Food and Dining Trends in 2021

The COVID 19 pandemic has reshaped our cooking and eating habits. The changes we have incorporated into our cooking and dining experiences in 2020 are expected to remain integral to what and how we eat in 2021 and beyond. We have rediscovered the joys of cooking and the importance of meals in our social lives. This does not mean we will stop dining at restaurants as they reopen, but that the healthy home dining experience with family and occasionally with friends has taken hold again. The foods will continue to focus on improving our mental, physical and environmental health with a strong dash of adventurous, hands-on home cooking. 

Comfort Food for Soothing Life's Complexities

“I believe we will see a return to meals that focus on comfort. These comfort foods will cross all continents as people search for a variety of options.” — Mary Attea, executive chef Musket Room in New York City. One-in-four young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 say they considered suicide in the spring of 2020 - brands with clearly stated objectives and values - to provide comfort, offer a solution to a problem, or to combat current issues will dominate to help sooth these anxieties.


Special occasion dining

2021 will see a continued emphasis of making the meal - and its preparation - a meaningful event. Throughout the early 2000's, the meal became more of a chore - a box to tick off during the day. The pandemic slowed some things down and allowed us to rediscover the meal as a social event, especially within the family, of great importance. And being able to dine with friends was so rare that  making that meal a special occasion re-emerged as a key element of living. Even the old fine china and other old wedding presents came out for the first time in years. This trend is expected to continue.


Expect next summer to be full of barbecues and in-person events—and 2021’s holiday season to be crowded with family gatherings.

“In response to all that has happened this year, I believe next year will bring two polarizing approaches to dining. One that embraces the need for simpler, comforting and soul-nourishing cuisine and the other that functions as an escape and embraces frivolousness—allowing patrons to be both fancy and indulgent.” — Gemma Kamin-Korn, chef of Bar Beau in Williamsburg, New York

“When we do dine in, it will be memorable. More exclusive types of dining experiences in the dining room”— JoJo Ruiz, executive chef at Serea Coastal Cuisine and Lionfish in San Diego

"Overall, in the New Year, I expect people will start seeing cultures more holistically through food (e.g., Vietnamese food beyond banh mi and pho). When it comes to exposing diners to the new traditions—what it means to be Burmese-American, Filipino-American, Ethiopian-American, or Vietnamese-American." — Kevin Tien, chef of Moon Rabbit in Washington, DC

(All Quotes From Food and Wine - By Regan Stephens December 14, 2020)

More Adventures in the Home Kitchen

We literally started playing with our food in 2020, and will see that to continue into 2021. We're saying goodbye in 2020 to sourdough starter and hello in 2021 to pickled and fermented everything, pesto, and comfort food

We literally ran out of mason jars lids as so many people were trying out canning. Expect people showing off their gardens in the spring as well as how they will turn their harvests into jars of pickled cucumbers, red onions, radishes, and more. In 2021, more people will be taking the time to make and cut delicious gnocchi from scratch, hanging their homemade bucatini all over their kitchen, and even laboring over a big pot of Sunday Gravy. Even if you resisted the urge to get in on trends like banana bread and Dalgona coffee, it's going to be hard not to Google pasta attachments for the food processor in 2021.

More Plant Based Foods

In the U.S., consumption of plant-based foods rose and all signs point to this trend continuing in 2021. 58% want to increase plant based foods in their diet while 31 % want to decrease intake of red meat. More people will be flirting with veganism, but others will just be eating things that taste good and happen to be vegan. Expect the usual suspects to be rolling out even more innovations, especially at fast-food restaurants, but some forecasters predict newer things like plant-based "fish" are also going to be big on the horizon. 

As planet-based and flexitarian diets become more popular and people seek out foods that are equally good for the environment and themselves, there is no doubt that consumers will turn to products made from the best, sustainable ingredients, like mushrooms.

Microgreens aren’t exactly new, but consumer appetite for them is at an all-time high. They’re not only colorful and cute, but also loaded with nutrients. A 2012 study found that microgreens have four to 40 times more nutrients than their mature counterparts.

Spices and Sauces

There is an interesting dual interest in 2021 for comfort food along with more complex ethnic flavors. On the one hand, there exists a desire for comfort and familiar flavors - cognitive depletion reduces consumer enjoyment of complex-flavored (but not simple-flavored) foods. This is a type of “flavor fatigue.”  The more mentally drained a person is, the harder it is for them to appreciate more complex tastes.

On the other hand, consumers are, with their increased time in the kitchen, experimenting with new sauces and spices. Literally. Instead of seasoning with plain salt and pepper or drizzling recipes with olive oil, expect to see snappy spices and flavor-boosted sauces. We have a spice guide that helps!

Environmentally Healthy Foods

Oneness with nature is being discussed a cure all: A way to improve one’s mental health, a place to work out our bodies, and also an avenue to address the climate crisis. Ultimately, the interest in nature is all about health — healthy lands, healthy minds, and healthy bodies. The pandemic drove a  desire to commune with nature which spilled over into our food.

90% of American adult consumers today look for functional benefits in their food, beverages, and, of course, supplements. For a long time to come, people will be asking: What can this food, drink, lotion, or supplement do for me? How can it help protect me? 

Upcycled products (foods that use neglected or underused parts of an ingredient to reduce food waste) and sustainable sourcing are rising priorities.

Social Media

Back in January a little more than a quarter of Millennials rated influencers and social media networks very influential on their eating habits. As social lives moved online, this number went up, hitting a high point of 41% in September and is currently sitting around 37%.

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