Unsurprisingly, pandemic lockdowns for many Americans initially marked a period of food indulgence and dietary backsliding. But IFIC data also suggest wellness is becoming a watchword.
The non-profit organization, which promotes science-based information on nutrition, food safety and agriculture, said its recent surveys show consumers are proactively looking for positive food attributes like whole grains and fiber, and are exploring immune health more so than previously.
Also, IFIC’s annual food and health Survey found awareness of the federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans has doubled over roughly the past decade, with 46% of consumers saying in 2021 that they know at least a fair amount about them, compared to just 23% in 2010.
But the IFIC said the pandemic also revealed a precarious state of food insecurity for many Americans, where a startling number of people live a single economic shock away from hunger and deprivation — and children are hit the hardest.
Consequently, the IFIC said there may be more attention in 2022 from policymakers on issues like federal feeding programs, the need to act on health and nutrition disparities, and the role of lifestyle-related non-communicable diseases — including the links between comorbidities and overall susceptibility to Covid.
In 2022, the IFIC is predicting Americans also will broaden their horizons in search of more effective ways to manage stress, whether through micronutrients like B vitamins and magnesium or macronutrients like whole grains and protein. CBD-infused foods will move even closer to center stage. And we will likely manage our diets and nutrition through beverages, such as broader consumption of non-alcoholic alternatives as a way to reduce caloric intake or so-called “functional fizzes.”
The IFIC said nostalgia is also big: it predicts in 2022 the 1990s will make a return trip, bringing some familiar favorites along. In the coming year, all things simple and familiar will guide our food choices, whether it’s the recipes we follow or the snacks we reach for, the IFIC said.
Given the current state of the pandemic, Americans who are still reluctant to travel in 2022 will look for new ways to transport their taste buds. Expect them to satisfy their gastronomical wanderlust with exotic foods and flavors like hibiscus, yuzu, turmeric, kelp, gochujang and ube.
Not only will they continue to savor the “fifth taste” of umami with ingredients like MSG, they will also become more acquainted with kokumi, considered by some to be a “sixth taste.”
The IFIC said Americans will also look to reduce their sodium intake with salt alternatives like potassium chloride and their sugar intake with substitutes like allulose, maltitol and monk fruit.
Given the pandemic food system shifts, more and more businesses will “get into the spirit” of so-called ghost kitchens and pop-ups, as well as the greater adoption of technologies like QR codes for menus and self-service kiosks at restaurants.
E-commerce and direct-to-consumer sales will increasingly become a driving force in the food system, as policymakers rush to keep up, the IFIC said. Urban farming and “vertical agriculture” will be a growth industry for city-dwellers to promote sustainability, nutrition, food security and closer, more personal connections to food production.
And CRISPR, already increasingly accepted for its medical applications, will assert itself as a leading next-generation biotechnology in crop production to help address food security, climate change and sustainability.
The IFIC said Americans in 2022 can expect their conception of sustainability to broaden and its role in their attitudes and behaviors to become more firmly “cemented in.”
The 2021 Food and Health Survey found 42% of consumers believe their food choices have a moderate or significant impact on the environment, while seven in 10 say climate change sometimes influences their purchase decisions.
The recent United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) will contribute to sustainable purchasing attitudes in the coming year. And environmental sustainability as a consumer value will help fuel new eating patterns like “reducetarian,” “climatarian” and low-carbon.
The IFIC argued consumers’ support for sustainability will extend beyond the physical environment and into social issues. More than half of consumers believe it is at least somewhat important that people working in food production, retail and food service be treated fairly and equitably. Support for “social sustainability” is only expected to grow, as it has found particular resonance among younger consumers.