Health food has increasingly gone mainstream, but that doesn’t mean consumers are just chasing diet trends. Instead, they’re often looking for options that support overall healthy lifestyles and can be maintained long-term.
From mood-boosting drinks to straightforward whole foods, consumers want options that support holistic health. Food and drinks can support health inside and out, both body and mind. And while consumers and the food and beverage industry have been shifting in this direction in recent years, the Covid-19 pandemic has acted as an accelerant.
PART 1: Global Trends Guiding the Food and Beverage Industry for 2021 and Beyond
As Symrise’s TrendScope 2021+ report finds, consumers around the world are embracing food and beverage choices that align with the following trends:
Diet fads come and go, many of which have complicated guidelines that make retention difficult. Instead of turning to the latest nutrition hype, many consumers are flocking toward healthy yet simple food and beverage choices.
These choices should fit seamlessly into people’s busy routines, rather than adding stress. So instead of worrying about counting every calorie, consumers instead want functional options that support holistic health. As a Well + Good article states in a headline, “The Calorie Is Out, and Qualitative Eating Is in. Finally.”
The podcast Food Psych embodies this trend, where Christy Harrison, an “anti-diet registered dietitian” as she calls herself, hosts a “weekly show dedicated to helping you make peace with food and break free from diet culture.”
In addition to wanting food and beverage choices that fit easily into their lifestyles, consumers also increasingly want options that help them rest and recharge.
The desires for better sleep and more energy have long been associated with the demand for healthy food, but this trend has become even more prominent and deeper over the course of the pandemic. In fact, 59% of people in the U.S. say mental has become more important to them than it was pre-Covid, according to Headspace.
Today’s consumers not only want quality sleep, for example, but also to unplug and decompress from all the stressors in their personal and professional lives. That can mean turning to options like Driftwell, a functional water that aims to promote relaxation, with ingredients like lavender and L-Theanine.
Nootropics — ingredients or substances that claim to provide mental boosts, such as greater focus — are also part of this trend and have become more mainstream in recent years.
Covid-19 has also made consumers more tuned in to the “food as medicine” idea, looking for ways to build up their gut health and overall immune systems through their diets. For food and beverage companies, that means looking not just at taste but also at how their offerings can support holistic health.
“Every business needs to be a health business in one way or another (that includes mental health). Almost every experience, product and service will be reassessed by people according to the extent to which it either enhances or diminishes their health,” notes Accenture.
But that doesn’t mean consumers are sticking to strict health-food diets. Instead, it’s more so the case that food and drinks, even more indulgent ones, increasingly have some sort of wellness component.
For example, JuneShine launched a 100-Calorie Hard Kombucha in 2020. So even though this is an alcoholic drink, it’s relatively low-calorie, has only 1 gram of sugar, and it has added benefits such as probiotics and antioxidants. As JuneShine notes, the brand’s kombucha is “an alcohol you can feel good about drinking.”
The pandemic has further cemented consumers’ preferences for healthy food and beverage options. With people valuing mental health more, trying to reduce stress, and wanting to feel good both inside and out, food and beverage companies can appeal to those who appreciate what meals and drinks can do for a person, beyond just tasting good.
Not every offering has to aim for health in the sense of being restrictive. Instead, it’s important to offer food and drinks that people can easily incorporate into their lifestyles, support mental well-being and potentially have preventative attributes.