Three food and beverage trends to watch out for in 2022

Looking ahead, we see a number of global headwinds facing food and beverage companies, but with challenges come opportunities: agile and ambitious businesses will win out. Our Food and Beverage team predict three key trends for 2022 which build upon disruptions which are already beginning to impact our food system.

2021 has been characterised by global challenges including – fragile extended supply chains, adapting to remote workforces and skills shortages in key roles. For food & beverage manufacturers, the impact of the global pandemic on consumer habits and working practices meant it was also a challenging year to launch new products, particularly when set against the ongoing demand for ever shorter development cycles. However, the continued importance of sustainability and the environmental impact of our food supply, consumer demand for products supporting their health and wellness goals and the continued focus on delivering differentiated experiences has contributed to expansion of sectors such as meat and dairy alternates – developments here will continue through 2022.

1. Evolution of the alternative protein market: Proliferation; Cultivating; Blending

The alternative protein market shows no signs of slowing its rapid growth, driven by continuing demands from consumers for a more sustainable food system – whether for meat, fish, or dairy replacements. The scale of new product launches across the world means the global alternative protein market is estimated to be growing by between 9.5% CAGR[1] and 16.8%[2] CAGR.

One of the big things to look for in 2022 will be a first regulatory approval in the US and/or EU for a cultivated (or cultured) meat alternative. This will turbocharge an already exciting sector with several companies at the pilot manufacturing stage and waiting for the opportunity to launch and scale to supermarkets and restaurants.

Up until now, alternative protein products (largely based on soy/pea protein) have characteristically created flavourful and tasty products that are “as close to the real thing” as possible, sometimes to the detriment of the products ingredient declaration. We expect that in 2022, with new ingredients coming on-stream, a new wave of products will launch with health and nutrition ambitions, though the regulatory framework for communicating health benefits of food remains complex.

One way this may come about would be through blending for example, a largely pea-protein based burger with cultured fats and emulsifying or preservative ingredients derived from fermentation. Although this will increase the complexity of the final product (and the associated supply chain), it will allow product developers to leverage the different strengths of different ingredient sources, balancing against cost of implementation at scale. 

Read our white paper: From barn to bioreactor: the new frontier in food

2. Supply shuffle: returnable, traceable, integrated

Global challenges over the past 20 months have placed unprecedented strain on our supply chains, both at the trans-continental shipping level, and local “last mile” distribution. At the same time, consumers are demanding more information about food miles, labour use, and ingredient quality. We’ve seen numerous food manufacturers make positive steps to improve their supply chain resilience and predict this trend will grow through the next year.

Pressures are mounting for manufacturers to have much better traceability to product origin. The media is rife with stories of counterfeit ingredients, which can cause substantial reputational damage to brands, as well as potential fines. Better traceability of supply can also help mitigate the issues of just-in-time manufacturing, which has come under heavy pressure since the start of the global pandemic. The interconnected nature of the supply chain makes this a substantial challenge needing a lot of innovation – this will require closer partnerships between stakeholders at different levels in the value chain which will be powered by a smart combination of physical hardware and digital systems.

We also predict a growing Farm to Fork focus within food manufacturers looking at their core ingredients: integrating and owning the value chain for critical components can make good sense in light of rising inflation, disruption, and turbulent commodity prices. Expect to see more investment from brands forming partnerships with start-ups and academics to explore gene editing, precision farming and regenerative agriculture. However, the complexities of agronomic regulations will continue to be tricky to navigate: see the divergence between the EU’s Farm to Fork strategy (placing an increasing emphasis on low-pesticide and organic farming practises) and the US’s preference for a more “high-tech” approach. Trying to communicate a positive message on agriculture continues to be a challenge for brands. The proliferation of standards, symbols and stamps on pack is a nightmare to navigate as a consumer and more work needs to be done across the industry.

Listen to our podcast: Growing, producing and delivering food and drink podcast

3. New social system: Channels, on-demand, digital

Our social lives have been upended for the last 20 months. Marquee sporting events have played to empty stadiums, concerts have been all but cancelled, and weddings have been postponed across the globe. We’ve all adapted to find moments of joy in different ways, and we’re starting to see the food and beverage industry adapt to changing consumer habits.

We have seen huge growth in the at-home dining space – for example the expansion of delivery apps and the launch of high-end meal kits in conjunction with top restaurants. What does this mean for new product development? In the recent past, experimental products (e.g. the early Impossible burger launches) targeted the food service channel as a way of exploring demand, scaling effectively and iterating on core product/technology rapidly: this may not feel as strong an option for new brands, so closer relationships will need to be forged with retailers to allow for on-shelf trials and to make available the data needed for fast R&D cycles.

Where are there opportunities to win in the new normal? The snacking and treat market looks set to continue to grow. During the height of the pandemic, global snack food sales grew over 15%, compared with a pre-pandemic trend of roughly 3% year on year growth.[3]. At Sagentia Innovation, we see the potential for new product experiences centred around “on-demand”: what can our favourite snack and confectionary brands bring to the table for the next wave of movie releases through streaming services? How can our favourite beverage brands help us recreate the quality and experience of a draught pour at-home?

Leveraging digital technologies will be key to winning in the new social system, going beyond simply making products available through online purchasing platforms, and truly using that wealth of data to upgrade interactions with consumers. In premium product categories (e.g. wine, coffee, nutrition, and supplements), subscriptions help consumers match with their “perfect” products – how about a “big game” planner or “movie date night” service? Behind the scenes, true value is in the data captured on consumer flavour and taste preferences – which should be used by product developers to create predictive specifications to guide NPD.

Watch our recent Webinar: No such thing as a fussy eater: using data science for predictive hyper-personalisation of food




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