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10 Food Trends That Are Taking Over 2021

2020 was a year of many things, both good and bad. While everyone was stuck at home, food trends spread like wildfire. Because when there’s nothing else to do, why not try a wacky recipe to pass the time? Here are 10 Food Trends That Will Take Over 2021.

10. The New Oil 

For a long time, olive oil was the go-to oil. It was even deemed “liquid gold” by some of its consumers because it’s not only tasty, it was also thought to be good for you. But it looks like olive oil is swiftly falling out of flavor, only to be replaced with a slew of alternatives. Why are people reaching for things other than olive oil? Well, one study showed that there’s been a rise in walnut and pumpkin seed oils, which are said to imbue your dish with a nuttier flavor. These oils enhance the taste of food, and they come with their own set of health benefits: walnut seed oil is good for your skin, helps lower blood pressure, improves cholesterol levels, and may even have anti-cancer effects. Pumpkin seed oil, on the other hand, can have a positive effect on your skin, heart, and prostate, is said to ward off depression and may even relieve some of the symptoms of menopause. If you’re not ready to make such a drastic change in your cooking, don’t worry; olive oil isn’t going anywhere. It is still extremely popular among healthy-eaters because of two of its components: elenolide and tyrosol. Elenolide has anti-hypertensive and anti-inflammatory properties, and tyrosol protects against neurodegenerative diseases. Whether you go traditional or with an alternative, there are plenty of benefits for both!

9. Upcycled Foods

Did you know that up to 40% of food is wasted? This can be a shocking number, but it’s not really surprising when you think about it. All the bits that you forgot about in the back of the fridge, all the stems and peels that were thrown into the compost without a second’s hesitation, and even just the bits you didn’t want to eat. People have slowly been recognizing that this is an issue, not only for people but for our planet. Luckily, there are companies who are now specializing in making food out of all the stuff we throw away. The term “upcycled foods” was first defined by the Upcycled Food Association, made up of a group of representatives from Harvard University, Drexel University, Natural Resources Defense Council, World Wildlife Fund, and the food waste nonprofit ReFED. The definition states that upcycled food is the use of ingredients that otherwise would not have gone to human consumption, are procured and produced using verifiable supply chains, and have a positive impact on the environment. In other words, it’s a way that we can fight food waste and stay sustainable at the same time. As of right now, there aren’t a ton of products that are readily available for everyday consumers, but there will be in the near future, so keep your eyes peeled for apricot pulp chips!

8. KomBOOZcha

Kombucha tea is a fermented drink made with tea, sugar, bacteria, and yeast, made by adding a bacteria colony to sugar and tea and allowing the mix to ferment. The resulting liquid contains vinegar, B vitamins, and a number of other chemical compounds. People have been raving about kombucha for years, and you’ve probably seen it pop up on your Instagram feed more than a few times. It’s hailed for its health benefits, though there has been some controversy as to whether or not it’s actually good for you. In any case though, it looks like kombucha is going to be hitting 2021 hard. How? With alcoholic kombucha, of course! Kombucha has always had alcohol content due to it being fermented, but you could never actually get drunk off of it. Now, though, you totally can. According to Kombucha Brewers International, sales of hard kombucha grew from $1.7 million in 2017 to more than $12 million in 2019. A number of companies then saw their successes increase even further during 2020, with JuneShine Hard Kombucha having been on track to triple its sales that year and AfterGlow Hard Kombucha expanding nationwide. Overall, it looks like it’s been a good few years for hard kombucha, and that good fortune shows no sign of stopping. Here’s to improving immune systems and having fun!

7. Plant-Based Meat

You’re probably familiar with the Beyond Meat Burger, a meat-free alternative that fast-foods like A&W released in 2018. While meat-free alternatives had been available before then, none had ever been so readily available for everyday consumers. It’s now been three years since the release of the Beyond Meat Burger, and the trend of meat-free meat has only been going up. In a study done in 2019, it was suggested that, by 2040, 60% of all meat consumed would either be grown in vats or be replaced by plant-based products that look and taste like meat. This is a bold statement for sure, but it definitely holds some truth. There has been a huge rise in the popularity of plant-based meats and proteins over the past few years. And then, thanks to the pandemic affecting meat production, the popularity of meat-free meat rose. Sales increased by 264% over March and April in U.S. grocery stores. The industry is making new innovations and putting out fresh products, too, with many companies, such as Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat, solidifying their leading positions in the market. Overall, the popularity of plant-based meat seems to be rising at an extremely fast pace. According to one outlet, the forecast growth of meat alternatives is projected to reach $480.43 billion by 2024. Apparently, an increased focus on the sustainability and health benefits of plant-based meats heightened the popularity of legumes (such as chickpeas and split peas) used in alternative meats, a “renewed focus on taste and texture,” and new plant-based foods such as fish, cheese, milk, and chicken will all help the meatless meat market meet those expectations.

6. Plant Jerky

Beef jerky is the perfect snack for someone on the go. Whether you’re hiking, camping, or on a road trip, you can be sure that someone there has a packet of beef jerky ready to eat. But, as people become more conscious about the meat industry and its effects on the environment, there are plenty of people who are choosing the meat-free alternative. You heard it right: plant-jerky is here, and it’s here to stay. A number of food startups have been experimenting with preserving mushrooms, soybeans, and other plants as jerky for quick and delicious nourishment. One of these startups is Leaf Jerky, which is making soy jerky that’s based out of Michigan. The company cites sustainability as a central focus of its brand. Apart from just using plant-based ingredients over resource-intensive meat, its packaging is recycled. It’s little wonder that soy is such a popular jerky base because chefs and food scientists have literally centuries of cooking practices to use for inspiration in making a snack that’s not only nutritious but tastes savory and meaty enough to impress even the most carnivorous of consumers. If you’re not a fan of soy, don’t worry. Another company – Upton’s Naturals – is a vegan brand known primarily for its seitan and jackfruit meats. Now, they’re launching their own jerky, not made out of soy, but out of wheat proteins. Another alternative is mushrooms, which famously have a strong and sometimes meat-like texture as well as delicious, earthy flavors that make them an excellent base for jerky. Pan’s Mushroom Jerky is one brand that has caught on to this, supposedly inspired by founder Michael Pan’s Malaysian relative’s vegetarian family recipes. So, whether you’re a meat-lover or a plant-lover, a soy-lover or a soy-hater, know that there’s always going to be an option that works for you.

5. Copaiba Oil

Essential oils have been steadily growing in popularity, and copaiba is just another example of that. Copaiba is an essential oil derived from the resin of the copaiba tree, which can grow upwards of more than 100 feet and can be found in tropical South America. Copaiba is widely used in cosmetic products, including soaps, creams, lotions, and perfumes. While it may sound new to you, Copaiba has been around since at least the 16th century. It was utilized in traditional health practices by the native people of the north and northeastern Brazil. It’s said to have a spicy or woodsy smell, and it comes with a load of health benefits. Not only can it help soothe anxiety or give you a clearer complexion, but it can also support the health of the cardiovascular, immune, digestive, and nervous systems. It also helps support a healthy inflammatory response. Copaiba essential oil can also be added directly to the mouth to cleanse and soothe the gums and oral cavity. What makes this oil so special? Well, it shares a lot of properties with cannabidiol, also known as CBD. According to the Director of Education and Training at doTERRA, when used daily, Copaiba helps you live a longer and healthier life with greater periods of homeostasis. Plus, it’s 100% legal, meaning that this could be a huge competitor for CBD in food and beverages. Other reasons that make it a good competitor include that it’s way less expensive, and there’s no risk of finding trace amounts of THC in the oil (if that is, indeed, a risk to you). Copaiba oil isn’t known to have any side effects either, and it will have no impact on any drug test.

4. Ghost Kitchens

Unfortunately, ghost kitchens aren’t haunted kitchens. While they’re not as cool as they sound, they are extremely necessary and innovative, especially in our current situation. It goes by many names – delivery-only restaurant, online-only restaurant, delivery kitchen, virtual kitchen, shadow kitchen, commissary kitchen, dark kitchen, ghost line, or cloud kitchen – but the idea is the same. A ghost kitchen is a professional food preparation and cooking facility set up for the preparation of delivery-only meals. These places have cooking facilities, chefs, and a huge range of recipes. Their range is so huge, in fact, that they often feature food from more than one brand or chain. The catch? There’s nowhere for customers to sit, order, or eat. For customers to order, they have to use apps like UberEats or GrubHub. Because these kitchens are so versatile, customers can often get a combination of different brands in one order. In our current situation, these places definitely have a leg-up over more traditional dine-in restaurants. Not only are they cheap and easy to set up, but they’re also low-risk, with fewer overheads, permits, inspections, and rent payments for entrepreneurs and investors to worry about. Considering the number of independent businesses that have had to shut down due to the pandemic, there’s a good chance some places might be taking the idea of ghost kitchens to their advantage!

3. Meal Kits

By now, everyone’s heard of meal kits like HelloFresh or Chef’s Plate. During the pandemic, meal kits have been essential in making sure that people are getting food without taking any unnecessary risks. The concept is simple: you either get a subscription or order a one-off box, and it’s delivered to your door. Inside, you’ll find the ingredients you need for a particular meal (often pre-prepped), and all you need to do is cook it. Not only is it good during a pandemic, but it also helps diminish food waste and save time in the kitchen. Undoubtedly, meal kits will continue to grow in popularity. According to the VP of marketing for the meal-kit service Home Chef, sales have increased materially since the start of the pandemic and have remained high week after week. They have had greater sales both from existing customers as well as new customers, and people continued to buy more meals per delivery and order more often. Companies such as HelloFresh have seen their revenues increase by upwards of 50 percent in 2020 and are continuing to pour money into technology, infrastructure, and marketing, with the aim of enticing newer customers into the fold. While we can never know for sure if something will stick around in the future, it looks like meal-kits are definitely growing in popularity and will become more common over the course of the next year.

2. Gut-Friendly Drinks

Your gut is an incredibly complex part of your body, and it has a huge impact on your overall health. While it may sound new, the idea of a healthy gut is one that’s quickly grabbing the attention of people worldwide. Customer awareness of the gut microbiome (and how to keep it healthy) has hugely increased this past year, mostly due to the pandemic. People were looking for new ways to stay healthy, and, well, gut health is definitely one of them. Findings from ADM’s consumer insights platform suggest the gut is a gateway to wellness and indicate that awareness of this topic counts as one of the significant behavioral and societal changes that have taken place during the pandemic. The company also states that consumers are gravitating towards food and beverages with bright and exciting colors that indicate citrus flavors. Going into 2021, the company says that gut microbiome’s role in weight, mental health, and immunity will become a global trend. 

1. New-And-Improved Baby Food

Baby food is an essential part of any parent’s shopping list and an essential part of growing up. Baby food is any soft, easily consumed food other than breast milk or infant formula that is made specifically for babies between four and six months and two years old. Not only does it provide the essential vitamins and nutrition that an infant needs to grow healthily, but it also soothes the parents. They know that their child is being given the proper food and will grow to be strong. During the pandemic, many people sought different ways to get healthy, and that includes parents. From beef to carrots, baby food can come in many different flavors. Nowadays, thanks to culinary innovation, parents have a huge range of ingredients to choose from. You may be shocked to find that baby food has become much more portable, too. These on-the-go squeeze pouches can be full of rhubarb, rosemary, purple carrots, and omega-3-rich flax seeds. Who knew that someone so small would want such big flavors?

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