These 10 food and beverage trends will drive innovation in 2021

Where nutrition and innovation meet, consumers are becoming aware of their health needs, say international brand experts

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Consumers are searching for brands that can build trust, provide authentic and credible products, and create shopper confidence in a pandemic-ridden world. Therefore, transparency is emerging as the clear winner among the trends set to spearhead innovation in the global food and beverage industry in the year 2021.

This according to Netherlands-based Innova Market Insights who recently published their top 10 trend projections for next year, based on the Innova Consumer Survey 2020.

The covid-19 pandemic has bolstered focus on health and immunity with consumers now seeking ingredients that support health, says director of insights and innovation for Innova Market Insights, Lu Ann Williams.

Director of insights and innovation for Innova Market Insights, Lu Ann Williams. Photo: Twitter @LiatSimha

The top ten trends for 2021 will pave the way for brands to up their game to meet evolving ethical, environmental and clean label consumer demands, Williams says in a media release.

According to Williams covid-19 has transformed shopping and eating habits. Attention is now on the post-covid landscape to explore how these new behaviours will shape the future of the food and beverage industry.

“Transparency throughout the supply chain will dominate in 2021, with consumers searching for brands that can build trust, provide authentic and credible products, and create shopper confidence in the current and post-covid climate,” Williams highlights.

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The predicted food and beverage industry innovation trends for 2021 are:


Transparency triumphs

The Innova Consumer Survey 2020 reveals that six in ten global consumers are interested in learning more about where foods come from. Transparency dominates consumer demand in 2021. Increasing transparency to meet evolving ethical, environmental and clean label consumer demands is key.

Brands adopting and pairing new packaging technologies such as invisible barcodes and near-field communication technology with creative, meaningful storytelling will be successful.

Transparency triumphs in top tend projected trends for 2021. Image: Supplied

The consumer lifestyle trend toward cleaner living is broadening and heightening expectations around what constitutes a clean label. Aspects include human and animal welfare, supply chain transparency, plant-powered nutrition and sustainable sourcing.



As plant-based trends reach global phenomenon status, the “plant-based” definition is ever-evolving. Its rising mainstream appeal will drive expansion to different regions and categories in 2021, including accelerated demand for new formats, plant proteins and more sophisticated alternatives.

Propelled by sustainability and animal welfare concerns, lab-grown foods have the potential to disrupt the industry by mainstreaming the use of new technologies.

The Innova Consumer Survey 2020 indicated that the top four reasons for considering plant-based alternatives were health, diet variety, sustainability, and taste. As consumers are powering up on plant protein, opportunities and challenges relating to regional consumer preferences and sustainability expectations are attracting attention.

Global consumers have redefined the concept of plant-based foods. Image: Supplied


Tailored to fit

Personalized nutrition is in the spotlight as consumers look for food and beverage options that fit their unique lifestyles. Consumers expect a tailored approach to eating, with technological breakthroughs, constant new launches and exciting sensorial experiences providing the opportunity for customised lifestyles to extend to food and beverage consumption.

Sophisticated personalised nutrition advice on functional foods is still expensive, but the emergence of tech platforms allows for comparable customer service via automation. The Innova Consumer Survey 2020 showed that 64% of global consumers have found more ways to tailor their life and products to their individual style, beliefs and needs.

Innova Market Insights is a global knowledge leader in the food and beverage industry. Image: Supplied


New omnichannel eating

As foodservice and retail domains increasingly overlap, consumers can eat what they want, when and where they want it. Consumers are seeking convenience, richer experiences and accessible indulgence.

Traditional hospitality is getting edged out, particularly with covid-19 giving consumers more time to stay at home and sharpen their own culinary prowess. Increased home cooking is driving the use of convenient meal kits or starters and more sophisticated ingredients, resulting in new food experiences.

The Innova Consumer Survey 2020 found 46% of consumers believe restaurant-branded products are a convenient way to attain the restaurant experience and flavors at home. Along with restaurant delivery growing, consumers can now directly access many specialty products that were previously only accessible via foodservice.


In tune with immune

Ongoing anxiety stemming from covid-19 will encourage consumers to prioritise their immune health into 2021. According to the Innova Consumer Survey 2020, six out of ten global consumers are increasingly looking for food and beverage products that support their immune health, with one in three saying that concerns about immune health increased in 2020 over 2019.

Immunity-boosting ingredients will play a significant role in the coming year, while research and interest in the role of the microbiome and personalised nutrition as ways to strengthen immunity will accelerate.


Nutrition hacking

The use of technology to drive functional food understanding, nutrition advice and the environmentally conscious nature of products is becoming more prominent. In 2021, consumers will use technology to aid their search for balanced formulations and improved nutrition-based products. New product development and software solutions will address demands for food and beverage choices that contain enhanced nutritional value as well as sustainability or ethical impact.


Mood: The next occasion

With consumers increasingly investing in prioritising their holistic health and well-being, product launches and technological applications are addressing how food and beverages influence the physical, mental, and emotional aspects of health.

New mood-based product development is seeing staggering growth, as are labeling claims on packaging. Adaptogens, found in herbal medicine for the claimed stabilisation of physiological processes, are also being used to develop the relationship between food, beverages, and emotional health.


Product mashups: When trends collide

Variety and multifunctionality within products on in-store shelves and online retail platforms are proving to be successful, with consumers eager to discover new and innovative products, formats, and categories for all occasions.

Hybrid innovation is enjoying sustained popularity as consumers favor food and beverages that broaden the dimensions of indulgence. Treat-based occasional super-indulgence and “permissible” indulgence, where consumers want taste indulgence but with healthier, guilt-free recipes, have gone up a gear as exciting flavor discoveries, category merging and brand collaboration offer unexpected creations.


Modern nostalgia

Local appeal, interest in traditional and regional foods and product origin remain core demands of consumers wanting to try regional and international flavors.

While global trends get a local makeover, influencers and consumers will embrace modern variations as regional favorites are brought into the contemporary sphere. New arrivals are set to revive, influence, and attract new audiences. Brands will apply local twists to familiar products to offer heightened sensory delivery through surprising and unexpected flavours, textures and formats.


Age of the influencer

Storytelling, brand connection and shareable social media experiences reign supreme in the food and beverage world, presenting brands with vast opportunities to showcase their innovations.

Influencer endorsements are a strong strategy for brands looking to bolster their exposure efforts. Influencer engagement will stay on the marketing menu to promote products in 2021. There will also be a gradual expansion of the diversity of influencers and a slow shift to more reliable and industry-specific influencers to drive trust and credibility.

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