Health and sustainability for 2022
What will we be eating in 2022? Chances are grocery shelves and online markets will be full of foods and beverages that meet the intersecting needs of personal and planetary health.
Never before has environmental sustainability been such a dominant purchase driver, especially related to concerns about climate change. Yet, worries about staying well are fueling the demand for health-promoting products, primarily focused on immunity, digestive health and mental well-being.
Here’s a look at some of the top food trends for 2022:
Look for more products touting some type of carbon emission labeling, which has increased 56% year-over-year globally, according to Innova Market Insights. Carbon miles are the new calories — and consumers want to cut back on both in 2022.
Neutral Foods claims to be the first U.S. carbon neutral food company that’s attempting to radically reduce the carbon footprint of agriculture. The company’s first product is Neutral milk that was recently launched nationwide in Whole Foods. Kroger brought the world’s first carbon-neutral eggs to retail shelves in the U.S.
Trouble is, there’s not been a consistent way to communicate or evaluate these environmental labels, and carbon along the supply chain is difficult to measure. Certified Carbon Neutral is one group providing guidance for food companies and offering certification of labels.
Carbon neutral is also referred to as “net zero,” which means emissions are still being generated but they’re offset by the same amount elsewhere.
Lab to fork
Expect to see technology play an even greater role in the foods we eat in the coming year, including cell-cultured or lab-grown meats. Consumers have been a bit squeamish about this technology — the idea of growing meat without an animal — sometimes crudely referred to as “motherless meat” — yet lab-grown food is now in the works, with more than 100 companies around the world.
Singapore was the first country to sell cultured meat to the public, yet the technology is expanding rapidly; and it seems regulatory hurdles and price barriers in the U.S. have been overcome. Look for lab-grown meat to make its entry to the U.S. in 2022. In the meantime, you can buy animal-free dairy products that are molecularly identical to dairy from cows, including Perfect Day milk and Brave Robot ice cream.
The lab-grown technology is also being used to create sustainable alternatives to plant-based foods, such as Seattle-based Atomo Molecular coffee that makes lab-grown beanless coffee and Voyage Foods that has created cacao bean-free chocolate.
Sea farms and sea plants
Plants from the sea are being hailed as a sustainable, nutrient-rich food source and are showing up in a lot more foods beyond the nori sheets used to wrap sushi. Now you can find seaweed, dulce and kelp in salads, snacks, condiments and cubes for adding to smoothies, soups, sauces and dressings. Microalgae protein is also being used as a plant-based meat and dairy alternative.
Sea plants are featured more often on restaurant menus, including zoster marina, a seagrass that’s being used as a grain. It’s known as the rice of the sea and is lauded as the next superfood. Poke bowls featuring seaweed salad will continue to be a popular offering at restaurants.
Condiments are an easy way to get to know seaweed, such as seaweed sauces, spreads and seasonings, including furikake — a Japanese condiment that is sprinkled on cooked rice, vegetables and fish.
Oat milk ruled in 2021, but expect to see the category of dairy-free milks explode — especially milk from grains, seeds, vegetables and nuts beyond almond. Take Two Barley Milk is a non-dairy milk made from upcycled barley from the beer-making process. Described as “super sustainable” with a 75% lower climate footprint compared to dairy milk, DUG is a plant-based milk made from potatoes.
Unexpected nuts are now available as dairy-free milks, including pecans, cashews, macadamias and pistachios. Look for other plant-based milks made from tiger nuts (a tuber and not an actually nut) hemp, flax and quinoa — including some versions in powdered form, which doesn’t require refrigeration.
To appeal to flexitarians, expect to see more hybrid milks that combine dairy and plant-based milks, such as the new Swirled from Shamrock Farms — a chocolate milk made with dairy milk and plant-based ingredients from almonds and coconut cream.
It’s no surprise that the red-hot charcuterie board trend is transforming into a plant-based version. So instead of salami, prosciutto and other cured meats artfully displayed on a wooden board along with artisan cheeses, the trend in 2022 will be plant-based grazing boards.
Fortunately, plant-based cheesemakers have stepped up their game and the dairy-free cheese alternatives taste better than ever — including nut-based cheeses made from almonds and cashews, along with soy and coconut-based vegan cheeses. The dairy-free options are expanding to include spreadable soft cheese, sliceable hard cheese and varieties for melting, such as queso. Many of the upgraded options are infused with flavors like black garlic, truffle and pesto.
You’ll also find an expanding array of artisan and meat-free salamis to display on your plant-based board. The trend will also include boards piled high with fresh vegetables, nuts and whole-grain crackers accompanied by plant-based dips like hummus, baba ganoush, olive tapenade and mushroom pate.
No waste and upcycled foods
A third of the food produced in the U.S. is never eaten, and now this wasted food is firmly on the climate change radar. Stunningly, the carbon footprint of food waste is greater than that of the airline industry.
Expect to see more companies making commitments to fight food waste, including the promotion of “ugly” produce and products that use all parts of a plant or upcycled ingredients — a growing category of food products made from would-be wasted ingredients.
The trend will be especially big with snacks, such as Rind Snacks that use the peel and rind of fruits to save them from going to landfills, and Dirt Kitchen snacks are made from produce that otherwise would be left on the farm due to bruising or over-ripeness.
Cacao has become a focused target of upcycling, including CaPao that rescues and uses parts of the cacao fruit that would otherwise be considered a waste product of cocoa production, and Blue Stripes that uses the whole cacao fruit — shell, fruit and bean — in a range of products from cacao water to bars and granola.
New immune support
Immune health will continue to be a top consumer concern in 2022, and more products will be touting immunity-related benefits in the year ahead. Now the approach will be more holistic, including a broader view of immune health — sleep, relaxation, stress reduction and digestive wellness.
Look for more foods and beverages fortified with vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, probiotics, prebiotics and adaptogens — a category of herbs and other plant-based ingredients that purportedly help the body adapt to stress.
A big winner in 2022 will be mushrooms. Long viewed as a substitute for meat, mushrooms are now emerging as a functional ingredient, especially reishi mushrooms. Look for mushroom coffees and teas — touted as caffeine-free immune supporters. Mushroom powders will gain traction as a superfood ingredient for adding to smoothies, hot drinks, soups and sauces.
Food trends for 2022:
— Carbon-neutral foods.
— Lab to fork.
— Sea farms and sea plants.
— Milk reimagined.
— Plant-based charcuterie.
— No waste and upcycled foods.
— New immune support.
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