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5 Top food trends of 2022: exploring the trends emerging from a post-pandemic world

7 min read
Man ordering food through an app

The COVID-19 pandemic caused us all to seriously change our behaviours in a huge number of ways. Now, with two years of a pandemic being hopefully behind us, how will companies across the food industry begin looking to the future – scouting for opportunities and identifying key elements for positive innovation industry-wide? 

This article, based on our podcast “Post-pandemic – how shifting relationships are influencing consumer trends” aims to explore the current and potential food trends of 2021 and 2022. We will also be discussing how the past two pandemic years have affected the way consumers think about the brands they engage with and how this information can be used by food companies in order to make real-world decisions in order to stay relevant. 

We spoke to Tatiana Penaloza, Managing Director in Consumer Goods at Accenture and Alex Jones, Managing Director at Accenture Song about how companies can react to the patterns of behaviour that we’ve been adopting in the face of two years of pandemic, stress, and how they can identify positive ways to change how businesses are run and new ways they can innovate. 

Shifting relationships influencing consumer food trends

Alex Jones states that the data sourced through their yearly reports tends to include overarching themes pointing to trends coming through from that year. This year, trends are pointing towards the idea of relationships and the rethinking of our relationships with the world around us as consumers in particular. 

“Through all the years we’ve been doing this, we tend to find each year, there’s a bit of an overarching theme or a tone of the trends that come through each year. And, this year, we’ve settled on this idea of relationships and how we’re rethinking the relationships we have with the world around us. We’ve had two years of massive disruption to these systems that control our lives but, during that period, we’ve been forced to put our foot on the ball and rethink so many of those relationships we have in our lives. 

“The partners and the family that we have around us and that we’ve been locked up home with but also, in a slightly different way, the relationship we have with ourselves, who you are, what matters to you, what you’re willing to endure these days, and the relationship with technology that is in our pockets and controlling a larger number of minutes of each day.” 

Because of the previous two pandemic years, we have had the time to look inwards and discover who we are, reevaluate our relationship with certain brands, and take the time to create something positive and innovative – especially when it comes to food trends going further into 2022. 

“The relationship with brands which now resonates with that re-found clarity of who you are, which brands don’t, and what are you therefore willing to tolerate from those and what are you not? Who do we trust in those environments, and of course, also, the relationship with the planet, as sustainability becomes such a more prevalent topic? 

“So these new relationships emerge as a sort of thread, the thread that weaves this new fabric of life, and how we stitch all of those together is all of the positive innovation that we had; and what we have ahead of us with that new fabric of life. That’s really where we are coming up with that overarching theme. …It’s a fascinating time that is affecting almost every part of our life.”

How are companies reacting to food trends in the UK?

So, how have companies within our industry reacted to change and food trends? Have they done it well because they have the infrastructure ready and waiting, or were they blindsided by these trends? Tatiana Penaloza, MD in Consumer Goods at Accenture, states that convenience via food delivery services is one of the biggest food trends of 2021 and 2022 – triggered by the conclusion of our two pandemic years and people, rather than venturing to populated public spaces, are opting to stay home.

“A great example is how people have responded to what is the home as the new location. studies revealed that there’s around a 2 trillion annual value in terms of sales that is going away from public spaces into their homes. This is because people want to be closer to home, but also they want to support the neighbourhoods in which they live. 

“At the same time, it’s similar to the fabric of life and interconnection. They want convenience around their home, especially consumer goods.

“For example, embarking on subscription-based models, the number of food beverages companies and caterers that have opened up dog stores, dark kitchens, that are all around your neighbourhood, also the on-demand economy like Uber Eats.” 

Tatiana also further elaborates on how different businesses are forming partnerships with people alongside these food trends – enabling higher levels of convenience to consumers whilst supporting communities along the way. She also explains that companies who have not embraced this trend are indeed expected to lose revenue and even relevance. 

“You can see the partnerships there are sometimes. It’s not just one company, it’s the partnerships to respond to this human example. So are they this human trade? For example, Coca-Cola in Latin America created an app in which users were able to shop across categories, but the people who replenished that order were in your corner shops within 15 minutes. It’s that home convenience, partnership collaboration.  

“At the same time, I think we’ve seen how Pret a Manger has evolved to create stores to fulfil people at home, or they’ve created prepackaged meals that they can sell through supermarkets. And at the same time, large companies like Nestle, for example, have acquired Mindful Chef, which they’ve also acquired for around $1.5 billion. So you can see here how they are quickly responding to this new way of buying this new way of transaction that is at the home, and it’s convenient. Every company who’s not grappling with this new way of commerce is not understanding what that means for them and their value propositions are the ones that are absolutely losing share, or losing relevance.”

The 5 biggest new food trends of 2022

Just what are the biggest current food trends of 2021 and 2022, and what do they mean for the food industry as a whole? Alex Jones describes the five current biggest food trends that have come out of our post-pandemic era, with many being about companies engaging with employees differently than about engaging with consumers.

1. Come as you are

“Five big trends this year, [with the first trend being] come as you are. The trend that we spotted here is sort of alluding to that point I was making earlier about how we’ve all sort of put our foot on the ball and take a moment to reflect a little on who we are. And we’re emerging with this growing agency over our own lives.”

2. Individualism

“[Second, is] … a rise in individualism … but it’s really about clarity on what matters for me, and finding the confidence to turn up as myself and live my true life now and the ripple effects are quite significant.”

3. Endurance

“[Third is] the great resignation and this shouldn’t be impacted as employees or the impact employers trying to satisfy folks who are coming out of this lockdown. Being ready to endure organisations that don’t give a monkey’s about their daily lives, is a big changing dynamic to input for employers and employees.”

4. Monetising hobbies

“[Fourth would be] monetising your own hobbies. So top-class sort of content creators from home are able to turn their hand to things they’ve always wanted to and can monetise that to make an income from it.”

5. Changes in engagement

“[Fifth, and finally, is] changing the way that organisations need to engage with us as consumers, and creators. and as employees. You’re used when you say you’re a one in a million, [it makes you] sound like a rare thing, but now you can find 7000 other people that are exactly the same as that one. You can find them online and share those interests, you can be proud of that, but we’re all sort of leaning into it more, and we’re expecting brands to engage in that and spot us and service in those minutiae of market definitions now.”

Interested in discovering more about upcoming food trends for 2022 and finding out how the latest trends in food science come to be? Our full interview with Tatiana Penaloza and Alex Jones about shifting relationships and changing consumer trends can be found on our podcast: Post-pandemic – how shifting relationships are influencing consumer trends.


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