Whole Foods might be a lot of things – expensive, innovative, and not as friendly to local suppliers as it used to be – but it’s hard to deny its outsized influence in the food and beverage space.
CPG industry stakeholders can expect to feel the ripple effect of that presence in the coming months after it published its seventh annual trends report, which shares what the company’s Trends Council expects to be the hot trends in the food and beverage market in 2022.
“Last year, we saw tremendous pandemic-related shifts in grocery buying habits as the world adjusted to spending more time at home,” Chief Marketing Officer at Whole Foods Market Sonya Gafsi Oblisk explained in a press release. “As the food industry slowly adjusts to a new normal, we expect to see consumers prioritize food and drink products that deliver additional benefits—like functional sodas and tonics— and products that support their sense of well-being, like urban garden greens and products grown with farming processes that help address soil health.”
Trends for 2022 include:
- Urban Farming: Urban, and indoor, farming, has embraced innovation over the last decade, whether it’s hydroponics, aquaponics, and robotics. As a result, producers have leaned into groundbreaking ways to grow “hyper-local crops” and improve efficiencies.
- Yuzu: Yuzu — a once-obscure citrus grown in Japan, Korea, and China — will break into the mainstream in 2022, according to Whole Foods. Brands are incorporating this tart, tangerine-sized fruit in vinaigrettes, hard seltzers, and mayos. In addition, chefs are increasingly incorporating its lime-lemon-grapefruit flavor in soups, veggies, pasta, and fish.
- Reducetarianism: While the number of vegans and vegetarians has held steady over the years, more consumers have expressed growing curiosity about plant-based foods. This trend has given birth to what analysts call “reducetarianism” – cutting back on meat, dairy, and egg consumption without eliminating them. And when consumers do choose animal products, they want sustainably produced, traceable offerings.
- Hibiscus: Hibiscus has a storied history in the tea business, and consumers love it because of its valuable vitamin C content. In 2022, Whole Foods expects producers to further leverage its sweet, tart flavor in fruit spreads, yogurts, and other new formats. Additionally, beverage manufacturers will expand their use of hibiscus in new product launches.
- Alcohol-free: Alcohol-free beverages have emerged as the most significant abstinence trend since consumers started turning their backs on sugar. After alcohol-free beer sales jumped dramatically in 2020, faux cocktails and alcohol-free spirits saw similar spikes in 2021. The experts at Whole Foods expect that to continue in 2022. So millennials, Gen Zers, and other “sober curious” consumers are here to stay.
- Grains: Grains have always been popular, but consumers now want more responsible grains – those grown sustainably with consideration for soil health. The Whole Foods report points to Kernza as one example, “a perennial grain developed by The Land Institute with a sweet, nutty flavor and long roots that help with nutrient cycling and overall soil ecology.”
- Sunflower Seeds: Manufacturers are turning to sunflower seeds as the main ingredient in various new product offerings, such as crackers, ice creams, and creamy cheeses. Most sunflower seed snacks, which boast protein and unsaturated fats, also claim the added benefit of being produced without nuts.
- Moringa: Locals have used moringa as an herbal remedy in India and Africa for years. The leaves of these drought-tolerant trees are loaded with nutrients and have served as a food source for generations. U.S. brands have started using these leaves as a viable alternative to matcha and adding it to smoothies, sauces, and baked goods.
- Bubbles: Carbonated drinks remain a staple in the beverage market, but companies are starting to leverage these products in the functional space, made with increasingly popular probiotics, prebiotics, and botanicals, among others.
- Turmeric: Turmeric’s been a mainstay with traditional Chinese apothecaries but has surfaced as a go-to ingredient in U.S. dietary supplements since the early days of the pandemic. Companies are now incorporating the “golden spice” in other products, such as cereals, sauerkrauts, and plant-based desserts.
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