From an evolving definition of “healthy lifestyle,” to the state of post-pandemic tasting menus, to consumers’ desire to experience the thrill of a nice night out again, 2022 trends are all about embracing the spirit of extreme experimentation, diversity, and indulgence. Symrise delved into specific themes, ingredients, and flavors emerging throughout the food and beverage industry in the savory, sweet, and beverage categories in their annual North American Top Trends Report. This article focuses on four of these trends: Healthy Lifestyle, Natural Goodness, Premium Indulgence and Emotional Discoveries.
Top Trend: Healthy Lifestyle
An increased concern with both naturalness and functionality has led to attitudinal changes in what we perceive to be a “healthy lifestyle.” Consumers are looking for easy ways to be healthy, rested and recharged, and find holistic prevention in their food and beverage in a post-pandemic world. But it’s not just about the benefits – they’re seeking to turn “better for you” into “better tasting for you” in their sweet, savory, and beverage choices. Let’s explore this Healthy Lifestyle trend:
- Mindfulness in Food and Beverage - It’s all about being in the moment and training the body to reach new heights of focus and wellness. North American consumers are looking to bring this way of living into the choices of what they put into their bodies, seeking out food and beverages that deliver psychological and physiological improvements from ingredients with beneficial elements, like anti-inflammatory, CBD, or gut-healthy probiotics. Products with dual benefits, like detoxifying black limes and vitamin-packed moringa, are especially appealing. They also look to make their adult beverages work for them, choosing drinks with boosts of spirulina or purple cauliflower to provide a healthy benefit to their indulgent treat.
- Sweet is Out, Bitter is In - Consumers are gravitating to foods and beverages that provide added benefits, but also those that have removed some bad-for-you ingredients. Many are replacing sugar with less-sweet alternatives, like citrus and botanicals in their coffees and sodas, or adding dandelion greens instead of pepperoni on a pizza.
- Balance, Not Restrictions - What’s appealing to the 51% of U.S. consumers who believe counting calories is not necessary when following a healthy eating routine is the idea of the “undiet” – choosing nutrient-dense products with a high ratio of beneficial nutrients and balancing indulgence rather than setting restrictions. Consumers are reducing their alcohol content with drinks like kombucha or mocktails to give them the pleasure of enjoying the taste of their drink without added alcohol.
- Roots and Fruits - Sweet flavors and excessive sugar have less appeal, while flavor profiles highlighting bitter and citrus have more, so roots and fruits are at the forefront of menus in 2022. Roots like angelica, orris, and rhubarb add a unique earthy bitterness to dishes, while berry flavors in drinks and desserts are trending toward berries with an acidic or tannic bite, like blackcurrants and elderberries.
Top Trend: Natural Goodness
Natural-conscious, vegetarian, and vegan consumers are no longer content with consuming food and drink that provide health and environmental benefits – they want tasteful and unique flavor profiles, too. The increase in demand for local, sustainable, and seasonal ingredients has led to a blossoming of new partnerships between chefs and producers to work in tandem creating new menu items for conscious diners eager to eat out again. Highlights of the Natural Goodness trend include:
- Plant-Forward Comfort - The reasons consumers adopt a vegan lifestyle have extended beyond the simple desire to be healthy. It’s become more nuanced and acceptable as plant-based alternatives have become more accessible with improved flavor profiles. Tasty alternative ingredients like jackfruit and tahini are now at the forefront, leaving nothing to be desired or make the consumer feel like they’re missing out. Mushrooms, with their many varieties providing different texture and size, and eggplant are quickly becoming the meat replacement of choice while vegan ice cream, incorporating oat and coconut milk, adds depth of taste and creaminess that matches or even exceeds dairy milks.
- Emerging Hybrids - A lasting by-product of the pandemic has been the desire for experimentation in the kitchen. Chefs are mixing it up by creating out-of-the-box flavors and textures that make a healthier impact, like tomato jam or avocado cream in desserts. In alcoholic drinks, innovative brands are adopting more botanical and fruit combinations to elevate flavor profiles and appeal to customers looking for a sophisticated cocktail experience.
- Friendly Foraging - The pandemic put an even brighter spotlight on sustainability and what it means to be “eco-friendly.” Chefs are constantly looking for ways to reduce food waste in the kitchen by stretching their ingredients, incorporating as much of them as possible and experimenting with waste-reducing alternatives, like using breadfruit and jackfruit in savory dishes or corn milk and aquafaba in beverages. Going hand-in-hand with sustainability is the trend of locality. Consumers are making the conscious choice to keep it close to home and support local producers, especially post-pandemic, with many farmers, restaurants, and businesses struggling to get back on their feet. Foraging is in!
Top Trend: Premium Indulgence
During the pandemic, people have found themselves with more time on their hands to experiment in the kitchen, creating indulgent treats that comforted them and explored cultural heritages as they embraced regional and multicultural ingredients. Chefs turned their attention to experimenting with sensory eating, unique flavor profiles and texture sources. The Premium Indulgence trend includes:
- Embracing Regionality - Recreational travel was and continues to be stunted as we adjust to a post-pandemic world, so people got used to the idea of traveling with their tastebuds to places they could not physically visit. Diners are looking for the story behind a native dish or ingredient to add to their eating or drinking experience, welcoming the opportunity to discover new taste and flavor profiles. Ingredients that used to be softened or relegated to the background, like amaro – the essential ingredient in classic cocktails like the Aperol Spritz, Negroni, and Americano – are now pushed forward to deliver the regional taste consumers want.
- Immersive Eating with All the Senses - The idea of the “sensory” and “tailored eating” experience, paired with chef-inspired and artisanal ingredients, is destined to be the next big thing in dining out in 2022. Sensory eating is all about creating unique dining experiences that trigger all the senses by adding unique or unexpected texture to dishes, quality ingredients with a backstory, and tailored eating and drinking with highly personalized customization of menu items. What consumers want is an immersive experience that makes them feel ultra-special and connected to the dishes, drinks and desserts with experiential flavors.
- Expect the Unexpected - Consumers are seeking out surprises in their dining experience, so chefs are delivering that “wow factor” in unexpected ways. This is being achieved across categories, from infusing smokey flavors into mezcal cocktails or to adding fun pops of texture and crunch with puffed rice in salads and cookies. Consumers want to be pleasantly surprised, especially when they bite into a delicious chocolate donut only to discover the icing is made from avocado and the filling is dotted with crunchy corn chip pieces.
- Putting the Premium in Indulgence - For those looking to take their indulgence to the next level, they expect quality and artisanal ingredients displayed in pleasing way. The popularity of the charcuterie board has seen a meteoric rise recently and has advanced beyond a simple plate of meats and cheeses. Now, boards can feature anything from candy and sweets to varieties of hot dogs and fries. It has evolved with the needs of a public who seek out more and more creative dishes and want to break away from the norm. We’re seeing this in things like ruby chocolate, with its unique color and stunning presentation, and in cultured, artisanal, small-batch butters with unexpected infusions like seaweed or jalapeno.
Top Trend: Emotional Discoveries
With consumers interested in exploring heritage and multicultural flavors, acceptance of and desire for global influences continues to grow. Ingredients from one culture are blended with cooking techniques and flavors of others, leading to increasingly blurred cuisine lines and multicultural experimentation. There is also the tried-and-true trend of finding comfort in nostalgia, from reinvigorating foods from our childhood to vending machine and deli favorites. The Emotional Discoveries trend includes:
- Introducing New Nostalgia - The desire for nostalgic foods is not new but entering a post-pandemic world influences what people are nostalgic for, whether it’s the comfort foods of their childhood or the more recent memory of a sandwich from a favorite deli they haven’t visited in two years. Chefs and brands are creating products and menu items, like pizza burgers or miso macaroni and cheese, that speak to the child within while satisfying the tastebuds of the adult enjoying the experience now.
- Multicultural Everything - Authenticity is not necessarily what consumers are searching for when looking to experience global flavors. In fact, they embrace the idea of twisting and mixing the best of multiple cultures to create something new and interesting. The idea of obliterating boundaries is exciting to consumers cooped up at home during the pandemic, unable to travel and less interested in labels than they are in flavor. Ingredients from one culture blend with cooking techniques and flavors of others, leading to increasingly blurred cuisine lines and multicultural experimentation, like Afro-Caribbean and New Wave Korean.
- Modern Asian - Asian flavors continue to grow and become more familiar to North American consumers, with ingredients like kokuto (Okinawa brown sugar), gochujang, bagoong, and more making a big impact on menus and becoming well-known to the average consumer. The Asian influence of savory and umami-packed flavors, like sesame, matcha, and miso, dominate within all categories from dessert to entrees to matcha lattes. Consumers are also seeking out modern Indian flavors beyond curry, with top ingredients like garam masala, tandoori, and samosa chaat in high demand.