Future of Food
Count on the future of food to be flavorful, and increasingly functional, sustainable, ethical and plant based. Here are 21 foods and ingredients predicted to be big in the coming year — shaping restaurant menus, food and beverage innovations and consumer behavior. Check out this A to Z guide to get in on some of the top 2021 food trends.
Also known as Indian gooseberry, amla has been called an ancient super berry that’s finding newfound fame — praised for its high vitamin C content and link to immunity. Look for the sour, pungent fruit in juice, tea and powder.
The starchy liquid leftover from cooked chickpeas, aquafaba is part of the upcycled food trend, a “saved” ingredient that would have otherwise been thrown out, which is now officially defined by the Upcycled Food Association. Aquafaba can be used to make vegan mayonnaise, plant butter, egg substitutes, dairy-free queso, dips, sauces and salad dressings.
Also referred to as “banana heart,” these purple-skinned flowers that grow at the end of a banana bunch may be the next star of the vegan “meat” world. It’s similar to jackfruit, which became popular as a swap for BBQ pulled pork. When cooked, the tightly packed petals of the banana blossom mimic the flaky texture of fish, making it an ideal plant-based substitute.
A tropical fruit in the jackfruit and mulberry family, breadfruit has been a diet staple in South Pacific Islands for ages. The prickly football-size pod, sometimes called the tree potato, actually smells and tastes like freshly baked bread when cooked. Traditionally eaten on its own, breadfruit is now being dried and ground into a gluten-free, lower-glycemic index flour.
Copaiba is an essential oil derived from the resin of the copaifera tree that purportedly provides similar properties to CBD. Since there’s still some uncertainty about the regulations of CBD in foods and beverages, some trend trackers predict “CBD adjacent” ingredients like copaiba may be the answer.
A byproduct of the coffee-making process, cascara is made from the husks of the coffee fruit after the beans are harvested. It’s another example of the food waste reduction, or upcycled food, trend. These “coffee cherries” are showing up in shakes, teas, energy drinks and other beverages.
Previously positioned as a substitute for chocolate (what can possibly stand up to that!), carob now has found new relevance as a source of hydroxyproline, an amino acid linked to collagen production that may be lacking in vegan diets. Expect to see carob featured in more vegan desserts, nut butters and nutrition bars in 2021.
This ancient grain from Senegal is riding the wave of African cuisine, which is on the rise in a big way. A type of millet, fonio is gluten free and rich in fiber and protein. It may just be the new quinoa. Look for bags of fonio for preparing as a side dish or find it as an ingredient in crackers and chips.
Designed for the growing “low-meat movement,” these flexitarian meats (also called hybrid foods) combine meat and vegetables. This trend is all about reducing — not eliminating — meat. Two examples: Misfit Foods and Seemore sausages that mix humanely raised meat with fresh vegetables, including beets, broccoli, sweet potato, carrots and kale.
This sesame seed-based treat popular in the Middle East is appearing in new products, including halva butter and shelf-stable halva slices in flavors such as toasted coconut, pistachio, raspberry and dark chocolate. The halva trend is building on the popularity of tahini and seed-centric snacks.
This ancient legume — said to have fueled Roman warriors — may be the new chickpea. Popular as a snack in Europe, lupini is now available in a range of flavored, pickled bean snacks. It’s also sold ground to cook like rice.
Also called upcycled soybean pulp, this byproduct from making tofu is being converted into a gluten-free flour with more fiber, protein and calcium than white flour. Okara is one of many upcycled ingredients in baking mixes and bread-based foods — from buns to crackers — that help fight food waste. Look for upcycled flours made from defatted sunflower seeds, sweet potato, corn and cauliflower.
This is a plant-based version of the popular dried meat snack made with everything from jackfruit, eggplant, mushroom, soy, kelp and fruit.
Postbiotics are byproducts of the fermentation process by beneficial bacteria or the “waste” of probiotics. These beneficial compounds may soon gain a greater share of gut health conversations in 2021 — added to foods and beverages and sold as supplements. Because postbiotics are not live microbes like probiotics, the ingredient can be used in a wider variety of products that do not require refrigeration.
Dubbed the food of 2021 by restaurant and hospitality consultants AJ & Co. and Carbonate, quesabirria is a shredded meat and melted cheese taco dipped in a red chile sauce. The sizzling, red-stained taco emerged as a favorite in taquerias and taco trucks, and has gone viral on Instagram. Thought to have originated in Tijuana, Mexico, the crispy taco is often served with a fiery broth for dipping.
Reishi is one of the functional or medicinal mushrooms that gained popularity due to its purported immune health benefits. Now powdered extracts of this “plant of immortality” are being combined with cacao to mix in tea, coffee, smoothies and breakfast bowls.
This small, orange berry native of Asia and Europe has been emerging as a superfruit for several years — 2021 may be its breakout year. High in vitamin C and B12 (one of the few plant sources), sea buckthorn is featured in juices, smoothies, preserves, dried fruit snacks, chocolate bars and even skincare products. Chefs are turning their attention to sea buckthorn to leverage the wild, foraged ingredient trend.
This fruity drinking vinegar, dubbed the new kombucha, is at the intersection of multiple trends: sour-tart flavors, fermentation and gut health. Shrubs, switchels and other vinegar-flavored drinks were actually popular during Colonial times. Now they’re being used for craft cocktails or sipped as an alternative to sugary sodas.
A Japanese citrus fruit, yuzu has been hailed as the flavor of 2021 by multiple flavor companies. The taste is like a marriage of grapefruit and mandarin orange. Look for tart, fragrant yuzu in juices, sparkling waters, energy drinks, hard seltzers, cocktails, sauces and frozen desserts.
This Middle Eastern spice blend of thyme leaves, sumac and sesame seeds has become a favorite of chefs and is flavoring dips, chips, crackers, popcorn and other snack foods.
21 Foods You Should Try in 2021
These are the top 2021 food trends:
— Banana blossom.
— Flexitarian meat.
— Palm pasta.
— Plant jerky.
— Reishi cacao.
— Sea buckthorn.
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