2020 certainly did not turn out the way that many of us expected. But from a food and beverage trends perspective, many of Symrise’s initial predictions for the year still rang true, even though consumption patterns changed due to the pandemic.

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In some ways, the pandemic even heightened food trends. With health on so many people’s minds, consumers have increasingly looked for food and beverage options that can boost their physical and/or mental wellbeing, whether they’re dining out or at home following chefs’ recipes on Instagram.

Other trends, like the influence of more cuisines from around the globe, also take on heightened importance. If consumers can’t travel abroad, they can still get a taste of unique cultures through food and beverages.

Overall, this year’s North American food trends played out across the following categories:

Healthy Lifestyle

The desire for more healthy food and drinks is not limited to low-calorie, low-sugar or other diet-related items. Many healthy living trends, like the use of adaptogens, rang true in 2020 as a way for consumers to try to battle stress and feel good in general.

For example, Trend Hunter reports that Toronto-based Parallel Tea Co’s adaptogenic teas have been trending recently. Ingredients like yerba mate and ashwagandha are used to create a tea that aims to provide mental clarity, energy and improved overall wellbeing.

Coinciding with consumers’ focus on health, low- or no-alcohol drinks could continue to grow in popularity in the coming years. Even with the stress of 2020, many consumers still opted to go easy on the booze. Bacardi forecasts 400% growth of the low- and no-alcohol market in Western Europe over the next four years. This type of growth could similarly apply to North America.

Many low- and no-alcohol brands have made splashes recently, such as Ghia, a non-alcoholic aperitif that launched in 2020 and ships bottles across the US. As InStyle reports, Ghia “is quickly snowballing into a cool-girl brand, amassing new, on-the-scene fans by the minute.”

Natural Goodness

Healthy Lifestyle ties in closely with the category of Natural Goodness, which includes trends like fermentation and consumption of earthy, natural products. For example, Ghia, in addition to being non-alcoholic, includes a mix of botanicals like gentian root and elderflower extracts.

Regarding fermentation, this trend has arguably only grown in relevance during the pandemic. With consumers trying to maintain good gut health, while also focusing on areas like sustainability and cooking at home, it’s no wonder that products like the Kefirko Veggie Fermenter have caught on in 2020, as Trend Hunter reports.

Kefirko has launched other types of fermentation devices in previous years, such as to create kefir or kombucha. For 2020, the brand launched a crowdfunding campaign for its vegetable fermentation device, which can help consumers find a natural way to create plant-based sides, condiments and more.

Infographic: Healthy Lifestyle and Natural Goodness Flavor Trends of 2020

Emotional Discoveries

Earlier in the year, our flavor forecast projected a greater emergence of cuisines such as FilipinX, West African and Levantine food. Even with the difficulties restaurants have had in 2020, this trend has still largely played out.

For example, Kasama, a Filipino restaurant that opened in Chicago in the summer of 2020, has made a splash. In fact, they sold out of food on their opening day, reports Eater. Dishes like pickled papaya tie into other trends like fermentation, while also providing emotional discoveries of unique tastes to consumers’ palates. They also sell their Asian seasoning blend for those looking to cook up delicious dishes at home.

Other examples of emotional discoveries trending in 2020 can be seen such as at Chef Omar Tate’s pop-up Honeysuckle in Philadelphia. As the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, his cooking draws “freely from historical roots, African references and Philly reflections of Southern flavors that moved North during the Great Migration.” One of his creations is “pit-smoked lamb rubbed in palm oil and a West African-inspired chili paste,” the article notes.

Premium Indulgences

Although 2020 has been a hard year, consumers still want to indulge in gourmet food and drinks from time to time. That’s not to say cuisine has to be served in a fine-dining, high-priced environment, but rather that the flavors should evoke a sense of an elevated experience.

Some of the trends we predicted as part of Premium Indulgences include an emergence of smoky and spicy flavors marrying with saltiness, rather than just the salty/sweet combo. Other trends include the rise of Prime Classics, meaning upscale twists on classic drinks. Even though low- and no-alcohol drinks are trending, there’s still room for indulgent cocktails at times.

For example, De Buena Planta, a pop-up in LA from the founder of The Butcher’s Daughter, has served creative versions of margaritas. In addition to their classic variety, they also have offered a yuzu basil margarita, as well as a pineapple habanero mezcalita, which replaces traditional tequila with mezcal to create a smoky, spicy and sweet combination.

What’s Next for Food Trends?

While 2020 presented the food and beverage industry with dramatic challenges, there are encouraging signs that consumers still care deeply about what they eat and drink. Going forward, there’s room for chefs, consumer packaged goods companies, mixologists and others to showcase creative offerings.

In 2021, as the pandemic hopefully recedes, these flavor trends can still continue, but perhaps with more opportunities for in-person experiences. And new trends will certainly emerge as well. To learn more about Symrise’s predictions for flavor trends in 2021, contact your Symrise account manager or reach out to our team of flavor and ingredient trend experts.

Join the Symrise Flavor North American team on Thursday, January 28th at 12pm EST for the first look at our 2021 Flavor Trend Report. REGISTER HERE!

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