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Top food and beverage trends in 2021 predicted by AI

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As we bid farewell to a turbulent 2020 and ready ourselves for another action-packed year in food and beverage innovation, we look at the top trends to emerge from Foresight Engine Technology.

AI Palette, AI-powered consumer insights group, has created an algorithm that is able to predict trends as they emerge. This is how top five trends in the food and beverage sphere have been identified across major nations like the United States, China, India and the Philippines.

Key themes to expect in 2021 are the increasing popularity in holistic wellbeing and post-quarantine lifestyle changes affecting how we view and consume food.

1. Herbal remedies undergo a transformation to appeal to the young 

While the older generation appears to be more vulnerable to COVID-19, younger people are not turning a blind eye towards this disease by any means. The continued spread of the virus has resulted in people of all ages taking precautions and building defences against this highly contagious disease. 

Younger consumers in their 20s and 30s are increasingly perceptive to natural and herbal remedies with an uptick in interest for products like Jamu in Indonesia, Kadha in India, and garlic/ginger in various other markets. To tap into this need for immunity while making products more appealing to younger generations and children, companies are launching many innovative immunity-boosting products. One of the more recent examples of companies turning into this trend is US-based Weller, a wellness-focused beverage manufacturer, that launched a series of Elderberry sparkling drinks enriched with vitamins and minerals. These functional beverages were marketed to provide an immunity boost for people on-the-go.

Closer to home, Jamuuu, an Indonesian beverage company also launched a set of carbonated drinks enhanced with ingredients like red ginger and turmeric, which are typically found in the traditional Indonesian herbal drink, Jamu juice.

These new offerings are examples of companies catering to an elevated interest in immunity by modernising traditional remedies, with the US and China registering 65.2% and 44.0% year-on-year growth in consumer interest in immunity products respectively.

2. Food for 'thought' and mental health

With the world eagerly anticipating an end to the virus and a return to normal life, mental wellbeing has become increasingly important amid all the uncertainty. Demand for foods and beverages that support reduced stress and improve sleep quality has risen in the US and India.

Consumers are more likely to turn to food not only for comfort and normalcy, but to de-stress, and improve focus and concentration.

In September 2020, in the U.S., PepsiCo launched Driftwell, an 'enhanced water beverage' containing L-theanine and magnesium that claims to improve sleep. Additionally in China, Coca-Cola launched a supplement drink, Zunxuan 28 Sleep-Recharged Face, that aims to improve sleeping patterns and even boost skincare.

Such products showcase the opportunity for brands to tap into demand for food and beverages that enhance mental health.

3. Reversing the 'pandemic paunch'

For some, staying at home for months on end has undoubtedly changed physical appearances in an undesirable way. As countries around the world registered lower cases of infections in the latter half of 2020, many started to prioritise active living and dieting to counter the effects of the involuntary sedentary lifestyle.

As a result, intermittent fasting, keto and high-protein diets are seeing renewed growth and consumer interest. Ingredients that are packed with healthy fats like sorghum, nuts and sunflower seeds have seen a significant rise in consumption during the 2020 year, owing to the fact that consumers are increasingly sensitive to healthier options.

In the U.S., Greek yoghurt maker, Chobani, launched Chobani Complete, an all-new high protein, no-sugar range to cater to the consumer interest in solutions that are geared toward everyday optimal performance and improved digestion.

4. Localisation of plant protein products

Plant-based meat innovators, like Impossible Foods, Imagine Meats, and Zhenmeat have launched creative dishes in Singapore, India and China to gain greater market penetration and not be limited in their reach to very specific diet-seekers, like vegans and vegetarians. Meat substitutes from these companies have improved taste and texture of their products to satisfy local palates and taste preferences.

While plant-based protein-rich foods including tofu, chickpea and lentils are not necessarily new to consumers, these inventive products are just some examples of why imagination and creativity in food will never be restricted, even in challenging periods.

5. Breaking cultural boundaries in food

It’s still a long way to go before we get to fly off to an exotic destination and sample local cuisines. While most people are still grounded in their own countries, food will always transcend and provide sensory experiences.

Consumers are now more receptive toward imaginative dishes that offer a sense of novelty, with flavours and ingredients from different cultures. One such example is Trader Joe’s launching Harissa flavoured Chicken Thighs. The American grocery chain delved into classic Tunisian flavours to cater to the rising popularity of Harissa in the U.S. Similarly, New Jersey-based start-up, Vegky, released shiitake mushroom jerky, a 100% vegan snack that offers various Asian flavours, like curry and wasabi.

These insights are based on Food Trends Report 2021 published by AI Palette.

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