emerging tastes, like Milk Chocolate infused with Chili Crisp or Tahini.”
Journalist Alex Smolokoff (@ASmolokoff) writes, “More than 8 in 10 consumers said tasty flavors still matter when it comes to eating healthy, and by and large most consumers feel healthier options fall short in that regard. Nearly 6 in 10 (58%) respondents said they don’t think healthy foods generally taste good enough, and more than 7 in 10 (72%) said they’d eat more healthy foods if they tasted better.” Although cognitive technologies (aka artificial intelligence) might not be the first thing that comes to mind when food and beverages are the topic of discussion, solutions, like the Enterra® SensoryPrint™ technology, can be used to help companies map tastes that will appeal to consumers. Healthy foods don’t need to fall short in the flavor category.
And, according the Food Dive staff, manufacturers are trying to make their products healthier. They write, “As people pay more attention to their health and wellness because of the pandemic, CPGs are finding new ways to incorporate classic functional ingredients into more of their products in 2022.” These changes are adaptations to the changing food and beverage landscape. They explain, “Shoppers used to look to food and beverage offerings for hydration or sustenance, but increasingly they are turning to them as a way to improve their mood, gain a boost in energy, provide nutritional benefits or improve their gut health. The shift is especially prevalent in younger Gen Z and millennial consumers.” Bon appétit.
 Staff, “You are what you eat,” Phrases.com.
 International Food Information Council staff, “2022 Food Trends: Wellness, Nostalgia, Innovation and New Views of Sustainability,” Prepared Foods, 12 January 2022.
 Alicia Enciso, “Food 2022: Nestlé USA’s Predictions for the Next Big Thing in Food,” Medium, 6 December 2021.
 Chris Casey, Christopher Doering, and Megan Poinski, “6 trends shaping food and beverage growth in 2022,” Food Dive, 4 January 2022.
 Peter Grinspoon, “Cannabidiol (CBD)-what we know and what we don’t,” Harvard Health Publishing, 24 September 2021.
 Ellie Swain, “Six Food and Drink Trends for 2022,” Paste, 20 December 2021.
 Jeff Gelski, “International Food Information Council forecasts food trends for 2022,” Bake, 11 January 2022.
 Clarisa Diaz, “What happened on the potato supply chain that caused a fry shortage in Japan and a ban on Canadian spuds,” Quartz, 13 January 2022.
 Jennifer Grebow, “2022 Flavor trends for food and beverage,” Nutritional Outlook, 30 December 2021.
 Stephen DeAngelis, “How Many Basic Tastes are There?” Enterra Insights, 3 September 2021.
 Grebow, op. cit.
 Alex Smolokoff, “OnePoll study reveals food & beverage trends to watch in 2022,” Food & Beverage Insider, 27 December 2021.