Food trends to watch out this 2021 

Published January 28, 2021, 6:34 PM

by Jules Vivas

What are we going to be eating this year, from a forecast by one of the country’s biggest food and beverage companies

In 2020, we saw the rise of home cooks, of pastries from sourdough loaves to ube pandesal, of sushi bakes, and of the Dalgona coffee, to name a few. The new year means a fresh list of food trends. Now that we have somehow grown accustomed to the new standard of living, what’s up on the 2021 menu?

To give us a breakdown of what is to be expected in the food scene, San Miguel Foods Culinary Center (SMFCC) recently held its first online event for the year titled Food Forward: A Peek Into 2021 Food Trends. MFCC culinary services manager Llena Arcenas explains that the webinar was designed to update consumers on the new and exciting concepts in the foodscape, all the while demonstrating how the company is aligning its products with these culinary trends. “This event is also part of our continuing efforts to help boost the food industry and showcase consumers’ dining behavior,” she adds. “This is a good way to excite and entice the appetites of our consumers with the versatility of our products.”

Participants were given a food kit that contained samples of the dishes tackled on the online discussion, for a full appreciation of the trends as applied to different recipes that utilized San Miguel products. Here are the top five trends based on market and extensive research.

Beyond the garden

With continuous expansion of the health and wellness movement, consumers are now more open to alternative and flexitarian diets. Plant-based food options have gained popularity in previous years, but new and creative ways of using plant-based ingredients will emerge this year. More diverse plant-based seafood and eggs, sweet and savory fruit, as well as veggie jerkies, chocolates, cheeses, and milk are some ingredients to look out for.

Mushrooms, chickpeas, and tofu are also in. Rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, mushroom is an ideal ingredient, especially given its natural umami flavor and meaty quality. Chickpeas, known as the miracle legume for its protein and other nutritional contents, will be the new cauliflower. Aquafaba or canned chickpea liquid, on the other hand, will be used as a milk or egg substitute for its binding property. Common meat alternative, tofu, will be applied in various formats and food applications. 

Fruits, vegetables, and edible plants will be natural food colorants, with red—the color that stimulates the appetite—dyed across food and drink products.

Coffee, meanwhile, will go beyond being just a beverage and will be seen in energy bars, granola, smoothies, and even alcoholic beverages.

And with the challenge of consumers wanting sweet dishes minus the sugar, allulose is already being seen as the new gold standard for sweeteners. Naturally found in wheat, figs, and raisins, allulose is just like table sugar but has 90 percent fewer calories.

NEW SWEET IN TOWN Allulose, a low-calorie monosaccharide sugar used by some major commercial food and beverage manufacturers

Upcycle funk

It’s the 21st year of the 21st century, and everyone’s waking up to the world’s sustainability problems. And so, there is a heightened consciousness on reducing food waste among consumers. While this practice has been around for quite some time, whether turning fruit peels into edible candies or converting stale bread into bread pudding, the concept has taken a whole new level with consumers getting more and more proactive in avoiding food waste, and food manufacturers are also getting involved.

One upcycling practice is using spent grain of brewed alcoholic beverages and spent coffee grounds. Spent coffee grounds are also turned into coffee flour, used to add texture to chocolate confectionery like cacao nibs, made into energy bars, converted to mushroom growth enhancers, infused in scented candles, and utilized as an ingredient for beauty products. Another example of an upcycled ingredient is water from aquafaba converted into vegan mayonnaise.

Ready, set, eat!

Ready-to-eat (RTE) food used to be limited to sandwiches or handheld food in convenience stores. Now, it is all about restaurant meal kits and ready-to-cook food that carry local and global flavors. No-brainer meals like fully-marinated as well as heat-and-eat items will make its presence more apparent in line with restricted travel and the continued online classes and work from home situation. Attention to new RTE breakfast options will also come into play.

More restaurants will offer meal kits, which will allow us consumers to enjoy our go-to restaurants in the comfort of our own homes. These kits will also be a creative alternative to take-out, a means to ward off cooking fatigue. 

With travel restrictions, more consumers will turn to food to explore global and unconventional flavors and ingredients.

Taste as passports

With travel restrictions, more consumers will turn to food to explore global and unconventional flavors and ingredients. India’s spice blend garam masala and North African condiment and spices such as dukkah, za’atar, sumac, and baharat should gain more fame as home cooks try more exotic spices. Ethnic breakfast dishes such as the North African shakshukah and Turkish menemen as well as cuisines coming from the Asian Islands, regional Chinese, and South America will thrive this year. Other flavor highlights to look out for this year include Filipino barbeque, Japanese Izakaya eats, Indian Kashmiri, and modern Mediterranean.

BREAKFAST LOAVES LOOK GOOD From top Zaatar, Sumac, and Dukkah Manakish with sugarbeet milk bread

Indulgence. But make it functional

Instagrammable and indulgent food and drinks will not only look and taste good but will be created to benefit the consumers’ health and wellbeing. Ingredients to look out for include those with fiber, nutrients such as vitamin C and zinc, as well as antioxidants. Adaptogenic food and drinks that can counteract the effects of stress and promote relaxation will also be on the rise.