Food and drink innovations for 2021

Food and drink innovations for 2021

In this post, we make some educated predictions reliable data sources about what’s in store for the world of food and beverage over the next 12 months and beyond. Food trends are important to watch, as they can help drive your food marketing by showing you what’s hot and what’s not.

While it is fair to say that there are a lot of strange things afoot and gaining popularity in the food and drink industry, we’ll see a lot of past favourites, with olive oil making a comeback and carob among the zanier offerings.

The Middle Ground Between Functional and Decadent Food

Extreme food and beverage trends, even if they are a whole lot of fun to take Instagram-shots of, don’t tend to last very long.

Whether it’s one of those ridiculously huge burgers smothered in enough cheese sauce to fill several bowls of mac and cheese or cookie dough coated in cotton candy, these kinds of decadent foods are on one side of the fence.

On the other, you have more functional options – that is, food made for wellness, rather than efficacy, texture or flavour.

Expect the middle ground to gain more popularity – food and drink that has been crafted thoughtfully but using functional and healthy ingredients moderately so that it looks great, tastes great and is beneficial to your well-being.

A subtle transition from Boozy to Lightly Alcoholic Drinks

There is something nice about sober living. With more people expected to turn to non-alcoholic cocktails according to KPMG.

For many people though, there is the middle ground which means drinking only in moderation. Alcohol and being social still tends to go hand-in-hand, after all.

In the coming years, you can expect a shift from being one camp or the other – a drinker or tee-total – to a middle ground.

Where “grown-up” beverages are still exciting and refreshing but have much lower ABV.

The rise of the “Seltzer” is a great example of this.

Reduce Rather Than Eliminate

Although many on strictly plant-based diets would prefer to see carnivores giving up their precious meat. It is not ly to happen.

The more hopeful and more ly result of the argument between which is better and the solution to the problem of keeping up with the world’s demands on climate change, cattle and other animal populations will be to move towards a more balanced diet of less meat, more plants.

Balanced and Moderate

Extreme food fads or diets are called extreme for a reason. People in the past have tended to do things 100% one way or another way.

So they are either into things that are 100% plant-based or 100% meat-based, with no deviation (never more evident than the birth of the meat-only carnivore and the vegan diet – as well as the online wars that happen between the two.)

They are either into alcoholic drinks or faux-alcoholic drinks. Following on nicely from the last trend, we are ly to see a shift towards a more balanced and moderate approach across the board.

This will ly be reflected in the food and drink products released in 2021.

Climate Control Will Play a Part

Although vegans tried to warn and lead by example way ahead of everyone else, it seems as the planet reaches a critical period, a more serious collaborative and complete approach is necessary.

You can expect to see a move to reduce any foods and ingredients with high carbon footprints, cheese and meat, and the encouragement leading to enforcement that we only eat food that is seasonally available and available locally.

There will also be greater steps taken to eradicate the use of products that exploit any animals who are directly at risk from the effects of climate change.

It’s not all about what’s being removed though, as there will be a greater focus on food insects, fish, invasive plant species, legumes, grains, pulses, seaweed and algae.

Our food PR can help position your food and drink products as one of the forerunners of responsible food and drink consumption (if it’s true, of course!)

Sweet and Unami – The Next Curious and Exciting Flavour Combination

Food enthusiasts are always on the lookout for “the next big flavour combination”. There are strong indications that the big flavour combination destined to rock the culinary world is umami and sweet.

In small measures, here and there, it may not be new, with the caramel popcorn and cheese mix you get in Chicago or the cheddar cheese and apple pie combo we’ve seen on menus.

However, in the next couple of years, these are going to be making more of an appearance.

Does anyone fancy the oddity that is crisp rice infused with fish sauce caramel, nori and pork floss or the equally marine-inspired palm sugar and fish sauce caramel?

The Return of Carob

Although the benefits to the planet of veganism are spoken of a lot, there is a major health issue in diets solely based around plant life.

Most tend to lack Hydroxyproline or HYP, which is an important amino acid required in the production of collagen.

What is the solution? Remember when carob was all the rage? Well, expect that to be big news again pretty soon. As not only is it high in the aforementioned HYP, but also protein, antioxidants, iron, calcium and fibre.

It’s a veritable smorgasbord of highly beneficial stuff. It is also low-carb, naturally sweet in flavour and both caffeine and gluten-free.

All of this suggests it will be one of the biggest superfoods before too long.

We just need to open our minds and forget its painful history as an awful replacement for chocolate in the 70s and instead look for it being featured in everything from powders, bars, baked goods, RTD beverages, syrups and innovations in the world of coffee.

Olive Oil – The New Coconut Oil

During 2019 there was a lot of interest and debate about MCT-rich products and flavoured compound butter.

Although there is no clearly defined viewpoint on whether they are good or bad, with some evidence pointing either way – there is one fat that has a lot of evidence to back up claims it is good for your health.

That fat is good old extra-virgin olive oil. Namely, the Tyrosol and Elenolide found in it.

While tyrosol is a compound that helps to protect the body against neurodegenerative conditions and diseases, Elenolide is one that has science-backed evidence of anti-hypertensive attributes.

So watch this space, coconut oil! You might be on your way out and extra-virgin oil is back in with its blood-pressure lowering properties.

Chickpeas Mean More Than Just Hummus

The popularity of chickpea started to soar at some point in the 00s when hummus started appearing here, there and everywhere as a healthy dip replacement.

That has spiralled and chickpea is one of those ingredients that is being experimented a lot with.

Take aquafaba for instance (for those not in the know, that is the water that canned and other packaged chickpeas are stored and soaked in).

What is so special about this ingredient? Well, just Google aquafaba meringue, macarons or even ice-cream and you will see.

Prepare to be stunned at the many uses aquafaba has, usually as an egg or milk replacement.

Another way chickpea is being utilized in experimental ways is as flour, which unsurprisingly is being used to make all forms of crusts, flatbreads and other doughy products.

As it’s gluten-free, chickpea flour is ideal for those of us who can’t enjoy a simple bit of bread and butter due to dietary restrictions.

This experimentation will only continue as experts and curious amateurs continue to push what is possible with the humble chickpea.

Allulose – The Future of Sweet?

Sugar continues to be cast as the villain by health experts and those looking to eat a little healthier and have better diets in general.

There is a continued effort to encourage consumers to choose products with less or no sugar.

As a result, companies responsible for manufacturing consumer packaged goods are looking to find the next new “non-sugar” sweetener.

Thanks to advancements in food technology and new requirements by the FDA and other industry regulatory bodies, two approaches are being taken with regards to all things sweet.

One is the use of the little-known sugar replacement allulose. In America at the very least, the FDA excluded allulose from the added and total sugar declarations on food nutritional labels, which has made it all the more attractive to food manufacturers and recipe devisers.

It is a natural sweetener taken from specific fruits and wheat and contains 1/10th the calories of regular table sugar. Expect to see a lot more of allulose in 2021.

Less is More?

The second approach some in the industry are taking to tackle the issue of sweetness deserved being highlighted under its own heading.

That is, rather than completely removing and replacing sugar, companies Doux Matok and Nestle are taking a more food technology-influenced approach.

The ideas these food giants have is to maximize the efficiency of any sugar used in their recipes so that they taste just as sweet but use as much as 40% less of the white stuff.

Although both measures are very much in the beginning stages, you should expect to see foods in general with much less sugar gain traction by 2021 and thereafter.

CBD oil, is it legal or not? It’s such a grey area depending on where you live, what form you take and a whole heap of other issues covered by red tape, that yuou wonder whether it’s worth the aggrevation. There might just be a solution…

One thing we are very sure about is just how popular it has become and it’s not hard to see why.

With the reported benefits in the treatment for anxiety, chronic pain and inflammation being backed by more and more evidence, there are a lot of reasons why people persist in using it.

There may be a completely legal option in the form of Copaiba. This is an essential oil that is taken from the Copaifera tree’s resin and contains potent terpenes that are the same components found in CBD oil that interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system and provide similar benefits.

What’s more, it has a nice enough flavour. If you add it to edibles and elixirs, copaiba has a sweet, woody taste and scent that in itself encourages relaxation.

We expect to see this appearing more and more in the organic and natural foods sphere next year and beyond.

Hopefully, some of these insights and predictions help to drive your food and beverage marketing or, at least, provided you with some food for thought. If you need help with your food strategy, marketing or bringing your product to market locally or internationally, book a consultation – contact us now


Food and drink innovations for 2021

With many countries spending time in a state of lockdown, the food and beverage industry has had to adapt apace. Retailers and brands are introducing customers to recipe and nutrition-driven shopping, personalised product recommendations, and step-by-step cooking assistance to replicate their favourite restaurant meals. 

wise, amidst a critical period of environmental concern, we have seen a variety of responses, including a decrease in the intake of ingredients with high carbon footprints, meat-alternative sources of protein, and initiatives to consume seasonal and locally available produce.

With this in mind, here are the top seven food and drink trends set to grow in 2021.

1. At-home dining

Since consumers are spending less time travelling and going to restaurants, they are compensating with more adventurous food experiences at home.

Data technology company, SPINS, recently partnered with Innit, a leading food tech innovator, to launch a nutrition-driven eCommerce experience.

SPINS’ algorithms work by analysing the relevance of products to issues regarding health and lifestyle, diet preferences and allergies.

As people continue to work from home into 2021, there is no end in sight to the home cooking trend.

A Californian bakery that was put business during the coronavirus lockdown has reopened as an eCommerce site, selling bread-making kits to legions of new home bakers.

Customers can order the bread kits, which include everything needed to make a sourdough starter and bake a Mr. Holmes Bakehouse-style bread at home. 

2. Virtual 3D grocery shopping and touchless food ordering

Holograms and virtual reality are starting to appear in a wider variety of locations and industries.

As knowledge and understanding of the innovation increases, the opportunities for creative applications will follow suit, particularly as the food industry finds ways to incorporate the flexible use and germ-free benefits into their current offerings.

For example, Holo Industries has developed holographic menus and pay points for safe, contactless food ordering. Users press buttons as they would on a normal touchscreen, but avoid skin-to-screen contact by interacting with a beam of light. 

With shoppers forced to stay at home, Canadian grocery delivery service, Inabuggy, has developed a 3D virtual shopping experience that allows customers to “walk” the aisles of an upscale grocery store. This is not the first time a store has attempted to merge online shopping with virtual reality, but the COVID-19 pandemic has given new momentum to the idea.

On a larger scale, the eCommerce platform, Streetify, is bringing entire high streets to shoppers across the U.K., U.S., Canada, India, and Australia.

Launched last year in late March, the company hopes that its website and free app will connect consumers with local stores and cafés to help keep them afloat.

Their streets can be shared on social media, and shoppers can even follow famous celebrities, who can share their code with followers.

3. Food grown in new places –  Vertical and Urban Farming 

The world’s population is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050 and agriculture as we know it today will need to almost double in size to serve this rising population.

However, most of the planet’s land has already been claimed and the remaining arable land is quickly degrading.Farming startup Vertical Field has recently partnered with four Israeli supermarkets to install hyper-local urban gardens outside their supermarkets.

This will allow shoppers to buy pesticide-free greens and herbs grown just feet away.

The pandemic is also accelerating a change in the way we both grow and buy food.

The widespread interest in personal and community gardens is indicative of where people want to invest their time and energy with regards to food production.

New York and Bergen-based architecture and technology innovation studio, Framlab, has designed a tree-shaped urban farming solution to provide urban neighbourhoods with affordable, local produce year-round.

At Springwise, we have seen significant growth in innovations aimed at creating urban farms. These farms not only use space that would otherwise be wasted in order to preserve resources but also allow urban residents to get closer to nature. 

Other innovations we have covered recently include repurposing disused office space. Finnish ag-tech company, iFarm, created a service platform named Growtune to assist with smart, remote management of vertical farms.

As countries grapple with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, vast swathes of city-centre real estate lie empty.

Growtune actively promotes networks of sustainable food-related businesses and provides support in a range of ways, from technology solutions to investment and retail opportunities.

4. More plant-based and alternative meat protein

Our diets represent the single-largest carbon footprint we have on earth. Although the veganism trend has slowly gained momentum over the past years, the planet is reaching a critical period and therefore a more serious collaborative approach is required to tackle this urgent issue.

We have seen a decrease in the intake of ingredients with high carbon footprints, and greater encouragement to eat foods that are seasonal and locally available.

For example, Eat the Change™ is a platform which educates and empowers consumers to make dietary choices consistent with their concerns around climate change.

To do so, they aim to support organizations and initiatives that promote climate-friendly eating, with a particular focus on those that serve and represent historically marginalised communities.

According to the U.N.’s Food & Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, livestock accounts for 14.5 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gasses, more than all our cars, trucks, trains, and aeroplanes combined.

With most experts agreeing that one of the best ways of reducing our carbon footprints is to eat less meat, we expect to see a greater focus on food insects, invasive plant species, seaweed and algae.

Food startup, Akua, which currently markets kelp jerky, has recently announced the release of its first kelp-based burger.

Other “older” plant-based food companies also continue to develop.

Impossible Foods has released two new products: Impossible Pork Made from Plants and Impossible Sausage Made from Plants, with plant-based substitutes for lamb, goat, fish and dairy on the way.

Israeli-based Aleph Farms has announced a platform to allow the mass production of cultivated steaks, grown directly from the non-GMO cells of a living cow.

5. Dark stores and ‘ghost kitchens’

Whole Foods recently converted stores in Los Angeles and New York to dark stores. Whilst the big supermarket chains have been investing in this for a while, COVID-19 has inspired a similar movement across restaurants known as “ghost kitchens”. These are food establishments that prepare meals solely for delivery. 

Ghost kitchens can accommodate extensions of existing restaurants or new brands, and several of them can exist within the same physical kitchen.

This arrangement means sharing ingredients, equipment, and cooking staff to supply multiple restaurant brands.

  A popular example is Bowlila, which will be based the Colony ghost kitchen in West Los Angeles, together with 25 other kitchens and various brands providing delivery and pick up.

6. Anti-food waste initiatives

Food waste is a major global problem, with about forty per cent of production wasted annually. This accounts for eight per cent of greenhouse gases. However, many solutions are being developed to address this problem.

The Pairish app has two product lines that offer pickling and smoothie-making mixes, providing people with the option of reinventing their leftover produce. Users of the app simply scan their supermarket receipts, which will direct them to Pairish ingredients that are getting old. 

A team from Rice University researchers have discovered a way to use the 200 million eggs that go to waste each year in the United States.

Using both yolks and egg whites, the scientists created an edible, water-soluble protein coating that keeps food fresh for longer.

The proteins have health benefits, which means the new preservative is not only better for the environment but better for the human body as well.

In Taiwan, Taipei Tech students have been awarded National Runner-up in this year’s Dyson Awards for their new conception: Barcodiscount.

The concept consists of colour-changing stickers which display different discounts their expiration dates.

For example, when a packet of meat is 48 hours from expiration, the words “20 per cent off” appear on the label, and when the meat is 24 hours from expiration, this is automatically replaced with the discount “40 per cent off”.

7. 3D-printed food

While 3D Printing was originally designed for use in rapid prototyping, this technique is now widespread. At Springwise, we have covered the use of 3D Printing in a diverse array of innovations, from chicken nuggets to gourmet meals. 

KFC is partnering with the Russian bio-printing firm, Bioprinting Solutions, to create 3D-printed chicken meat. The project aims to create a laboratory-produced chicken nugget that looks and tastes the real thing but is more environmentally friendly to produce than ordinary meat.

At home, Foodini offers a way for both professional and amateur chefs to replicate many convenient foods using fresh ingredients.

Developed by Barcelona-based Natural Machine, Foodini prints using “ink” capsules that can be filled with a range of ingredients.

The printer comes with an app with pre-loaded designs and can be updated with more designs, or users can develop their own. Users prepare the ingredients, fill the capsule, and Foodini prints the designs. 

Written By: Katrina Lane

15th January 2021


Food and drink innovations for 2021

Predicting the future of the food and beverage industry isn’t an easy task, especially after a tumultuous 2020 that turned the industry upside down. However, there are some key insights to be noted from the past year that will continue to impact 2021 and, ly, beyond.

With 85% of consumers saying they’ve made changes to their food consumption due to COVID-19, knowing the top 7 food industry trends for 2021 is essential to the success of food manufacturers and food scientists a.

So just we highlighted the Top 7 Industry Food Trends for 2020, we’ve got your back for 2021, too!

1. Transparency Triumphs

To meet consumer demand, it will be more important than ever for brands to up their transparency game. From clean label ingredients to ethical and responsible ingredient sourcing, consumer demand for a transparent supply chain and product label has never been higher.

In fact, according to a 2020 Innova Consumer Survey, three in five global consumers say that they are interested in “learning more about where their food comes from and how it is made.” This means the term ‘clean label’ has gone from meaning transparency about being Organic and additive-free to also showing how sustainable and humane a product is.

2. Plant-forward Focus

While everyone in the industry is aware by now of the growing plant-based trend, 2021 will bring plant-based to the next level with an increased demand for plant-forward products. That’s right, plant-based has gone mainstream which is driving its rapid expansion in more market categories, especially when it comes to alternative proteins and indulgence.

In fact, the average annual growth in plant-based food & beverage launches increased 36% over last year.

Right now, less than 1 in 5 global consumers seek plant-based alternatives because they perceive the taste as being better.

This presents an enormous opportunity for brands that choose to partner with ingredient companies who offer flavor solutions that are specifically formulated for use in plant-based applications.

3. Consuming On-Demand

One of the biggest changes seen in response to the pandemic is an increase in omni-channel consumption. Consumers now have more access than ever to eat what they want, when and where they want it. Convenient meal solutions and restaurant-branded products have brought dine-in tastes to home cooking.

And its not just when it comes to meals but also to finding familiar flavors in snack products, Nashville Hot Chicken potato chips, that bring restaurant flavors into consumer’s homes in unique ways.

It is officially more important than ever for food manufacturers to be addressing convenience, richer experiences, and accessible indulgence.

4. In-Tune With Immune

The pandemic has also taken the consumer trend of prioritizing immune health to the next level. This trend is fully expected to continue into 2021 with ongoing anxiety stemming from the COVID-19 outbreak. In fact, three in five consumers shared that they are “increasingly looking for food and beverage products that support immune health.”

5. Science & Nutrition

“Technology is addressing demands for food & beverage with enhanced nutritional value, sustainability or ethical impact,” according to Innova – which is exactly what customers expect with four in five global consumers agreeing with the statement “I believe in progress in food and beverage through science.” Food manufacturers need to leverage the expertise available in the industry to meet consumer expectations, especially when it comes to overcoming the challenges associated with creating great tasting healthy foods.

6. Product Mash-ups

Everyone knows innovation is a constant requirement in the food and beverage industry. What that means exactly is a little less clear and can seem a moving target. For 2021, we’ve got our sights set on product mash-ups. Why? Research from Innova shows three in five consumers are “interested in trying new sensory experiences (e.g.

, aromas, tastes, textures, colors, sensations),” with the younger generations leading the demand for such flavor experiences. Think ice cream pizzas and cereals that taste coffee.

What innovative new products are waiting to be discovered by your food scientists? Pro-tip, finding the right industry partner from the start of product development is key to hitting the mark on taste.

7. Modern Nostalgia

As many of us have experienced ourselves this year, times of unease, unrest, and uncertainty drive consumers to seek comfort in foods that remind them of happier, less turbulent times.

As the world continues to fight the pandemic and, hopefully, begin to heal in 2021 we expect the trend to continue. But, its not as simple as consumers falling back on nostalgic, familiar comfort foods. Consumers expect a modern twist on their favorite classics.

Food manufacturers can ride this wave by adding exotic flavors and ingredients to familiar products and using global trends to influence local products.

As 2020 comes to an end, it will be essential to keep an eye on these top 7 food industry trends for 2021.

Food manufacturers and their food scientists will be challenged to innovate in order to meet consumer demand for healthier, tastier products. The dairy flavors experts at Edlong are ready to help.

From plant-based to dairy-based product development and enhancement, they are experts at navigating product development challenges – reach out today!


Food and drink innovations for 2021

After a year marred by a global public health crisis, 2020 has left many thirsty for in-person social gatherings with friends and family.

Morning catch-ups at the coffee corner, afterwork happy hour at the favorite waterhole or weekend drinks in town have mostly been replaced (for now) with coffees-to-go, virtual apéros, or alfresco drinking in winter in summer.

Consumers have become today their own baristas and bartenders, imbibing alone at home or at a distance outside.

So how, and with what, will we quench our thirst in 2021?

In this pandemic-era, there is no doubt that the megatrends for the new year will center around healthier and ‘cleaner’, more sustainable, premium and socially responsible products in line with the mantras – good for me, good for the planet – and quality over quantity.

With movements mindful drinking and “sober curious” gaining popularity, research indicates that alcohol consumption has declined with younger generations drinking less as they show greater interest in holistic wellness and health. And the beverage industry has been paying attention to these shifts in concern, consciousness and habits.

Functional and healthy beverages are on the rise, and no and low alcohol ready-to-drink offerings from North America to Europe and Asia-Pacific have boomed as they prove to be both a more convenient and ‘safer’ option in a world still plagued by COVID-19 measures and barrier gestures. But globally, we’re seeing an array of interesting new product developments, packaging innovations and surprising mergers and acquisitions with the lines between the health movement, the low- and no- alcoholic category and the wider drinks industry becoming increasingly blurred.

Beyond these general tendencies, we take a look at six particular drink trends for the year ahead.

1. The bubble tea craze goes global

Despite being invented in the 1980s, bubble tea is set to see its popularity soar to new heights. From the US to Germany, China to Brazil, the bubble tea industry is going global with its market expected to grow by almost $2 billion to reach $4.3 billion by 2027.

The refreshing Taiwanese tea-based drink with its tapioca or fruit jelly ‘bubbles’ is appealing to health-conscious individuals enjoying the healthier variants low in sugar, with organic soya milk, green tea or fruity mixes as well as a younger generation seduced by its 200 or so different flavor combinations and even more customizable options making for a truly unique, tasty and fun drink.

2. Fermented drinks as a health-booster

Increased awareness on the importance of fueling our body with quality and nutritious food and drink is driving a rapid growth in fermented beverages, occupying a significant portion within the functional and healthy drinks category.

It’s estimated that probiotic beverages are expected to achieve over $77 billion in sales by 2025, almost double the revenue generated worldwide in 2018. While kombucha has been topping the leader board for some years, it’s now got some serious competition.

Water kefir, with its more diverse probiotic strains shown to help boost the immune system and aid digestion, is gaining momentum and creeping into the mainstream.

As is the fermented Mexican soda Tepache – another healthy, flavorsome, sustainable alternative to kombucha.

While not new in itself, it has promising prospects in this ‘health-conscious’ era, but hey, it’s just a gut feeling!

3. Wines and champagnes with star power

Celebrity beverage endorsements are nothing new. Think George Clooney and Nespresso, Jennifer Aniston and Smart Water, or countless sporting stars endorsing energy drinks. But expect to see more and more vineyards and champagne houses partnering with big names to capitalize on their glamorous images and extend their respective brand portfolios.

After John Legend, Kylie Minogue or Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz is the latest celebrity to venture into the wine business with her “clean” wines. The range comprises of an organic and vegan French rosé and Spanish white with no added sugar, with Diaz tapping into both the wellness trend and that of the growing ‘thirst’ for ‘pink’ wine.

Such partnerships are also strategic in helping introduce wines and champagnes to new consumers, in particular millennial drinkers drawn to celebrity and wellness lifestyles, and who aren’t impartial to the Instagrammable aesthetic of a fizzy or rose-tinted drink.

4. Boxed wine as a sustainable (and sanitary) choice

Did you know that during the COVID-19 pandemic, bag-in-a-box wine was the supermarket alcoholic “go-to” beverage?

The draw? Beyond the product within the bag, boxed wine is easier to store, it better preserves open wine, and is proving a more hygienic and sustainable option, in particular for restaurants.

With each three-liter box generating about half the carbon dioxide emissions to that of a glass bottle, boxed wine is also cheaper to transport, stock and more environmentally-friendly.

Something that even the more premium wine houses can’t ignore.

While wine connoisseurs may jump to the conclusion that boxed wine equates to poor quality, industry experts are suggesting that that’s changing, and fast, as sales are forecast to continue surging around the world in 2021.

5. Canned cocktails with premium products

While some may have enjoyed following online mixology tutorials to create their own home-made cocktails, many long for the days when original creations were served ready-made for immediate consumption.

Well, spirit brands and hotel chains the Marriott have wasted no time to offer the perfect solution and create a variety of delicious, bartender-quality, ready-to-drink cocktails in cans.

Tipped to be the hottest trend in the alcoholic beverage space in 2021, the development of prepared cocktails-to-go has, according to Nielsen Premium Panel data, accelerated 171% in 2020, and shows no signs of slowing down.

With high-quality ingredients, authentic flavors, options between low-calorie, sugar and alcohol or premium spirits, and convenient and sanitary packaging – grab-and-go cocktails are here to stay.

6. Spiked sodas and alcohol-free beers and spirits

With interest in low and no alcohol by volume (ABV) drinks skyrocketing over the last few years, more and more people are looking for a middle ground between tee-total and drinker, between functional and indulgent, between high-quality and convenience.

Consequently, low and non-alcoholic beverages are flooding the market and is the space to watch.

From non-alcoholic beers and premium mocktails by spirit brands to the boom of hard seltzers now spilling over into hard coffees and kombucha – consumers are going to be spoilt for choice.

Whether it’s wanting something with less sugar and alcohol, with premium products, looking for a slight ‘kick’ in traditional non-alcoholic beverages or an alternative to beer, this growing category ensures there’s something for every taste bud and type of drinker.

As we look to turn our backs on 2020, and raise our glasses to a new year, the question still lingers as to whether the drinking habits developed in a COVID-era will prevail in a post-pandemic world.

While there is still so much uncertainty, what is clear is that the increasing consumer interest in health, wellness and mindfulness is shaping the beverage industry as a whole as it seeks to quench this thirst for holistic balance.

For being able to choose alcohol-free beverages without having to sacrifice flavors, fizz or authenticity. For indulging in a drink without having to abstain completely. For a return to more simplicity with natural and ‘clean’ products. For drinking less in quantity but better in quality.

Cheers to that!

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Food and drink innovations for 2021

It has been a whirlwind of a year, and while many would probably to forget 2020, its impact will be felt for years to come. While there have been many noteworthy events this year, the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the food and beverage industry is huge.

The pandemic changed the way consumers shop, socialize, entertain and more—which is why it will be the biggest driver of food and beverage trends next year.

Products that promote health and wellness, escapism and value will be in the spotlight because they provide relief from many of the challenges consumers are facing in wake of the pandemic.

In 2021, health and wellness will be focused on maintaining a healthy body and mind by staying physically fit, eating a better diet and taking measures to improve emotional health. A new consideration for the food and beverage industry will be the need for safety, which will affect both how and where consumers shop.

Consumers will also be more cost-conscious because of economic uncertainty which will drive demand for value. However, there will still be space for premium products that provide exciting experiences to fill the void of other forms of entertainment that consumers are missing because of the pandemic, such as travel and eating at restaurants.

These trends will not be mutually exclusive, and many products in 2021 will address multiple consumer needs. these considerations, Imbibe predicts the following trends:

Better body

Consumers will aim to improve physical health by paying closer attention to macronutrients, maintaining a healthy weight, and choosing products suggested to boost immunity.

Ingredients that promote gut health, improve hydration and have anti-inflammatory properties will be in the spotlight. Superfoods that are naturally rich in immune-boosting ingredients elderberry, acerola cherry, apple cider vinegar, ginger and turmeric will be popular.

Brands will also fortify products with ingredients zinc, vitamin C, probiotics and prebiotics.

Consumers will also be focused on getting in shape to lose extra pounds gained during quarantine and to improve overall health.

Launches of sports nutrition products protein drinks, electrolyte replenishers, performance enhancers, energy boosters and weight loss elixirs will increase.

Brands will differentiate products by using clean label, plant-based, and/or diet-friendly ingredients as well as incorporating multiple functional ingredients in a single product to give consumers more bang for their buck.

Mood Boosters

Stress is at an all-time high for many consumers, which can affect more than just your mood. Consumers will seek out products that promote relaxation and mental clarity and improve sleep. Brands will incorporate ingredients adaptogens, CBD and l-theanine to help consumers unwind.

Consumers will also flock to the familiar as a means of comfort, increasing demand for comfort food and nostalgia.

In order to provide emotional benefits of comfort food without negatively impacting physical health goals, brands should focus on launching permissibly indulgent products made with better-for-you ingredients.

This will include reducing sugar or swapping it out for natural low-calorie sweeteners stevia, monk fruit and allulose, improving nutrient density and incorporating plant-based, functional and clean label ingredients.

Another way to deliver comfort is through use of nostalgic flavors reminiscent of childhood favorites s’mores or birthday cake, or seasonal flavors lemonade in the summer and pumpkin in the fall.

Disruption from the pandemic also creates a need for excitement, so nostalgia will appear in new forms such as familiar product types enhanced with novel ingredients or novel products with nostalgic flavors. 

Culinary tourism

Since consumers are spending less time traveling and going to restaurants, they will seek out products that provide adventurous experiences at home.

There will be greaterdemand for premium bar options ready-to-drink cocktails that offer an experience akin to hand-crafted varieties but don’t require purchasing multiple ingredients. There will also be a surge in better-for you libations hard kombucha and enhanced beer, cider and seltzer.

Zero-proof spirits that provide a similar experience to drinking alcohol by incorporating flavorful botanicals and relaxing ingredients adaptogens and CBD will experience growth as well.

Additionally,there will be a resurgence of do-it-yourself (DIY) kits that alleviate boredom and offer experiences similar to foodservice. Consumers will purchase meal kits, many of which will be offered by foodservice brands. Other desirable kits will include DIY alcohol fermentation, mixology, dairy alternative milks, kombucha and more.

Globally inspired products and flavors will also be favored in lieu of vacationing abroad. Brands will experiment with Mediterranean flavors blood orange, orange blossom, bergamot, figs and dates. There will also be continued growth of flavors from Latin America guava, chamoy and mango chili lime and flavors from Asia yuzu, calamansi, tamarind and cardamom.

Safety first

Consumers are making purchase decisions what makes them feel safe, which will affect the food and beverage industry several ways. Foodservice brands will need to be transparent about business practices so consumers feel safe eating out.

Consumers will be paying attention to product packaging and will be more accepting of single-use and tamper-proof packaging because of concerns about hygiene and contamination.

The boom in online shopping will continue until there is a significant drop in illness rates and/or a vaccine becomes widely accessible.

More for less

Rises in infection rates have consumers stocking up on groceries for weeks to months at a time, but due to economic uncertainty those purchases need to be at a lower price point.

There will be an explosion of innovation from private label brands who will launch products in growing categories dairy alternative milks, immunity beverages and alcohol.

Name brands will also offer value to consumers by launching multi-serve products, variety packs with multiple flavors and shelf-stable options.

Holly McHugh is the marketing associate at Imbibe, a Chicago-based beverage development company. She focuses on the company's external communications and brand awareness.

She also monitors and analyzes beverage trends to guide clients in making strategic decisions about product development.

She has a bachelor's degree from Columbia College Chicago and a master's degree from the University of Denver.


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