If 2021 is the year of the health-conscious consumer, food and beverage manufacturers and retailers are wondering how to address evolving consumer needs in 2022. Industry experts predict the health-conscious consumer is here to stay and with a broader focus.

Almost three-quarters of adults agree that the pandemic experience has dramatically changed their perspective on life (Mintel). We saw the effects of these shifts in 2020 and 2021 as consumers reevaluated their health and approach to wellness. More people began cooking at home and making healthier eating and exercise choices. They also searched for products to support their immune systems and help relieve stress.

Physical health will continue to be a top priority in 2022, but the focus is expanding to include mental wellness and environmental health. Consumers will be shopping for food and beverage products that support their well-being and help them meet new sustainability goals.

Searching for Functional Benefits

Spurred on by continued concerns about health and wellness, more consumers are shopping for products offering benefits beyond basic nutrition. According to a FlavorSum study conducted earlier this year, the top three benefits North Americans are shopping for are immunity support, brain health, and heart health. 

We expect to see more functional products on store shelves, including ones that pair specific flavors with purposeful ingredients (think citrus with turmeric and ginger for immunity support). More products are emerging that target growing online communities on social platforms like Pinterest and TikTok. For example, products touting stress-relief benefits may be paired with earthy or botanical flavors to fit the Globincore aesthetic

Stand Out Statistics 

  • In 2021, the global functional foods and beverage market was worth $281.14 billion (Grand View Research).
  • The market growth for functional foods is robust, with a forecasted CAGR of about 9.5% between 2021 and 2028 (Grand View Research).
  • 63% of American consumers and 74% of Canadian consumers are actively looking for functionality in their purchased foods and beverages (FlavorSum Study).

Good-For-You Beverages

Adaptogenic mushrooms, used for hundreds of years in traditional Chinese medicine, are beginning to enter the mainstream beverage market. The global mushroom market may exceed $50 billion by 2028 (Grand View Research). With claims to reduce stress and anxiety, boost the immune system, and help with sleep, mushrooms are being incorporated more and more into teas and coffees.

Purposeful Snacking

When it comes to eating between regular meals, 26% of consumers say they are doing more snacking than before the pandemic, and 46% say they will continue to snack more (Mintel). Instead of falling back on “junk food,” snackers are looking for functional benefits that align with their health and wellness goals. More intentional or purposeful snacks come with claims like low sugar, high protein, immune support, and brain health. 

Breakfast Staples with a New Twist

Along with the increased focus on health comes concerns about the price tag. Thanks in part to social media, breakfast staples like oatmeal are getting more attention for being a healthy, versatile, sustainable, and relatively low-cost option. In the U.S., 34% of cereal eaters claim they are eating more overnight oats compared to last year (Mintel). Brands are leveraging trends on social media (the hashtag #Bakedoats had roughly 855 million views on TikTok in September 2021), offering single-serve packs, including on-pack recipes, and adding an extra layer of functionally with digestive wellness and immunity support claims. Flavorful add-ins like goji berries or toasted coconut add a unique twist to this versatile breakfast staple.

Making Room for More Plant-Based Dairy

Plant-based milks are a multi-billion-dollar category expected to produce more than $52 billion globally by 2028 (Grand View Research). Consumer interest in alternatives to traditional dairy milk has quickly expanded to include plant-based cheese, yogurt, creamers, butter, and frozen desserts. Plant-based dairy fits with consumer concerns about health as well as sustainability and animal welfare.

As we move into 2022, expect to see more options for plant-based products, especially as brands innovate by blending bases or using lesser-known plant bases.

Stand Out Statistics

  • Plant-based dairy sales in the U.S. increased 23.4%, topping $4.5 billion in 2020 (Good Food Institute).
  • Forecasts for the plant-based beverage market show a CAGR of about 14.3% between 2021 and 2028 (Grand View Research).
  • The top two motivations for purchasing non-dairy products are perceived health and environmental benefits (FlavorSum Study).

Making Way for Up-and-Coming Bases

Soy was once the king of plant-based milks, but preferences have shifted toward almond, oat, and coconut milks. While almond milk currently has the highest percentage of the market in North America, oat milk is quickly gaining ground. We expect to see other plant bases like buckwheat, pistachio, and macadamia milk enter the mix.

Innovating with Blends

Blends combining ingredients like almond milk, coconut oil, and pea protein are also popular. The trend toward blended bases reflects producers’ efforts to deliver the taste and mouthfeel consumers expect, especially for plant-based ice cream and frozen desserts.

Prioritizing Environmental Health & Sustainability

North American shoppers aren’t just looking after their own health and wellbeing. The pandemic also highlighted concerns around the supply chain, sustainability, and the environment. Whole Foods Market predicts more consumers will try “reducetarianism” in 2022, which involves eating fewer animal-based products (Food Business News).

Stand Out Statistics

  • 71% of adults agree that the pandemic experience has dramatically changed their perspective on life (Mintel).
  • 65% of consumers look for products that can help them live a more sustainable and socially responsible life (Forbes).
  • Three in five global consumers say they are interested in “learning more about where their food comes from and how it is made” (Innova).

Cleaner Labeling

Ten years ago, clean labeling mainly consisted of “free-from” claims (GMO-free, no artificial preservatives) and claims supporting the product’s natural or organic origins. Although regulatory definitions don’t exist yet, consumers are looking for answers on where their food comes from and how it is processed and packaged. Expect to see more companies respond to this call for transparency with more educational resources and on-pack sustainability and ethical sourcing claims.

Grains that Promote Soil Health

Consumer interest in planet-friendly products includes grains that promote soil health. We may start seeing ingredients like:

  • Kernza - grain harvested from intermediate wheatgrass
  • Sunflower seeds - sunflowers help enrich the soil
  • Moringa - a tree native to parts of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh that requires little water and is also a complete plant protein

What’s Your Next for Food & Beverage Innovation?

What’s your next opportunity for innovation? FlavorSum is here with the expertise, marketing insights, and resources to support your next successful product launch. We’re relentlessly devoted to helping growing food and beverage companies create great-tasting products that align with consumer needs and inspire brand loyalty. Contact us to talk about getting the support you need!

In the meantime, we have more insights to share. In part 2 of our look ahead to 2022, we’ll explore flavor trends, new patents for protein sources, and the possible emergence of a new category focused on health and convenience.

FlavorSum

Written by FlavorSum