Valerie Pesonen, Senior Manager and Self-Certified Ice Cream Sommelier

2020 was the year of food trends that weren’t. The chaos of the pandemic took predicted food trends and smashed them to smithereens. What was expected to be a year of green, healthy, organic living shifted to one of affordable comfort and indulgence. Comfort foods like macaroni and cheese, PB&J and (gasp) full fat ice cream showed up when we needed them the most and Americans loved every second of it with no regrets. Grocery sales jumped 10%, as opposed to 2% growth in previous years, and these habits will certainly impact what we expect to see in 2021.

Below is a list of trends worth watching in 2021:

Well-being is becoming a daily ingredient

COVID-19 accelerated many things in our daily lives, who knew blurring the line between the supplement and grocery aisles would be one of them? As we head into 2021, suppliers are going to continue sneakily putting healthy ingredients like vitamin C, mushrooms and adaptogens into stuff we eat to help us chill out and get into a better headspace. That’s a trend I think we can all get on board with.

Plant-based continues growing

Plant-based food trends don’t seem to be going anywhere. According to The New Consumer, over half of consumers have tried plant-based meat (enter the Impossible Burger) and oat milk saw a big jump in popularity throughout 2020. People will be looking for increased nutrition in this category and products looking to make a debut should focus their attention there, along with sourcing and using clean ingredients. Even as a regular carnivore, this trend excites me.

Consumers are noticeably braver

2020 was a big year for Americans, as many gave on-demand grocery a try during COVID. Additionally, because we couldn’t go out to eat, we seem to have been okay with getting a little more creative in the kitchen. According to Forbes, 75% of Americans reported trying a new consumer behavior this year, and 73% said they would continue with the new shopping method or brand that they tried, which is great news for challenger brands who showed strong sales growth in 2020 (0.7%), while incumbents have floundered (-1.6%). We expect to see this continue into the new year, and as a challenger firm for challenger brands, our Lambert team is here for this.

Kombucha is getting lit

Seriously, alcoholic kombucha is becoming a thing. Much like people started ignoring laws when White Claw hit the shelves in 2018, people are going “krazy” for kombucha. It might sound weird, but its nonalcoholic sister has already been served on tap at breweries for a while, so it makes sense to shift it to the grocery aisle. It’s bubbly, gluten-free, packed with flavor, and can be filled with live probiotic cultures for gut health – sounds like a perfect combo of health and debauchery.

2021 is banging on the door with new flavors and concepts. After the year we’ve all had, I think we deserve to give in to every new thing the industry has to offer, good or bad. That’s my new year resolution, anyway.