“What is old is new again” may be the perfect description of the coming food and agriculture trends in 2022. When you look at new products on the “must have” lists, it is clear that consumers desire to connect their health back to nature. Turmeric, sunflower seeds, new fruit flavors, grains that “give back”1 or kelp, the “climate hero,” 2 all reflect ingredients or foods that are vintage by nature but are projected to hit their stride in 2022 as personal and planet health sustainability take center stage. And while we want to return to our roots, we desire to do so in a way that reflects our lifestyles of today. That will make 2022 trends vintage with a technology twist.
While the pandemic has heightened our awareness of personal health and “immune boosting” foods over the past two years, consumer insights experts believe consumers, in general, will be equally or more concerned about the planet in 2022. With climate change and global warming top of mind, enveloped around core principles of diversity, transparency and ethical considerations, it is predicted that we as consumers are more likely to look for food products and brands that reflect our values. Innova’s Global Insights Director LuAnn Williams summarized the sentiment, stating “sustainability is no longer just a Wall Street issue. It might not be the top purchase driver for all consumers, but for many it clinches the deal when it comes to choosing between products.”3 Likewise, when looking at the various trend lists of new flavors, ingredients or beverages, one can see these underlying themes.
Palate for the Planet
As the percentage of consumers with a direct connection to farming continues to dwindle, the desire for connecting what we eat to how it’s grown continues to increase. The interest in food production practices have moved beyond the farm gate, creating the desire for new “old” products and production methods to rise to the top. Food companies are focused on sustainability through the lens of climate-friendly ingredients and regenerative agriculture. Grains, like Kernza, a perennial wheatgrass develop by The Land Institute, is appearing in cereals, pasta and flours.1 The emphasis on soil health and its connection to “life above the soil” is driving agricultural trends with the principles of regenerative agriculture in full force. As Allen Williams outlined at the 2021 Sustainable Ag Summit, regenerative agriculture is about “farming and ranching in sync with nature to repair, rebuild, revitalize, and restore … starting with life beneath the soil and expanding to live above the soil.”4
Beyond the soil, kelp is being seen as a top ingredient associated with “regenerative agriculture” from a global perspective. According to the WGSN Trends, the fast-growing seaweed with its versatile applications and nutritional profile is a “climate hero” as it permanently removes carbon dioxide from the environment.2 But, planet-centric food production will not be limited to plants as ranchers are producing beef with a reduced carbon footprint. Recently, an Oklahoma based ranch announced the availability of beef that has a 10% lower carbon footprint than industry standards, achieving the first Low Carbon beef certification from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.5 Watch for sustainability certifications on food products to rise in 2022.
The ‘Planet’ary Halo
With an eye on planet health and sustainability, plant-based foods continue to highlight the food trends list as consumers view anything plant-based as healthier for them and the planet.3 The trend from mimicking meat, fish, eggs and dairy to “stand alone” products is viewed as the next wave of innovation, with perhaps, a closer eye on nutrition profiles. The explosion of plant-based products seem to be on an upper trajectory as consumers cite food exploration and variety as reasons for exploring these options.3 According to the Netherlands based Food Design Group, milk may be the most interesting innovation over the next 20 years. Based on what is being called “the biological revolution,” all types of micro-organisms are being used globally in laboratories to help create “milk” from a molecular level. Perfect Day, a U.S. based entity, claims that the environment footprint and minimal agricultural area needed for its product is significantly lower than cow’s milk without sacrificing taste or nutrition. Whether this will be a game-changer in the future will depend on scalability and affordability.6
Where will the plant-based trend land in 2022 and beyond? Mindy Hermann, MBA, RDN and consumer trends consultant, states, “I think we’re going to see contraction in plant-based meat alternatives as there are too many similar products. But perhaps there will be more grown in prepared and frozen foods that are made with meat alternatives instead of animal protein. Dairy alternatives will continue to grow but cost is a factor.” Regardless of our preferred eating style, it is apparent the plant-based trend is here to stay.
Our love affair with technology hasn’t always transferred to what we eat. But with the advancement of plant-based alternatives and new food products that reflect our core values, food technology takes on a new persona. “Myths and misunderstandings are crumbling” according to the Innova 2022 Food Trends, which lists “tech to table” as one of this year’s top trends. As the popularity of using apps and AI (artificial intelligence) for personalized nutrition grows so should acceptance of technology throughout the food system … IF consumers see the benefit for personal and planet health.3 Bottom line, technology is the key to achieving our goal of sustainable food systems — from agricultural innovation and production to delivery of new flavors and ingredients. We cannot achieve today’s planet and personal health goals using yesterday’s methods.
Beyond the Lists
Whether we as individuals follow the trends (or per my husband, “set the trends”) depends on our own core values, eating styles and cultural preferences. Trends tracking provides insights across the food system based on consumer input. Trends for 2022 reflect in many ways our quest to reconnect with our environment and food but through innovation and technology. It truly is vintage with a twist.
1. “10 Food Trends That Everyone Will Be Buzzing About in 2022, According to Whole Foods,” October 18, 2021, by Taryn Pire. Accessed November 28, 2021.
2. “Food & Drink Confirms the Top Trends for 2022 and Beyond,” WGSN, November 10, 2021. Accessed December 6, 2021.
3. “Top Ten Trends for 2022,” Innova Market Insights, October 13, 2021. Accessed November 29, 2021.
4. “Dynamic Resilience Through Practical Application of Regenerative Agriculture Principles,” remarks of Allen Williams, 2021 Sustainable Agriculture Summit, November 18, 2021.
5. “Coming to a Grocery Store Near You: Low-Carbon Beef,” CBS News, December 7, 2021. Accessed December 7, 2021.
6. “Food Trends 2022: Rethink Food,” Food by Design, Fall 2021. Accessed December 3, 2021.