ALEXANDRIA, Va.—The Specialty Food Association (SFA) Trendspotter Panel identified five trends that will drive the growth in the specialty food industry in 2022, according to a news release.
The first trend is pasta. The COVID-19 pandemic increased consumer desire for comfort foods, and pasta was one of them. The rise of low-carb diets like keto and paleo slowed down the category, but the resurgence has healthier, alternative pastas at the forefront. Gluten-free and alternative grain pastas such as black rice pumpkin, red lentils and purple carrots are bringing “new spins on traditional pasta in Instagram-friendly ways,” said Jonathan Deutsch, Ph.D., professor of Culinary Arts and Food Science, Department of Food and Hospitality Management and founding director, Drexel Food Core Lab.
The second trend is plant-based comfort food. Perhaps riding on the same pandemic wave as pasta, plant-based comfort foods are rising in popularity. It allows those with special diets, including the uber-popular plant-based diet, to indulge in items they love. Hot items include plant-based patties, pea-protein based crumbles to use in tacos and tenders and nuggets made with Chilean seaweed.
Third is global flavors. Since the pandemic stemmed world traveling, consumers traveled through their food, particularly their snacks. Those include snack bars that deliver Thai flavors while being keto-friendly and high in prebiotic fiber to potato chips from Spain in foie gras flavor, as well as peanuts flavored with turmeric and chili, “like the spicy peanut snack from hawkers on street corners in Bangkok that I relished as a child,” said Kantha Shelke, Ph.D., CFS, IFT fellow, principal, Corvus Blue LLC.
Hot peppers are the fourth trend, with consumers learning how to use the correct peppers in certain recipes, snacks and condiments—another result from the pandemic when many people had more time to experiment in the kitchen.
The fifth trend is food with benefits. Consumers are prioritizing health now, and they are leaning into the antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties of some functional foods and beverages not only for their immunity-boosting abilities but also anti-aging benefits. Examples include functional gummies; oils marketed as cosmetic oils to drink or use topically for the complexion; drinks that pair mango with collagen for protein and potential beauty benefits and turmeric for anti-inflammation; and a butterfly pea flower extract, high in anthocyanins, which are linked to anti-aging for the skin.
The panel also found that sustainability, cocktail culture and twists on chocolate classics are trends that are continuing to gain momentum.
Each month, NACS Magazine delves into a c-store merchandise category and the trends that rule it in Category Close-Up. Be sure to check out November’s wine category close-up and what is making sales surge in convenience stores.