Predicting food trends is a dubious exercise in any year, but those who dabble in the dark art of culinary prognostication have never faced a landscape harder to read than 2021. People are increasingly turning to food to find comfort, wellbeing, and community after a stressful 2020.
The food trends of 2021 are geared towards improving our bodies, our planet, and our wallets. From cooking styles to star ingredients, you can expect many of the items on this list to become a permanent part of the culinary landscape even beyond 2021. Most forecasters agree that the pandemic and the stumbling economy will not deliver the year of frivolous food or “breakout” cuisines. But innovation and a restaurant rebound will come, eventually.
Here are few food trends that would help restaurants in 2021 after a difficult 2020
Home-made, hand-crafted, hand-spun are things of the past. In the COVID-world, people are looking for dishes that connote safety and cleanliness. Consumers will look for “bot-made” and “sanitation-verified” stickers which they can trust. Stats say that there has been a decline in nearly 36% of handmade production in 2020.
White Castle announced that it was adding Flippy robots, the world’s first autonomous robotic kitchen assistant, to make food in a contactless manner. White Castle has teamed up with Miso Robotics and has planned to deploy Flippy across 10 locations in 2021.
Experiential Dining to Doorstep
It has become imperative in the post-Covid world, CPG packaging and delivery needs to be on point. We would see more beautifully curated and thoughtfully curated boxes, zoom-guided wine tastings, and chef catered family meals to create a restaurant experience outside the confines of the restaurant. Information on-pack will have to be such that it is easily read from the shelf without having to turn the bottle or flipping the package. Consumers will appreciate having to get all the information they need in one clear glance.
It is necessary to have a beautifully designed package and brand image with having pleasing and attractive color palette. Restaurants that will stand out with their digital designing and branding with multi-functional designing will see more consumers coming to them.
Focus on Smaller Menu
Every dining experience relies heavily on the variety of menu items. The vast menu is having the restaurant aim to cater to everyone as opposed to focusing on doing a few things really well. This is gradually changing in 2021. Never-ending menus are becoming a thing of the past. Consumers want good food, not the low quality that comes with extensive menus.
Restaurants are finding unique ways of operating in 2021 through streamlined inventory management, as well as reduced food waste through short menus. These restaurants have prompted the industry and the public to rethink what to expect from the dining experience.
Over the top Vegan Food
Additionally, a mix of international and domestic brands will begin offering vegan chicken options at and near the supermarket aisle in 2021 from mainstay brands such as Quorn and Lightlife Foods, as well as startups such as Simulate and Daring Foods. In addition, we may be able to expect even more options for nuggets, cutlets, strips, and perhaps even drumsticks.
A new vegan chicken chain Next Level Clucker opened in San Francisco in January 2021 for delivery and pick up. The new restaurant serves a menu focused on vegan chicken patties, vegan sandwiches, vegan fries, and more.
Also, Pizza Hut, KFC, and Dairy Queen, amongst others have added vegan options post-2020.
Sustainable Food Options
Consumers not only want to know where their food comes from but also want to know whether that food contributes to climate change and the environment. These concerns are leading some restaurants to reach for renewable food sources like grains, legumes, and even algae and seaweed. In addition to foods that help reduce waste, using misshapen fruits and vegetables that aren’t Instagram-worthy are also on-trend.
This also brings us to the importance of eco-conscious packaging. For instance: company Verterra has made containers that are made from balsa from tree stumps and other innovations include compostable cardboard liners for takeout boxes that combat leaks.
Consumers are increasingly seeking alcohol-free spirits, low-calorie alcoholic beverages, and healthier versions of popular drinks since the onset of 2021.
The trend towards healthier eating started some time back, but heightened perceptions about coronavirus have made the public more knowledgeable about foods that claim to have immunity-boosting properties.
The popularity of movements like “mindful drinking” and “sober curious” has led to an overall decrease in alcohol consumption, with younger generations drinking less as they exhibit greater interest in holistic health and wellness. By 2025, probiotic beverages are expected to generate over $77 billion in revenue, nearly double the revenues in 2018.
Unusual Flavor Combinations
Some of the most radical or exotic flavor trends reach the top of the list each year, but most fade away as quickly as they begin. However, foods that feature the fifth flavor sensation of umami have been on trend for a few years. Chefs on the cutting-edge are now combining those satisfyingly rich notes of umami with sweet flavors like fruit, custard, and even caramel corn.
While some exotic flavors may make their mark, consumers are creatures of comfort and reach for the familiar without question. As the pandemic hit, comfort foods such as soups, savory snacks, and mac and cheese were among the favorites.
More focus on regional food
Every year we tend to see a focus on specific regional flavors. Due to limited travel in 2020, we saw many cultures celebrate their heritage through food. For example, in the U.S., we have seen an increase in African American cuisine, and businesses delve into these tastes, and we expect to see this continue and expand in 2021. We also predict an increase in Latin American foods and flavors like chimichurri, horchata, and salsa macha following the global trend for Mexican flavors.
Despite being a trend, heritage cooking seems to be here to stay. It is expected that people will begin to see cultures more holistically through food (e.g., Vietnamese cuisine outside banh mi and pho). It is important to expose diners to new traditions — what it means to be Filipino-American or Thai-American, Nigerian-American, or Vietnamese-American, and so on.
While there is still so much uncertainty in 2021, what is clear is that the increasing consumer interest in health, wellness, and mindfulness is shaping the food and beverage industry as a whole as it seeks to quench this thirst for holistic balance.
The popularity and accessibility of these popular food trends ensure that your culinary adventures will be exciting and more enjoyable than staying on top of your comfort zone a little too tightly. The restaurants will take a step into fresh cuisine that is ready to impress your palate and explore your own preferences with every taste.