chicken with pita sandwiches stacked in to go containers

10 Food Trends to Take Over in 2021

For most people, 2020 was a year of unforeseen changes that continually pushed them to develop innovative solutions for unprecedented challenges. Many people reimagined their daily routines and adjusted their usual practices, including their eating habits. Businesses and institutions must also adapt to keep up with the evolving food trends and customer demands.

So how can organizations stay on top of food trends to continue providing their customers with what they want? Analyzing current market trends can point culinary leaders toward what to expect in the upcoming months. To stay a step ahead of future food trends in 2021, learn more about 10 foodie fads most likely to dominate the food scene this year and how you can offer them.

Top 10 Food Trends for 2021

In general, the hottest food trends for 2021 will be health-focused. In 2020, consumers had become much more aware of the ways their food can impact their stamina, immunity and overall well-being. Many people have taken the time to reevaluate their eating habits and decided to start making healthier choices.

For this reason, the majority of this year’s food trends will double as health fads as people search for more flavorful and nourishing foods. Specifically, the following are projected to be the top 10 health food trends in 2021:

1. Alternative Cooking Oils

Ready to freshen up your plain old vegetable oil? This could be your year. Alternative cooking oils are steadily rising in popularity and poised to take over the culinary scene in 2021. A variety of new oils are capturing the attention of at-home chefs, including walnut and pumpkin seed oils, which lend dishes an extra layer of earthy, nutty flavors.

As a bonus, most alternative cooking oils add a boost of wellness to recipes. Specifically, walnut seed oil offers a range of health benefits. Walnut seed oil can improve your skin, help lower your blood pressure, balance your cholesterol levels and can even have anti-cancer properties. Similarly, pumpkin seed oil can also boost your health by having positive effects on your skin, prostate and heart, as well as fending off depression and potentially even relieving some menopause symptoms.

Don’t worry if you still prefer the traditional olive oil. Olive oil is also set to take over the healthy eating scene this year, thanks to a couple of key components. Olive oil possesses elenolide, a compound that can have anti-hypertensive and anti-inflammatory properties, along with tyrosol, which protects the body from neurodegenerative diseases. Because of these healthy qualities, olive oil will likely be infused into more recipes and snacks.

2. Upcycled Food

In 2019, the upcycled food industry was estimated to be worth about $46.7 billion, and the industry has only grown since then. So what exactly is upcycled food? The Upcycled Food Association defines the term as food with ingredients that otherwise would not have gone toward human consumption. These foods are produced and procured using verifiable supply chains and make a positive impact on the environment.

Basically, upcycled food finds solutions to food waste while following sustainable practices. This trend comes at an opportune time, as many more consumers have become more conscious of food waste.

Although you might not have spotted many upcycled food items at your local grocery store yet, numerous products meet upcycled food criteria and are slowly gaining traction. Expect to see upcycled food products such as flour made from spent grains, beer brewed from surplus bread and more on grocery shelves near you soon.

As a fermented beverage, kombucha has probiotic properties that can help balance the gut's microbiome and promote good digestion.


3. Kombucha

Kombucha has been gradually taking over the beverage scene for years now, but recent interest in gut health will likely catapult this gut-friendly drink into the spotlight. As a fermented beverage, kombucha has probiotic properties that can help balance the gut’s microbiome and promote good digestion. Because the gut microbiome plays a key role in maintaining weight, immunity and mental health, kombucha will likely remain a food trend for 2021.

While regular kombucha has been popular for some time now, hard kombucha will likely take the spotlight this year. Hard kombucha is a fermented tea that has a significant alcohol content, unlike regular kombucha. Hard kombucha sales have grown by more than $10 million in just the past few years. This growth in sales suggests the drink will continue to dominate the beverage scene in the future.

Hard kombucha seems primed to be favored more than other alcoholic beverages in coming years. Essentially, get ready to substitute your summer IPAs and spiked seltzers for hard kombucha.

4. Plant-Based Meat

In the last few years, we’ve seen a sharp rise in plant-based meat products. As meat-free meat hit the mainstream, it grew in popularity among vegetarians, vegans and pescatarians alike. Even those who are not strictly herbivores, known as flexitarians, are partial to enjoying a plant-based burger now and then.

Since 2020, the demand for meat-free meat has skyrocketed, with plant-based meat grocery store sales going up by 264% last year. And the plant-based meat industry doesn’t show any signs of slowing down soon. It’s projected to grow by about $3 billion in the coming years, making it worth $23.2 billion by 2024.

Many plant-based meat companies are also emphasizing sustainability and the health benefits of meat alternatives, making their products appealing to an even broader audience. With the plant-based meat industry consistently rolling out fresh innovations and new products, it seems this product will become a hallmark of 2021.

5. Ghost Kitchens

Ghost kitchens, also known as dark kitchens, virtual kitchens or cloud kitchens, are the solution to the increased demand for delivery among consumers. Ghost kitchens are delivery-only cooking facilities that multiple restaurant brands can use to prepare their food for delivery. Customers can order items from these virtual restaurants on platforms such as Uber Eats or Grubhub and have the food delivered right to their doorstep.

With many restaurants experiencing limited seating, now is the perfect time to take advantage of all the benefits ghost kitchens have to offer. For one, renting commercial cooking space at a ghost kitchen is cheaper than maintaining a brick-and-mortar restaurant. Additionally, cloud kitchens are low-risk and come with fewer overhead costs, inspections, permits and rent payments for restaurant owners to factor into their budgets.

Switching to a ghost kitchen model is also a smart idea for restaurants suffering from a decline in sales following dine-in restrictions. Although foot traffic in restaurants plummeted during 2020, takeout and delivery orders rose. Considering delivery sales are forecasted to rise by 20% annually, delivery-only restaurants are likely to thrive in 2021.


6. Mushrooms

A star ingredient of many 2021 dishes will most likely be mushrooms. Mushrooms can take dishes to the next level by providing an extra layer of flavor known as umami. Umami is the fifth basic taste, joining the ranks of sweet, salty, sour and bitter. Essentially, umami is that satisfying savory flavor you get from foods like meat, cheese, soy sauce and tomatoes, which hits the back of your throat and leaves you wanting more.

Mushrooms, especially dried shiitake mushrooms, are full of umami flavor, making them a prime ingredient for enhancing the deliciousness of a dish. Mushrooms will most likely find their way into a variety of new products for 2021, including plant-based meats, sauces, spices, seasonings, condiments and other common ingredients. Get ready to incorporate mushrooms as part of your daily diet and menu offerings.

7. Unique Flavor Mash-Ups

Consumers aren’t only enjoying umami on its own. Unique combinations of sweet and umami flavors are poised to gain traction in 2021. Mixing global flavors is not a new concept. But experiments with blends of sweet and umami flavor profiles have been branching out more and more in exceedingly interesting ways. Ice cream featuring fish sauce caramel and palm sugar may become the new norm, for instance.

Although it might sound odd to pair an umami-rich ingredient like seaweed with burned sugar, these modern umami-sweet mash-ups are based on a long history of more traditional flavor pairings. Celebrated customer favorites like apple pie topped with cheddar cheese, maple bacon doughnuts and cheese and caramel popcorn mixes are all rooted in the same flavor pairing philosophies. In 2021, we can hope to see exciting experimentation with umami-sweet combinations to create new flavor experiences.

8. Meal Kits

A meal kit is a box containing the ingredients for a specific recipe, often pre-prepped so the only thing left to do is assemble and cook the meal. Meal kits were already starting to take off as a convenient way to cook if you have a busy schedule, but 2020 made the popularity of meal kits surge even higher. Ordering meal kits became an easy solution for people to acquire the fresh ingredients they needed to cook without having to leave home.

With many consumers trying to balance convenience and fast preparation times with flavorful meal options, easy-to-prepare comfort foods in meal kits are in high demand. Some companies like HelloFresh are expected to see up to a 70% increase in revenue. In 2021, expect to see meal-kit companies pouring more resources into their marketing, infrastructure and technology efforts.

Chickpea Products

9. Chickpea Products

When it comes to chickpeas, it’s time to think bigger than hummus and falafel. Thanks to experimentation with both chickpea flour and aquafaba — chickpea soaking water — the humble chickpea has reached previously uncharted territory. As a plant-based protein rich in fiber, chickpeas will probably become the new cauliflower, appearing in all sorts of products from pizza crusts to cereals.

While chickpea flour can be used to produce more predictable health-focused options like chickpea pasta and flatbread, aquafaba can contribute to more unique culinary creations like dairy-free ice cream and meringues. Start looking for your favorite sweets to be made with chickpeas, or consider incorporating them into your own offerings.

10. Modified Desserts

Along with chickpea-based desserts, modified desserts, in general, will be in high demand this year. While 2020 taught many consumers to appreciate life’s sweeter moments, they still want their desserts to offer some nutritional value — or at least not be too unhealthy. Essentially, they want to have their cake and eat it, too.

Specifically, consumers are looking to avoid or cut down on sugar in any way they can. In response to the demand from consumers to lower products’ sugar content, many companies are turning to food tech to provide a viable sweetener substitution. Innovative ingredients aimed at reducing sugar, such as stevia, xylitol and tagatose, will probably take center stage in 2021 and beyond.

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Dining Solutions Focused on 2021 Food Trends

Staying on top of the latest food fads is crucial for dining service providers, especially when trendy foods are healthy, as many of the 2021 food trends are. The team at American Dining Creations is made up of culinary fanatics who love to incorporate current food trends in their cooking. From popular ingredients to the most up-and-coming flavor combos, the food from American Dining Creations is always fresh and relevant.

American Dining Creations puts innovation into action by whipping up creative recipes that are both bursting with flavor and brimming with health benefits. We prioritize healthy dining by providing dishes that are full of superfoods and nutritional value without sacrificing taste. Our dining solutions are perfect for a variety of venues, including academic campuses and business settings.

Along with being deliciously on-trend, the dining solutions from American Dining Creations are focused on sustainability and limiting food waste. As a committed steward of the environment, American Dining Creations enacts eco-friendly dining practices, such as food composting and small-batch cooking. American Dining Creations also offers Meatless Monday menu options that are suitable for a low-carbon diet and 2021 plant-based meat trends. Express your organization’s values to visitors and keep up with the trends when you serve your campus or business with our help.

Partner With American Dining Creations to Keep up With the Latest Food Trends

If you’re interested in working with an on-trend and socially responsible partner that can provide your organization with delicious dining solutions, American Dining Creations can help. As a hospitality partner, we are uniquely able to offer premium-quality, customizable dining solutions for your organization. We tailor our meal programs so you can receive dining options specifically designed to meet your culinary needs.

For more information about how you can get innovative, health-conscious and custom-made food for your organization, reach out to American Dining Creations today.

Partner With American Dining Creations to Keep up With the Latest Food Trends