The Biggest Food Trends We’ll Be Talking About in 2021
What to expect — and get excited about — this year.
When we published our food trend report about a year ago we had no idea what was in store for 2020. Nobody did. Needless to say we had to revise them (several times) to keep up with the shock waves COVID-19 sent through the world — particularly in the food and restaurant industry. My fellow editors, culinary producers, recipe testers and developers and I set out — all while hunkered down at home — to bring stories, tips, recipes and videos to help you navigate through the ever-changing landscape. Whether it was pantry recipes, substitution tips (because of ingredient shortages), how to safely grocery shop or what to do with too much milk, we aimed to give real-time solutions for problems that kept popping up — and we were living by that same advice.
Uncertainty is still the only real certainty we can expect in 2021. However, we’ve taken stock of how the pandemic has changed the way we shop, cook, eat and celebrate. Because of the intense pressure of 2020, we expect the food world to adapt and shed more light on some real gems: Like a grain from West Africa, safer grocery shopping, a surprising beverage to celebrate with and a humble vegetable we think will break out as a star. Whether it’s trending or not, we’re excited to keep cooking and eating with you through 2021.
Breakfast at home is back.
Did your breakfast nook see more action in 2020? You’re not alone – the pandemic disrupted the usual breakfast routine for 80% of Americans. Less commuting to work and school meant more time for the most important meal of the day and food manufacturers are adapting. Look out for more convenient breakfast foods that are packed with functional ingredients like protein and fiber, such as Jimmy Dean Casserole Bites and Flourish Pancake Mix. Also expect familiar brands to up their breakfast game with tempting offers like Cinnabon’s CinnaBiscuit Chicken Sandwich.
The Click-and-Collect Effect
Digital grocery shopping with room for distance and discovery.
Major grocery store chains are feeling the pressure to improve their digital shopping experience: online grocery sales increased by nearly 53% in 2020 and it doesn’t appear to be slowing. Get ready for your grocery store to upgrade their shopping app with a more seamless interface and allocate more physical space to online purchase and pick-up (a.k.a. “click-and-collect”). A larger footprint means more space for distance when you pick up your groceries plus opportunities to add on items like grab-and-go meals, drinks and local produce.
Healthy Gets Easier
Healthy eating has never been more attainable and affordable.
Americans want to eat healthier and it’s only going to get easier (and more affordable) in 2021. We’re looking for nutrient dense food at a value but are also interested in the environmental and social values of companies. That’s a tall order for food manufacturers but expect to see them rise to the challenge. Take Kraft’s collaboration with Oprah: O, That’s Good! frozen skillet meals and pizza. They’re free of artificial ingredients and flavors and a portion of the proceeds go to charitable causes fighting hunger. Subscription-based e-grocers like Thrive Market are making affordable healthy food possible and clever meal prep (get some help with that with Food Network Kitchen app’s Meal Planning feature) to ensure you get the most bang for your time and buck.
The Year of the Cookie
A blank canvas for possibility.
Expect the humble cookie to crush it in 2021. Whether as an indulgent treat or a form of creativity through decorating, cookies are the perfect vessels for experimenting with food trends. Look for them dressed up as healthy snacks like the fiber- and prebiotic-packed Uplift Gut Happy Cookies. Or teamed with celebrities like the hot pink Lady Gaga and Oreo collaboration. Cookies are also a great (and low commitment) place to sneak in fun and experimental ingredients. Expect to see batches with dried herbs and flowers and spices not usually found in cookies like paprika and black pepper.
Dig Into Fonio
The hearty grain from Africa.
This gluten-free and versatile grain hails from West Africa and has been cultivated for more than 5,000 years! It has the earthy, nutty flavor of millet and can be used to make everything from porridge to flour. It’s rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals and amino acids and doesn’t need much water to thrive, making it an ideal crop to grow. Fonio can be cooked in just five minutes, making it especially convenient when you need grains in a flash. Look for it on restaurant menus and in recipes. It’s currently available at Amazon, Thrive Market and Whole Foods.
Food innovators turn their spotlight on an overlooked age group.
Babies and toddlers usually get all the attention but with 93% of school-aged children engaged in some form of distance learning 2020 (and probably into 2021 as well) many parents had snack and meal struggles with their 4- to 11-year-old kids. The offerings for these kiddos are about to explode. Look for playfully designed packages of foods low in sugar and high in whole grains and other functional ingredients like chickpea butter, bubbly probiotic water or healthy offerings like Crackerz and Cookiez from snack company Maverick.
This humble spud has everything we need for 2021.
If we could pick the vegetable most likely to give good hugs it would be the sweet potato. They’re adaptable, nutrient dense and affordable – all the things we need to navigate our way through a post-pandemic world. But we’re talking beyond a marshmallow-topped casserole here – sweet potatoes have cauliflower cache and are super versatile. Look for products like sweet potato wraps, pizza crust, “toast” and butter and for recipes using the spud in innovative ways like vegan “cheese” sauce. Keep your eyes peeled for lesser known varieties in grocery stores like Matsuri, garnet and purple.
Dining rooms are disappearing.
The world of independent and chain restaurants steps into the new year on shaky ground. Because of the necessity to scale back (or eliminate) indoor dining for safety reasons restaurants have had to pivot to take-out and drive-thru. Expect to see more pick-up only like with some Chipotle and Starbucks locations. Or drive-thru accelerating in the form of McDonald’s Express where you can preorder and pick-up. Be on the lookout for tiny restaurants popping up in grocery store parking lots. We’re excited about Biggby Coffee in Michigan and Utah-based Swig – both are drive-thru only and made from shipping containers.
0.3% alcohol, 100% flavor.
Non-alcoholic beer is no longer a joke: 66% of Americans are looking to cut back on their alcohol and calorie consumption but don’t want to give up on flavor. Enter the new generation of craft-brewed non-alcoholic beer. Big brands like Heineken and Brooklyn Brewery now have offerings. So does Sam Adams with the debut of their first ever no-booze brew – Just the Haze – sometime in 2021. But there are also 100% non-alcoholic breweries popping up around North America like WellBeing Brewery Co. in Montana and Canada’s Partake Brewing. Expect all the expertly crafted flavors without the buzz and extra calories.
Home Pizza Ovens
The next step in our obsession with the perfect pandemic food.
Pizza was the winning food of 2020. Sales skyrocketed. Both chain and independent pizza shops saw double-digit growth. And as more of us were stuck at home we started to dabble in making our own from scratch. Google searches for pizza dough recipes and pizza stones saw an uptick as did pizza ovens. We predict playing with pizza at home is only going to get bigger. Especially with home pizza ovens that give brick-oven results. We’re into the Scotland-based company Ooni that makes wood- and charcoal-fired pizza ovens (with the option for gas on some models). Their Instagram account @oonihq is 245K+ followers strong. And Breville has made a great indoor option with their countertop Crispy Crust Pizza Maker.
365 Days of Celebration
More celebration than ever before.
Homebound and stressed Americans looked for any excuse to celebrate in 2020, and they did it with food. If you had never celebrated holidays like Lunar New Year and the Mid-Autumn Festival, Diwali and Holi from India and Chuseok from Korea, you might have made a point of it in 2020, and we expect that will continue and grow in 2021. Also expect to see increased celebration with food for smaller national holidays like Siblings Day, National Ice Cream Day and National Love Your Pet Day. And the creation of personal holidays like monthsaries (month-by-month anniversary celebrations).
The Imperfect Cook
Perfection takes a backseat to reality in the kitchen.
Many of us had to get creative when it came to cooking in 2020. Maybe we couldn’t find the ingredients we needed or didn’t know how to boil water before having to cook every meal. Whatever the reason, we embraced imperfect cooking and so did professionals: chef Chris Fischer became culinary instructor to his wife in the self-shot Amy Schumer Learns How to Cook and Michael Symon shared Daily Dinners – simple pantry recipes and videos – on Facebook. Expect to see more unpolished and real food posts on social media from novices and pros. Plus more forgiving recipes that allow you to off-road with your own flourishes or necessary substitutions.