This year has seen consumers think about their wellbeing and functionality, while the environment has also been a large focus – encompassing sustainable packaging, brand transparency and upcycled foods. From plant-based and eco-labelling to cell-based and carbon neutral, here’s a breakdown of FoodBev Media’s top five food trend predictions for 2022.
Plant-based and flexitarianism
Plant-based food was arguably the biggest trend of 2021, and there’s a high probability that its upward trajectory will continue into 2022. The plant-based sector is projected to rise in value from $29.4 billion in 2020, up to $162 billion in 2030, according to a Bloomberg Intelligence report. The increased demand for plant-based food has resulted in vegan-specific businesses becoming more accessible to consumers. Not only have the plant-based sections in mainstream supermarkets significantly expanded, but non-vegan and vegetarian companies are entering the market to offer plant-based versions of their meat- and dairy-based products.
Earlier this year, we saw McDonald’s and Beyond Meat partner to launch a plant-based burger, the McPlant, in select UK locations, with the aim of rolling it out nationwide in 2022. McDonald’s says that the McPlant – which features Beyond Meat’s meatless patty, as well as vegan cheese based on pea protein – has been three years in the making.
Ingredient innovation across the sector has improved the quality of plant-based food in all aspects, including taste, texture and appearance. The high standard of new products has meant that many consumers who haven’t ever tried plant-based food are becoming more curious. With the gap between alternatives and their animal-derived counterparts getting smaller and with consumers’ greater awareness of their carbon footprint, diets are being adapted to include more plants. Driven by those who don’t want to fully commit to a vegan or vegetarian diet, the rise of flexitarianism will continue into 2022.
Cell-based meat, also known as cultivated, cultured, lab-grown or clean meat, is meat produced from animal cells, without the need for killing the animal. Cells are grown in a controlled cultivator, resulting in an edible product that tastes, looks and cooks just like a conventional cut of meat.
While the accessibility of plant-based alternatives has increased, cell-based meat hasn’t yet made it onto the large-scale consumer market. However, various cell-based companies are planning to launch cultivated meat products in 2022. As cultivated meat is derived from animals, vegans and vegetarians may not consume these products themselves when ‘clean meat’ does become an option. But it is expected to become a big hit with flexitarians and environmentally conscious consumers.
During the course of 2021, there has been significant investment in cell-based companies. Estonian start-up Gelatex raised €1.2 million in a seed funding round, while Israel-based Aleph Farms completed a $105 million Series B funding round to fuel its plans for the large-scale commercialisation of its cultivated beef steaks. Meanwhile, Eat Just raised $170 million to support the expansion of its Good Meat cultivated meat division and is preparing for market entry into the US.
Cell-based agriculture will also affect the seafood market. In April 2021, Cultured Decadence closed a $1.6 million pre-seed financing round, as it looked to create the first cell-cultured lobster meat in North America.
As Scotland hosted COP26 earlier this year, the UK worked with every nation to reach an agreement on how to tackle climate change. The number one goal that has come out of the 12 days of talks is that countries are being asked to produce ambitious 2030 emission reduction targets.
These should align with reaching net zero by the middle of the century. With this target in place, many of the biggest food companies have set their own goals to reduce their carbon footprints, with some making pledges to become carbon neutral much earlier than 2050.
Since November, Nando’s has been offsetting all of its emissions across its restaurants and supply chain, so that every restaurant, meal, delivery and sauce bottle is carbon neutral, and the company is committed to becoming net zero by 2030.
Mars has pledged to make all Mars bars sold in the UK, Ireland and Canada carbon neutral by 2023. And at the start of 2021, Jude’s announced that it had become carbon negative, claiming that it is the first UK ice cream brand to achieve the milestone. Expect to see more announcements regarding companies’ environmental and sustainability goals in 2022.
With food businesses creating strategies to achieve carbon neutrality, some brands have already taken the step of adding an eco-impact rating to their packaging. The environmental score created by Foundation Earth is on the packaging of Finnebrogue, The Good Little Company, Mighty ML.K products and more.
Foundation Earth is an independent, non-profit organisation established to issue front-of-pack environmental scores on food products, enabling consumers to make more sustainable buying choices. The grade that it provides ranges from A+ (great) to G (bad) and is based on the carbon footprint, water usage, water pollution and biodiversity impact of a product.
While you don’t see the statistical information on the packaging, you can find each of the four measures on Foundation Earth’s website. We can expect to see more companies join Foundation Earth next year, providing greater transparency to the consumer around how products are produced.
Another way that businesses can help tackle climate change is through the fight against food waste. The UK was responsible for 9.52 million tonnes of food waste in 2018, which emitted 25 million tonnes of CO2e, according to a study by the sustainability charity Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP).
Tackling food waste will be high on the priority list for new and existing brands, and we’ll see more new products continue the work that was started this year, with even more upcycled foods in 2022. Food and industry byproducts that would previously have been considered as disposable are being saved for upcycled food products.
US brand Spudsy uses sweet potatoes that would have ended up in landfill due to minor imperfections in shape, size or colour, to make its snacks.
Dried fruit brand Rind Snacks uses upcycled produce in its sourcing and drying processes, while retaining the nutrient-rich fruit skin whenever possible. By retaining the rind on its products, the brand claims to have helped divert more than 120,000 pounds of edible peels from landfill last year. The US brand has set out its food waste target for next year, with the aim of saving 1 million pounds of rind in 2022.
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