Top ten 2021 food trends identified by The Food People

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

Vegetables, frozen food and mental health were just some of the food trends identified by The Food People
Vegetables, frozen food and mental health were just some of the food trends identified by The Food People

Related tags Trends frozen

Demand for luxury products, thriftiness and the link between gut health and mental health have been identified as top 2021 consumer food trends by market research group The Food People.

Speaking at the British Frozen Food Federation’s Frozen Food Conference 2021, The Food People co-founder Charles Banks identified the top ten trends that would influence food and drink in 2021-2022.

Top of Banks’s list was consumers splurging on smaller, luxury items in order to escape from the bigger issues and challenges.

“It's human nature to seek pick me up, perhaps more so than ever,”​ he explained. “When times are tough, everyday food and drink products are the perfect way to cheer ourselves up.

“Consumers will continue to be looking for little ways to upgrade everyday rituals, such as swapping out baked for frozen chocolate croissants as an example.”

“Think small, luxury touches: burgers made with bone marrow or pasta tossed in truffle oil. For others, it's about indulging in scrumptious elevenses or putting treats things like homemade biscuits, cupcakes with gold leaf, elderflower filled custard's doughnuts.”


Juxtaposed with consumers’ desires for luxury items would be thriftiness, an expected consequence of the uncertainty faced by many Brits due to the economic effects of Brexit and the pandemic, said Banks.

He predicted the rise in scratch cooking would continue as consumers made the effort to reduce outgoings, mitigate waste and do their bit for sustainability and climate change.

A throw-away culture was being replaced with much more of a ‘make-do-and-mend’ mentality, he added. Big food brands within and outside of food and drink were embracing that as well.

“It's all about showing what you can do with leftovers and waste,”​ Banks added. “You might have mastered sour dough for instance, but the real badge of honour comes with how you use that starter to make cookies or muffins or pancakes.”

The third trend touched on by Banks was comfort, again directly linked to consumers uncertainty surrounding the current geopolitical climate.

Solace in comfort food

“We expect consumers to continue to seek solace and comfort food. It's a natural reaction to withdraw to a place of safety and security, but it's also about reinterpreting comfort, the home and the family as a place of food experience.”

Aside from food itself, Banks predicted consumers would seek comfort through larger shopping missions, recipe plans and organisational apps to keep on top of things.

Playing directly into consumers’ search for comfort and organisation was the fourth trend: home delivery. The online home delivery revolution had been well underway pre-pandemic and its relevance had only been amplified by it, argued Banks.

Home delivery of food had evolved naturally during a time where peoples’ movement had been heavily restricted, Banks said. However, he claimed there was an opportunity for brands to grow their offering and market share for direct-to-consumer models.

“It's about how you take your direct to consumer offerings to the next level to deliver products that previously weren't for home consumption.”


Fifth on Banks’s list of trends was ‘fired up’, referring to the rise in food cooked over a direct flame, such as barbecues and fire pits.

The practice was hardly new, but consumers were now seeking more sophisticated ways to utilise age-old techniques, experimenting with types of wood and smoke and layering fire flavours over each other, for example.

Consumers and chefs alike have been seeking premium, better quality, more sophisticated equipment both indoors and outdoors, things like open hearth pizza oven and charcoal grills.

“Much of the demand in retail is about core proteins, especially steak, pork and chicken. It's also about things like desserts with the likes of burnt Basque cheesecake and breakfast and brunch with grilled bread with egg yolk.”

Moving away from the search for premium options by consumers, the sixth trend identified was a focus on healthy guts. That was linked to a great emphasis on mental health, the seventh food and drink trend of 2021/22, said Banks.

Gut health gains

“Gut health gains even more traction as we learn more about the link between our gut, immune function and mental health.

“We're also looking for practical solutions to help them on their mental health journey. Health has been steadily growing in momentum for some time. A trip around any retail outlet throws up all manner of products.

“The relevance of gut and mental health have only been accelerated by a pandemic. There's much more about life that we can't control, so we turn to the things that we can control in such times.”

Outside of products perceived to be healthy, Banks suggested a rise in traditional snacking products augmented with healthier ingredients such as prebiotics and fibre – the rationale being a healthier gut leads to a healthier mind.

The eighth trend discussed by Banks was a predicted rise in alfresco dining and eating, especially as the UK moved out of lockdown – the ‘first appreciation of freedom’ he argued.

Alfresco dining

“Al fresco is gaining a positive association with that transition to the new post-COVID normal. Temperatures rise and weather improves for summer. Barbecue is very much hot for all the reasons I've talked about.

“Following that focus on craft and fire, cooking and foodservice, many supplies of cooking equipment and furniture are already this season reporting out-of-stocks. Forget barbecue stereotypes, we're talking about kits that are sourced from artisan butchers or restaurants famed for their brisket or expertly blended marinades as well as desserts cooked over fire.”

Frozen food was the ninth food and drink trend on the rise in 2021/22. Consumers of all ages were being enticed by the taste, health and budget credentials of frozen foods, increasing purchase frequency and widening the types of products they placed in their basket.

This was cemented by a growing number of consumers buying more freezers and freezer space at home. Fast paced innovation in products and routes to market amplified frozen food’s relevance now and into the future, said Banks.

Expecting the unexpected

“In uncertain times, consumers seek comfort in being prepared in a world where we expect the unexpected.

“Frozen is an amplified relevance in this ‘be prepared world’, as well as being convenient, often more natural, budget conscious, relevant and supporting a mindful reduction in food waste.

“Frozen has also been a place to find substitutes for those missed out-of home occasions. Things like waffle fries, fried chicken reminiscent of street food vendors, or frozen complex meals as examples.”

Finally, trend ten was Love Your Veg or, more specifically, the move away from animal proteins in pursuit of health for the body and the planet.

This last trend was linked to a greater desire for supply chain transparency as consumers cared more about animal welfare and the carbon footprint of the food they consumed.

“The primary goal is to reverse climate change by focusing on foods that have the smallest carbon footprint and supporting consumers to make those informed, informed decisions about the way they eat.

“There's no denying the impact parts of our global food system have on the environment. The pandemic is propelling a more sustainable era of consumption and consumers are giving greater consideration to balancing out what they consume and how they spend their time with global issues such as sustainability.”

Top food and drink trends 2021/22

The Food People identified 10 top food and drink tends for 2021/22:

  • Mini splurge
  • Thrift rules
  • Comfort
  • Home delivery
  • Fired up
  • Healthy Gut
  • Better mind
  • Alfresco cooking and dining
  • Frozen
  • Love your veg

Related topics Fresh produce Frozen Operations

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