Expected Food and Beverage Trends for 2021: The Light at the End of a Long, Long Tunnel

2020 has been an extremely long, difficult year for many brands. COVID-19 has changed the landscape for many industries, perhaps none so much as for the food and beverage industry. We’re already starting to see food and beverage trends for 2021 taking shape.

Interestingly, many of the food and beverage trends that first appeared in 2019 actually prepared consumers for the sheltering-in-place and social distancing required beginning in early March throughout the country. In 2021, we can expect to see new food trends and marketing trends that have evolved out of necessity throughout 2020.  

Delivery and Ghost Kitchens

Grocery and restaurant delivery was no stranger before COVID-19, but it quickly became a necessity once social distancing and stay-at-home orders hit. As many states are relaxing their guidelines, ghost kitchens—restaurants where food is cooked but no guests are served—are becoming the new normal.

Also expected to see gains in 2021 are meal kit delivery services, such as Home Chef, Sun Basket, Hello Fresh, and Blue Apron. The industry is expected to hit $20 billion in revenue by 2027, a growth rate of almost 13% annually. This particular industry was losing ground as little as two years ago, but as more and more shoppers sought options that didn’t include a trip to the grocery store during lockdown orders, the tide began to change.

CBD Product Growth

While CBD’s legality hasn’t fully been decided in many states, that hasn’t stopped several food and beverage brands from considering the creation of CBD products. Both Anheuser-Busch and Coca-Cola are considering investments in CBD-infused drinks for both hard and soft drinks. This, after several bars and restaurants have begun offering drops of CBD oils in mixed drinks and beers.

Also trending upward is the development and sale of CBD edibles. On the map and rising since 2018, more and more chefs and brands are exploring opportunities to introduce CBD into their recipes and products. Since 2018, CBD-infused gummy sales have grown by 925%, and sales of CBD chocolate products have increased by 530%.

There are also CBD adjacent products, such as Copaiba. This completely legal essential oil is derived from the resin of the Copaifera tree and contains terpenes that interact with the endocannabinoid system. The result is a similar therapeutic benefit to that of CBD, but combined with a woodsy, sweet flavor that may work well with many edibles and beverages already exploring CBD options.

Sugar, Wheat, and Animal Product Replacements

With more than 75% of surveyed Americans saying they’ve gained up to sixteen pounds while sheltering-in-place, a new health movement is expected to gain momentum. Many experts believe that a sugar replacement called Allulose may be the first big trend of this movement. A sweetener derived from wheat and certain fruits, Allulose can be used in crystal form and a liquid syrup.

The FDA has excluded Allulose from the total and added sugar declarations on the nutritional facts information based on its fewer calories, negligible increases in blood glucose, and because it doesn’t promote dental decay—making it very attractive to food product developers. Both Nestle and DouxMatok are already investigating its possibilities, and many more are expected to follow.

For those living a plant-based eating lifestyle, chickpeas are quickly becoming a popular choice. Not only for hummus, but chickpeas are also used as a dairy replacement in chickpea ice cream. In addition, chickpea flour is gaining traction as an option for gluten-free and Celiac eaters.

Then, there’s carob. Though carob may seem to have had its day, the chocolate replacement is gluten-free, caffeine-free, naturally sweet, and low carb. For those actively avoiding chocolate, carob is making a serious comeback, with several brands considering it for healthy ice cream, cookie, and snack options, including Valsoia’s dairy-free soy milk and carob “mint chocolate chip” ice cream.

Marketing Trends

As expected, online and app shopping is expected to continue to be in high demand. Smart brands and marketers will adapt to take advantage of the 218%+ increase in daily downloads of apps like Instacart, Walmart Grocery, and Shipt.

Marketers should also be prepared to see further increases in voice search. With more than 67 million voice assistant devices in homes and offices in the US, and people spending more time at home, the devices are being used in new ways to create grocery shopping lists or order directly from delivery services.

Consumers are also taking advantage of Google’s image search functions, uploading images and searching for retailers that carry those goods. Food and beverage marketers should include high-quality product images with meta descriptions and alt descriptions that use targeted keywords and search phrases to ensure your products come up in image searches.

If you need help with your food and beverage marketing strategies to keep up with 2021 trends, please reach out. We’re here to help.