New Year’s diet resolutions are back, creating opportunities & challenges for food industry, IFIC finds

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Source: Getty/ Peter Dazeley
Source: Getty/ Peter Dazeley

Related tags: diet, IFIC, Weight loss, plant-based, sugar reduction

New Year’s resolutions to eat healthier – including cutting back on sugar and alcohol or adopting a new diet – are back in 2022 after many Americans took a hiatus from them last year as they navigated pandemic-related stress, according to new research from the International Food Information Council.

Nearly half (44%) of the 1,000 US adults surveyed by IFIC in early December 2021 said they planned to make a food or beverage-related resolution in 2022 – a staggering three times more than the mere 15% who planned to do so last year, when fears about and cases of COVID-19 were swelling beyond anything previously seen.

Topping the list of food-focused New Year’s resolutions in 2022 are eating less sugar (44%) and losing weight (44%) followed by a more general goal of “improving the healthfulness of my diet” at 38%, according to IFIC.

IFIC predicts that as consumers look to reduce their sugar intake they will seek substitutes such as allulose, maltitol and monk fruit.

Others will gravitate to bold flavors that may not deliver sweetness, but could deliver them from the doldrums of staying at home as the pandemic drags on. For example, IFIC predicts flavors such as hibiscus, yuzu, turmeric, kelp, gochujang and ube will emerge in 2022 to “satisfy their gastronomical wanderlust.”​ IFIC also predicts that consumers will “continue to savor” umami and kokumi as they turn away from sugar.

And while the goal of “improving the healthfulness of my diet” may sound vague, IFIC’s most recent Food and Health Survey suggests that Americans may be more qualified to deliver results with 46% reporting in 2021 that they know a “fair amount” about the federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans – twice as many as 10 years ago.  

Smaller trends still offer big potential

More specific food- and beverage-related goals that fell lower on the list for 2022, but still generated notable interest, could deliver significant marketing potential.

For example, IFIC found 27% of survey respondents said they want to try a new diet or eating pattern in 2022 (compared to only 12% last year), 23% want to eat fewer animal products, 21% want to reduce alcohol consumption and 13% who want to cut out alcohol altogether.

The significant increase in consumers interested in specific dietary patterns could spur interest in marketing claims that support compliance with a new lifestyle, such as plant-based or diet-specific callouts for low-carb, grain-free or others.

Likewise, the collective step-back from alcohol could open the door for other ingredients and products that offer stress relief, support relaxation or other functional benefits.

For example, CBD-infused foods could “move even closer to center stage,”​ according to IFIC, which found 25% of respondents are very interested or interested in CBD-infused foods and beverages. An additional 25% are interested or very interested in mocktails and alcohol-free versions of beverages, the survey reveals.

IFIC also predicts that consumers will manage their stress by pursing micronutrients, like B vitamins and magnesium, or macronutrients like whole grains and protein.

Food insecurity remains a significant challenge

One of the reasons many people likely turned away from diet-related New Year’s resolutions last year is because they were focused more on simply ensuring their pantries were stocked as supply chain disruptions, job losses and other factors hindered access to the basics.

For example, at the end of 2020, IFIC found 28% of people were worried about affording enough food, 19% were worried about not finding the foods they were looking for and 29% feared exposure to COVID-19 while shopping for food dining out.

This year, IFIC found, fears about contracting COVID-19 while shopping have ebbed slightly with only 24% of consumers reporting it as a primary worry. But the percentage of consumers concerned about affording enough food or finding the products they want increased to 36% and 28% respectively.

IFIC predicts that increased awareness about the “startling number of people … a single economic shock away from hunger deprivation”​ likely will spur policymakers to bolster federal feeding program.

Many government agencies already are taking action. For example, late last month the US Department of Agriculture announced​ it would provide up to $1.5bn to states and school districts to help school meal program operators deal with the supply chain challenges related to the pandemic to help ensure children continue to receive the food they need.

In addition, USDA at the end of 2021 shared​ how it has reinforced access to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, commonly known as WIC, by creating drive-thru WIC farmer’s markets, creating apps that allowed participants to upload required documentation and access nutrition information from the safety of their homes, and other services.

Concern for environment, workers will influence food purchases

Finally, consumer concern about access to sufficient nutritious food will also extend beyond them to include workers across the supply chain, predicts IFIC.

Research conducted by the group shows more than half of consumers believe people working in food production, retail and food service should be treated fairly and equitably, and as such they are looking to support companies with strong social sustainability missions and achievements.

These concerns also are coloring how shoppers think about the environmental impact of their food – again pushing more people in 2022 to adopt ‘reducetarian,’ ‘climatarian’ and low-carbon diets, according to IFIC.  

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