Last year, with the disruption of Covid-19 on supply chains, deliveries and consumer shopping habits, new trends emerged in the food and drink industries. After the year we’ve all had, food and drink have often been a welcome retreat, a tonic for the soul, and above anything else a way to mark the days. What trends will 2021 bring for us to get involved in, or observe from afar on social media? 

Sweet treats

When times are hard, it is human nature to look for solace, something to lift your mood. 2021 will, unfortunately, see a rise in unemployment as the fallout from Covid-19 impacts the economy worldwide. There will likely be recessions in many countries. When the purse strings are tight, and funds are low, people often turn to small, affordable treats rather than extravagant purchases. Hard economic times frequently boost chocolate and confectionary sales as people turn to that sugar high to give a sense of comfort.

Baked goods, pastries and other sweet treats are also likely to be a trend this year. 

Health Consciousness  

Not surprisingly in the midst of a global pandemic, many people are doing all they can to boost their health and immune system to keep them as protected as possible. 2021 will see a continued demand on health and vitamin supplements, as well as healthy food such as superfoods, probiotics and fresh fruit and veg. People are staying conscious about their health and working healthier alternatives into their everyday diets. 

Plant-based food

The popular Veganuary trend, where people eat vegan food for the whole month of January, had a record-breaking 560,000 people sign up for the campaign in 2021. Recent years have seen more people begin a plant-based diet, either fuelled by animal rights concerns, their own health, or the environmental impact of a meat-based diet. As seen from the Veganuary numbers this year, many people are open to increasing the plant-based food in their diets. 

Based on this trend, one ingredient that you’ll be seeing more of in 2021 is hemp. It’s a healthy plant-based protein that is good for multiple diets such as keto, vegan and paleo. Companies will take advantage of this trend by bringing more vegan snacks and meat alternatives to the market. The trend for plant-based foods will also see a rise in the consumption of nut milk such as oat and almond.

Home Meal Kits

In normal times, many would have been used to grabbing a quick breakfast on the way to work, and perhaps grabbing lunch a few times a week with colleagues, or getting it from a place nearby the office. With the majority of people now working from home each day, and those options not available to them, it has become what sometimes seems like an endless cycle of deciding what to eat, shopping for ingredients, cooking and washing up – three times a day! 

In 2021, the desire to escape this monotony, even a couple of times a week, will be strong. This is where home meal kits will see a rise in popularity. There are various companies which promise to take the hassle out of meal planning and prep, with you choosing options from the varied menus and having the ingredients and recipe cards sent straight to your home. These meal kits provide food ideas without having to trawl through old recipe books, and the quality of food is high. They also reduce food waste.

These handy home meal kits add some ease and excitement into your life for a few evenings a week.

Pickling/Fermenting

With people spending more time at home than ever and quite frankly looking for something to keep the boredom at bay, the trend of pickling and fermenting has picked up exponentially. Waitrose claims that searches for ‘pickling’ are 222% higher than before, and UK social media mentions of preserving and fermenting are 28% higher.

Pickled foods have had known health benefits for centuries, such as aiding digestion, strengthening the immune system and improving gut health. So whether it’s sauerkraut, kimchee or kombucha, why not give pickling and fermenting a go as we look for something to do in our kitchens whilst we wait for the summer months. 

Non-alcoholic Drinks

Whilst the first lockdown may have seen an increase in the average alcohol intake as people turned to booze in a challenging time. 2021 will see an increase in non-alcoholic drinks. People will turn more to mocktails, non-alcoholic beers and low content alcohol as they try to use this time away from pubs and social activities to reduce their alcohol consumption, in the process saving money, ditching those hangovers and being healthier overall. Many who successfully completed dry January this year will have felt the benefits of not drinking and look to extend that feeling. 

Shopping Local and Supporting Small Businesses

The pandemic hit small businesses in a hard way, with many having to close their physical shops and losing out on vital sales which would come from footfall. This year will see a renewed support for small businesses, with people wanting to support their produce as much as they can. 

With that, will also come a bigger tendency to shop local, supporting the local butcher, bakery or greengrocer and buying their stock rather than the big chains. People want to spend their money where they can see it having an impact and supporting those that have been particularly hard hit over the last year. People are staying more local as they don’t travel for work or leisure, try to avoid public transport and stick to their area as much as possible. Therefore they will now often buy their weekly shop or Sunday roast ingredients from their local high street.  Supporting these small businesses also builds a sense of community, which is much sought after in these lonely times.

Independent Stores offering online delivery

Whilst more people will be shopping locally, the trend for online shopping which sky-rocketed last year as people were confined to their homes, self-isolating, shielding and protecting themselves, is here to stay. For local businesses to keep up with this, another 2021 trend to emerge from this new consumer habit will be many smaller and independent shops creating online delivery services for their goods. Providing click and collect services or delivery for those vulnerable people unable to get in-store will help to build loyalty with their customer base, ensuring the sales keep coming in. 

Virtual Cook-alongs 

With people growing tired of their standard meal go-to’s and wanting to experiment and broaden their repertoire and cooking capabilities, there will be an explosion of virtual cooking classes in 2021. A virtual cook-along led by your favourite chef, or restaurant teaching you to make your favourite dish that you’ve been craving will be all the rage in 2021. 

This also provides a night of entertainment (resulting in tasty food) which is a great idea for a virtual date night, birthday celebrations or a fun virtual night with friends. 

Sherry 

And lastly, it looks as if your nan’s favourite tipple may be making a comeback in 2021. It seems people are discovering the versatility that the different types of Spanish wine provide. In December 2020, the Co-op and Majestic Wine reported that sherry sales were up 70% on the year before. That boom in sales is set to remain in 2021 as people try dry, dark and sweet varieties of sherry alongside their home-made meals.

In conclusion, 2021 food and drink trends embrace sweet treats that won’t break the bank and see a continued reliance on online deliveries, home meal kits and virtual cook along offerings. This is underpinned by an increased focus on health and sustainability, with some choosing to cut alcohol out altogether, whilst some will still be trialling new drinks to add to their home collection. 

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