Predicting food trends for the year ahead has never been so unpredictable but here, Tasneem Alonzo, joint managing director at EHL Ingredients, shares insights into what we can expect to see on tables during the year ahead
Chickpeas are set to shine, meat-free and plant-based foods will continue their foray into the mainstream, allergen awareness will still be a top priority, and organic foods that fit into mindful eating and wellness trends will grow in importance.
The year of the chickpea
The humble chickpea is finding favour thanks to its versatility and nutritional value and we expect this popularity to grow further in 2021. Chickpeas are the main ingredient in hummus and falafel, so are popular with vegans and vegetarians, but they are also being widely consumed dried, puffed or roasted as a snack, or coated in flavour. We’re even starting to see high-protein chickpea-based versions of classic foods such as pasta, rice and ice cream hitting store shelves.
They can be a great addition to a salad, Middle Eastern stews or tagines, curries, or an Italian soup, and are a great meat replacement, particularly in meat-free burgers, fritters and fajitas. Their popularity is driven by the fact they are a familiar food, which encourages consumers to try new formats, their inexpensive price, and the fact they make such a great addition to so many dishes and snacks. They have a fairly neutral flavour so they work well with many herb and spice seasonings – from smoky BBQ and paprika, to classic salt and vinegar – and sweet coatings such as dark chocolate, coconut and sesame.
Cutting down on meat
Consumers of all ages are becoming increasingly experimental with their food choices, with a surge in those following a plant-based, meat-free, vegan, vegetarian or flexitarian diet, and those cutting out animal products from their diets for health, lifestyle and environmental reasons.
Campaigns such as Veganuary, as well as TV programmes and documentaries, certainly help increase awareness and interest in the benefits of a plant-based or meat-free diet, but year-round, there are consumers who follow a flexitarian diet and often choose to eat meat-free for personal health and environmental reasons.
Meat-free and plant-based foods are set to continue their popularity during 2021. We’ve seen bakeries launch vegan versions of existing products, from sausage rolls, pasties and pies, croissants, and pains au chocolate, with smaller regional bakers launching their own versions of vegan sweet and savoury baked goods.
Our herbs, spices, seasonings and blends can help create new plant-based and meat-free products and open up new opportunities for brands and manufacturers. Foods such as vegan paté or ‘faux-gras’, veggie black pudding, meat-free pies, pasties, sausages and plant-based burgers will be in demand during 2021 so it’s key to trial and test products before you launch them to market, to ensure they are hitting all the key notes in terms of flavour, texture, aroma, convenience and overall satisfaction.
Non-allergen food is a huge area of growth for us at the moment; demand for gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free and sulphite-free food ingredients has increased in recent years and it is a market we expect to develop even further during 2021.
Alternative flour is an area that we expect to grow over the next two to five years. We have experienced increases in demand and sales of alternative flours such as gram, buckwheat, coconut, almond, and rice flour, which can all be used to substitute wheat flour when baking sweet or savoury goods. Flours derived from ancient grains such as quinoa, spelt, teff, millet are also on the rise as shoppers look for alternative, healthy ingredients for baked goods.
We have expanded our production and handling across our three sites in Stockport and installed completely separate lines for non-allergen ingredients to give our customers extra reassurance that no cross contamination has occurred during our handling. We overhauled our production lines and storage to completely segregate ingredients containing allergens and non-allergen products and installed new machinery.
Organic foods are certainly a popular choice, and we’re seeing high demand for organic bakery ingredients such as flours, seeds, herbs and spices, organic sunflower, pumpkin and lin seeds. From a product point of view, since the Covid-19 outbreak we have definitely had higher demand for organic and clean label ingredients than in previous years. We’ve noticed an increase in demand for turmeric from our customers, and have increased our orders to our suppliers in India. In particular, organic turmeric is in high demand among our customers and uses of turmeric are increasing within food and drink products in the UK.
In summary, modern Brits’ tastes are ever-evolving as are lifestyles and local restrictions due to the pandemic. While at home, consumers are looking for variety, new flavour combinations, convenience, healthy and alternative dishes and our herbs, spices, blends and ingredients allow brands and food manufacturers to develop appealing finished products to suit 2021 palates and preferences.