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Plant-Based Foods Will Help Lead a Year of Food and Beverage Innovation in 2021


2021 will be a year of innovation in the food and beverage industry, especially when it comes to health and wellness.

That’s according to Chicago-based ADM (Archer-Daniels-Midland Co.), an American multinational food processing and commodities trading corporation, which recently released a report highlighting the five food and beverage trends it expects will impact the way consumers eat and drink next year.

Based on research from ADM’s OutsideVoice  consumer insights platform, the report provides a breakdown of each trend that will come to the fore in the 12 months ahead. Each of these trends is strongly influenced by behavioral and societal changes that have emerged since the beginning of the pandemic, including heightened feelings of anxiety and stress, shifting priorities, changes in social connectivity and the adoption of a more holistic approach to wellness, according to ADM.

“The global health crisis has changed consumer preferences in new and unexpected ways,” says Vince Macciocchi, ADM’s president of nutrition. “We are seeing a heightened demand for foods and beverages that support immune systems, enhance our mood and reduce our environmental impact, driven in part by emerging human tensions. This has provided a unique opportunity for brands to develop disruptive new products that will forever change the way we eat and drink. It’s going to be a year of innovation, marked by significant breakthroughs in nutrition.”

The five trends that ADM says will spur innovation in the new year, include:

A More Proactive Approach to Nourishing the Body and Mind

ADM research found that 31% of consumers are purchasing more items tailored for their health, and 50% report a preference for foods and beverages that naturally contain beneficial ingredients. The desire to influence health and wellness through foods and beverages is creating new opportunities for nutrient-dense products with functional health benefits aimed at supporting immune systems, enhancing mood and sustaining energy, according to ADM. Sensory factors like flavor and color are also playing an increasingly crucial role. Consumers are gravitating toward foods and beverages with bright and exciting colors that indicate citrus flavors, with their naturally occurring Vitamin C, as well as products with familiar, nostalgic flavors during these stressful times.

Sustainability Takes Center Stage

Over two-thirds (65%) of consumers want to have a positive impact on the environment through their everyday actions, the company’s research revealed, which is a key reason why 32% of consumers buy sustainably produced items. The growing awareness of humans’ collective impact on the environment has elicited increasing demand for companies to demonstrate their sustainability commitment beyond just the end product to responsible sourcing and operating standards, ADM stated.

The Gut Microbiome Emerges as the Gateway to Wellness

About 25% of global consumers suffer from digestive health issues, ADM stated, citing research from Euromonitor. Of those, 50% claim that it has a moderate or severe impact on their overall health. The pandemic has accelerated consumer interest in a more holistic approach to health, which includes a greater understanding of the foundational role of the gut microbiome on each individual’s health, the company said, noting that products targeting the microbiome have been shown to help address specific metabolic conditions and issues such as weight management, immune system support and better emotional well-being.

Plant-Based Food Boom Expands Beyond the Bun

Globally, 56% of plant consumers are trying to eat more plant-based foods and beverages, pushing alternative proteins into an increasingly mainstream phenomenon, ADM found. Demand for plant-based protein products is rapidly expanding beyond just burger analogues to new and novel products, including alternative seafoods like shellfish and shrimp, plant-based cheeses, ready-to-eat protein snacks and more. The dairy-alternative category is growing to encompass other formats such as yogurt, ice cream, butter, spreads and creamers.

Transparency Builds Consumer Trust

Consumers now expect food labels to provide greater transparency around the entire product life cycle, which is helping drive the demand for locally sourced products as consumers seek greater clarity on where the ingredients in food and beverages come from, ADM said. The quest for cleaner ingredients extends to flavors and colors, with many seeking natural alternatives, whether it be elderberries to give a product a rich blue hue or peppermint and mint to elicit an energizing burst of coolness in foods and beverages. Sweeteners such as monk fruit and stevia are growing in popularity as consumers seek out natural ways to reduce their sugar intake.