After conversations with industry experts and analysts, here is a breakdown of the five biggest trends that FoodDive.com predicts will impact the food and beverage industry in 2021.

1. More companies jump on health and immunity bandwagon

Consumers spent most of last year focused on trying to stay healthy — and that desire seeped into their food choices. According to research from ADM, the pandemic made more people interested in foods that benefit their immunity, and experts are predicting that will continue in 2021.

Trend forecaster, WGSN, has identified immunity-supporting ingredients as a key theme for 2021. Product developers are learning from consumer demand in the past year. From elderberries and probiotics to turmeric and moringa, WGSN says the ingredients with immunity claims are among those poised for further growth.

According to the Innova Consumer Survey 2020, six out of 10 global consumers are increasingly looking for products that support their immune health, with one in three saying that their concerns increased in 2020. Innova identified immunity as a top trend for the next year.

2. Tech-enabled transparency is clearly critical

Early in the pandemic, headlines across the country focused on outbreaks at food and meat manufacturing plants. As a result, more consumers have looked critically at where their food comes from and who makes it. Experts say that theme will continue in the next year, with technology working to make food and workers more safe.

Innova Market Insights said that transparency throughout the supply chain will dominate as the top trend of the year, with six in 10 consumers interested in knowing more about their foods’ origin. The firm said that can be achieved with new packaging technologies such as invisible barcodes.

Williams said trends develop over years, and since Innova’s top trend last year was storytelling, “the extra layer this year is transparency.”

3. Next-generation plant-based options expand

Plant-based food has been a major trend in the last several years. And while sales numbers for 2020 have not yet been crunched, they are sure to be record-setting.

As the segment continues to hit its stride, both new and old players are bound to launch products and find success in 2021. But experts say they likely won’t reuse the same old ingredients in different ways. Where the plant-based space is currently dominated by pea, soy and wheat protein, expect to see more products featuring ingredients made from different plants in 2021.

4. Demand for flavours with global appeal and health cred intensifies

While demand for global flavours has been on the upswing in recent years, the pace is expected to intensify in 2021 as the effects of the pandemic linger and consumer interest in new and novel tastes continues to grow.

“Going into 2021, there seems to be heightened interest compared to the start of 2020 as consumers haven’t travelled as much as normal or dined out as much as normal — so they are looking for food at home to generate some of the novelty and interest they’d usually get from other sources,” said Neil Saunders, MD of GlobalData’s retail division.

Analysts who follow the food space said a growing interest in wellness — fueled by the pandemic — has elevated flavours that consumers view as healthy. This could bode well for ingredients such as traditional berries and fruits, butterfly-pea flower and moringa, Saunders said.

5. CRISPR and gene editing move from crops to consumers

Few technologies have transformed development of food production during the last few decades as much as genetic modification. Now, efforts to improve the taste, texture and production of fruits and vegetables are being spurred on by CRISPR and other gene-editing techniques that promise to do all these things faster and for a fraction of the cost.

Consumers will see food with a lot of different traits, such as fresher and tastier, “although they will not necessarily know they are gene edited,” said Jennifer Kuzma, a professor at North Carolina State University and co-director of its Genetic Engineering and Society Center. “I do think now we’re going to see gene editing and CRISPR-based crops enter the market in 2021.”

Early genetic engineering focused predominantly on crops such as soybeans and corn grown by farmers to boost yields and make them resistant to pests or able to withstand chemical treatments. But more work today is being done on consumer-centric foods like mushrooms, apples, potatoes and lettuce that can be tweaked to include attributes important to consumers….

To read more, click here.