Food trends to suit our ever-changing ‘new normal'

01 February 2021 by
Food trends to suit our ever-changing ‘new normal'

Sponsored article: Alastair Cupper, Procurement Manager at food procurement experts, allmanhall, takes a look at what emerged in 2020 and how 2021 may build on these food trends…

Alastair Cupper
Alastair Cupper

Looking back on 2020, it is clear that a global pandemic and national lockdown were not on anyone's list of predicted trends for the year. As the closure of the food service industry forced a change in eating habits, businesses and consumers adapted to the unprecedented situation we all found ourselves in and new trends began to emerge. Predictions for 2020 food trends included smoky flavours, black garlic, elevated salads and a reduction in salt. While these were still gaining popularity in the background, it was the focus on balance and mindful eating that really took hold and – alongside the nation's sudden urge to bake banana bread – developed into a much wider trend that saw a change in the way consumers purchased, cooked, and enjoyed their food.

With restaurants and cafés closed and people spending more time at home, cooking and mealtimes not only became a way to pass the time and indulge, but also a chance to learn new skills and experiment. Sourdough and banana bread appeared as the most popular baking trophies and overall, more meals were being made from scratch. Brands such as Nando's released how to guides to help those missing their favourites create ‘fakeaways' at home, although as soon as they could restaurants adapted to the lockdown measures, with Deliveroo signing up 3,000 new restaurants in March 2020 (1). Online shopping no longer meant the weekly supermarket shop, but extended to veg boxes, wine boxes, afternoon tea, cook your own, picnic boxes and meal kits such as Hello Fresh. While comfort foods were popular, there was also an awareness of health and wellbeing, as the "pandemic accelerated an existing move towards proactive health management" (2).

As the UK welcomed the sunshine and warm weather, BBQs were lit, although not all were reaching for the burgers and sausages. According to the BBC, one in five Brits claim to have reduced their meat consumption during the crisis, with meat-free company Tofoo reporting its monthly turnover doubling to £1m since the beginning of the pandemic(3). January 2020 saw retailers launch several vegan alternatives, including the Applewood vegan cheese, which sold out in 40% of its UK launch stores (4). However, while there is a growing trend for conscious eating and a shift towards plant-based products, an AHDB reports claims that it is "lack of inspiration rather than a conscious reaction to trends" that has driven the reduction in meat consumption. Attributing a growing presence of plant-based ranges for the reduction, the report urged the meat industry to focus on winning back "unconscious reducers – "those who have drifted away from meat as opposed to reducing it for ethical or health reasons (5).

As 2021 gets underway, it seems that the trends of 2020 will have a continuing influence on what consumers want from their foods. With health at the forefront of all our minds, our physical and mental wellbeing is a priority and with that comes an awareness not only of what we are eating but where it is coming from.

With global travel looking unlikely for the next few months, experimentation in home cooking seems likely to continue. An appreciation for a healthy meal cooked from scratch – and enjoyed with family and friends where permitted – will be combined with a desire to try new foods and new styles of cooking. Replacing diverse cuisines experienced when eating out or visiting new countries, consumers will be looking for global flavours and speciality foods with an element of indulgence. This is likely to be felt in the food service industry once it begins to reopen, with dining out becoming an experience.

As the first meal of the day breakfast is not to be forgotten and with an increase in the number of people working from home, it really has become the most important meal of the day for many. With cooking described as "the new commute," those able to work from home have been using their usual commute time to ensure they get a healthy and wholesome breakfast (6). In its round-up of 2021 foods to look out for, Waitrose lists Icelandic skyr as one of the new popularities this year (7). A cultured dairy product similar to Greek yoghurt, skyr is high in protein, low in sugar and a great breakfast ingredient.

The new year always brings with it new intentions and a focus on health, but as trend forecasting company WGSN predicts, "immunity-supporting ingredients" will be a "key theme for 2021" (8). As well as superfoods and probiotics, we can expect a focus on reductions of sugar, gluten and dairy. With Veganuary completed we may see popularity increase in plant-based protein and even innovations in lab-grown meat. However, it is predicted that consumers are more likely to reduce their meat intake rather than eliminating it completely, newly termed as the ‘reductitarian' (9). Focusing on blended foods, this term refers to the substitution of 50% of meat or dairy products with a vegan or vegetarian alternative – for example, plants replacing 50% of the meat or nut milk replacing 50% of the dairy.

Vegans, vegetarians, flexitarians, reductitarians and general food lovers alike can expect to see new products emerge with much talk around the use of chickpeas to make plant-based versions of some of our favourites. Experimenting with chickpea flour and aquafaba (the water tinned chickpeas soak in), flatbreads, pizza bases, cereal, tortillas, tofu, meringues, ice-cream and macarons are some of the alternatives being touted, a far cry from the traditional (but still tasty) hummus and falafel.

Yet wellbeing in 2021 will not be limited to the health of our own bodies. The lifestyle changes we saw in 2020 are likely to develop into the new year with consumers taking time to think about what they are eating and where it is coming from. Building a diet to help fight against climate change, ‘climatarians' focus on seasonal foods, with the aim of eliminating all foods with a high carbon footprint and avoiding all products that exploit animals at risk of climate change (10). There is a growing awareness for understanding our food sources, with Innova Market Insights predicting transparency as one of the top trends for the food and drink industry in 2021 (11). Consumers want to ensure the standard of their food products, especially on meat, by being able to trace products to source.

There is also a big focus on food waste awareness and the accountability of both consumers and retailers to reduce this. With the announcement of lockdown 1.0 in the UK, we saw frantic panic buying, with images later emerging of bins piled high with unused produce. Aiming to reduce food waste, we could see a rising trend for long-life foods as well as root-to-stem cooking. And waste does not stop at leftovers. There is a growing expectation for food manufacturers and restaurants to reduce their packaging waste and become accountable for the impact it has on the environment. While 2020 saw a growing trend for cook-at-home meal boxes and restaurant kits, it has been noted that many of them use a high amount of non-recyclable packaging (12). Driven by the younger generations, there is a constant message to us all to reduce plastic packaging and ensure proper recycling measures to help look after the health of our planet.

It seems that 2021 food trends are largely an extension of those that emerged in 2020, with an overarching theme of wellbeing, mindfulness and enjoyment. Yet if 2020 taught us anything it was perhaps to expect the unexpected… with that in mind who can anticipate what innovations 2021 may bring.


Established in 2006, allmanhall is an independent, family owned and managed business providing expert food procurement and supply chain management, combined with hands-on catering and nutrition advice. Working in a partnership with its clients, allmanhall's purpose is to deliver the best food, the best cost savings, and the best support.

As procurement experts, allmanhall provides full management of the foodservice and catering-related supply chain. Clients enjoy essential food cost savings as a result of allmanhall's supplier negotiations. In addition to procurement support, allmanhall provides exceptional foodservice consultancy, including nutrition and dietetics support, headed up by allmanhall's Registered Dietitian.

Working across a range of sectors, allmanhall is particularly well established in the independent education and care sectors, as well as working with a number of contract caterers and other catering-related businesses. allmanhall employs 35 people and manages over 200 suppliers, working with clients across England and Wales. Utilising the latest industry-leading technology, procurement expertise and a focus on relationships, both with clients and suppliers, allmanhall has positioned itself as a market leader in the foodservice industry.

allmanhall is proud to be a winner of client and staff care awards. allmanhall's Procurement Director is on the University of Warwick advisory committee to the Government, regarding food supply.

Contact: Jo Hall

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