By Lori Karpman
This is going to be a banner year in the food service industry with many new food and beverage offerings. Here’s a roundup of the Top 10 food and beverage trends for 2022.
The plant-based ecosystem
Over the past few years, many people have made the switch from meat and dairy to plant-based foods. These flavors are now being replaced with those from non-meat or dairy products, such as soy, peas, cashews and almonds, tempeh, mushrooms (which are particularly popular for 2022), and beans. This does not mean traditional proteins are going away anytime soon, but there will be an increase of plant-based food concepts.
It is no surprise that cannabis is one of the fastest-growing categories for products of all kinds. CBD is the non-psychoactive compound in cannabis so it will not get you intoxicated, but some claim it can help with pain, anxiety, and lack of sleep. CBD drinks have become very popular and come in the form of waters, teas, and wine. Snacks of all kinds abound from chocolate bars to lavender almonds to lemon poppy seed cookies and whipped CBD-infused honey—the list just continues to grow exponentially. CBD is also making its way into sparkling water, beer, coffee, cocktails, and even jellybeans to help people.
Chips have always been considered an unhealthy snack option, but these days new “better for you” options are emerging. Using ingredients like chickpeas, beets, quinoa, and kale, these snacks are supposedly healthier even if you eat the whole bag. They may not be the most appealing esthetically, but they effectively satisfy snack cravings.
While ingredients such as adaptogens (herbs and mushrooms), probiotics, and nootropics (substances alleged to increased brain power) are not necessarily new, the way they are being incorporated into food and beverages is.
Functional foods are moving from pill or powder form and are now integrated into teas, coffees, sparkling water, energy bars, and chocolate. Other ingredients such as prebiotics, often found in yogurt, are now appearing in on-the-go drinks and foods, like nutrition bars and drinkable yogurt.
Non-dairy milks made from oats, almonds, and soybeans have become commonplace in grocery stores and coffee shops, but entering the market is a new competitor: potato milk. Potato milk might also be the most environmentally friendly milk option as it takes 56 times less water to grow potatoes than it does to produce almonds.
Unique flavors and healthiness in beverages
Consumers who are concerned about sugar but still want to satisfy their craving for carbonation are turning to flavored sparkling water, and the choices are growing exponentially. All the big beverage brands are getting in on this trend. Consumers are open to exploring more unique fruit flavor varieties, including bergamot orange, yuzu, makrut lime, pomelo, Meyer lemon, and blood orange.
For a few years now, drinks and supplements containing collagen—a protein providing the structure for our skin and organs—have been growing quickly.
As you have seen in the news, climate change, disappearing rainforests, and plastics in the ocean are dominant topics. Consumers are now demanding sustainability, especially in packaging. It can be something as simple as replacing Styrofoam and plastic with paper, bamboo, or cotton, or buying materials from sustainable sources. Whether it is biodegradable straws or simple cardboard boxes, most restaurants are moving toward some sort of green packaging. Healthy food and reusable or recyclable restaurant supplies are expected to be trending high in 2022 for food establishments.
More investments in emerging labor-saving technology
As restaurants brace for continued labor struggles, more operators will invest in technology making them less reliable on employees, minimizing costs, and maximizing efficiencies. A robot doesn’t call in sick, typically works on weekends, and doesn’t require training and discipline. A significant number of operators, owners, or managers believe technology adoption has been key to business survival amid the pandemic. Restaurants have already automated food ordering and pick up, and soon restaurant tasks such as dishwashing and simple back-of-the-house tasks such as inventory control and replenishment will be automated.
In the US, robots are being tested to make coffees, through a combination of liquids, powders, and ice that can be programmed into some form of automation. The same is true for making smoothies and other such foods.
Consumers can also expect to see more voice-based artificial intelligence at the drive-thru, specifically, since this channel has performed so well throughout the pandemic and continues to see strong traffic. Right now, these drive-thrus are staffed by employees, but in the not-too-distant future we are likely to be speaking to robots instead who can be better at getting the order right. Drive-thru robots can improve the experience by moving the line faster and can increase sales by offering additional items based on what the consumer ordered, such as “do you want fries with that?” A robot can be programmed to do this automatically and consistently, whereas staff is often busy and forget to upsell.
Dining out is more than just eating. From the moment a reservation is made to leaving the restaurant, the consumer has a series of mini-experiences impacting whether they return or not. As more and more people move away from collecting things and toward gaining experiences, restaurants must look for ways to provide a memorable journey from check in to check out. Serving good food is simply not good enough anymore. The dining experience should offer rewards, adventure, fun, surprises, and entertainment in order to connect with the emotional needs of customers.
Thanks to the ever-increasing pace of life, the meal delivery service market is booming. Meal delivery, in the form of a one-time order or of a box of ingredients, is predicted to grow significantly in 2022 as are convenient, eat-on-the-go food options. Additionally, some brands even have in-store portals where customers can pick up their food after having made and paid for an online order, which significantly reduces labor costs. Expect to see this trend grow as consumers who are time strapped demand products which are healthy and ready to eat.
As mentioned at the outset, 2022 is going to be very interesting in the food service industry as food and beverage manufacturers and vendors are constantly creating new and different options for consumers to learn about and enjoy.
Lori Karpman is the founder of Lori Karpman & Company (LKC), a Montreal-based franchising consultancy. For more information, visitlorikarpman.com.