Environmental Issues Among Factors Shaping Trends, Says WGSN | 2021-12-06

NEW YORK — From climate change to cultural inclusiveness, environmental and social issues are shaping the way people eat and drink, according to WGSN. West African side dishes and Vietnamese coffee are among the foods and beverages the Ascential-owned trend forecasting firm sees taking off in 2022.

A recent wave of social unrest in the United States has highlighted the need for more diversity and respect in the food system, said Kara Nielsen, director of food and beverage at WGSN. Food and beverage makers are leaning into their cultural roots, helping consumers decolonize their plates while highlighting the benefits of previously overlooked ingredients.

“This decolonization is really about unpacking what we thought cooking was and where it came from,” Ms Nielsen said. “It’s about digging in, trying to understand the roots of our food and giving credit where credit is due.”

She cited jollof rice as an example. Simmered in reduced tomatoes, onions, peppers and different seasonings, the traditional West African dish is also known as Spanish rice and Creole rice. Black entrepreneurs and chefs are repositioning the dish in a traditional way, setting the stage for jollof rice to go around the world in new packaged products, including frozen entrees and seasoning kits.

The flavor-packed dish is part of a range of West African-inspired frozen products offered by Ayo Foods. Products like Jollof Rice Pilaf Seasoning and Pepper Soup African Seasoning from start-up Iya Foods can be used to create both traditional African dishes and typical American dishes.

“We’re starting to see West African entrepreneurs pushing Jollof Rice with other spice mix dishes,” Ms Nielsen said. “They say, ‘It’s a delicious tradition that’s been co-opted to the point where we’ve lost its roots. We are proud of this and want our contributions to be recognised.’ »

Koji in the spotlight

Food and beverage manufacturers showcase the green benefits of plants and ingredients native to Asia. Koji, Japan’s “national mushroom,” is set to be in the spotlight in 2022, according to WGSN.

Koji is cooked rice or soybeans inoculated with a fermentation culture. When left on grains, the fungus produces enzymes that break down proteins into amino acids, turn starches into sugars, and turn fats into aromatic compounds.

“Koji is one of the hidden ingredients that is part of the food supply, but nobody was really talking about it,” Ms Nielsen said. “It’s behind miso, sake and soy sauce and it’s basically this little workhorse.”

This versatile ingredient has been loved by chefs around the world for years, but is only just beginning to play a prominent role in trending products, appearing in plant-based meat alternatives from sustainability-focused startups like Primordial Roots and Kuleana.

Post-Arabica coffee

Vietnamese coffee is about to hit the ground running as the world moves towards a post-Arabica future, according to WGSN. The arabica bean dominates the specialty coffee market but faces a growing threat from climate change. The IDB Group predicts that rising global temperatures will reduce the area suitable for coffee cultivation in Latin America by up to 50% over the next 30 years.

Vietnam is the world’s largest producer of Robusta coffee, a species that is highly productive, disease resistant and well adapted to warmer temperatures.

“Vietnam has been growing coffee for a long time, but it is becoming a bigger and bigger player,” Ms Nielsen said. “We see it in the rise of companies that aren’t afraid to call out Robusta, which was once seen as a cheap, filler, bulk bean.”

Nguyen Coffee Supply promotes a range of “hidden benefits” associated with Vietnamese robusta, including its high caffeine content, low sugar content and low acidity. The startup also aims to bring diversity and inclusion to coffee culture. As the first Vietnamese coffee company in the United States, it works through direct business relationships, creating opportunities for Vietnamese coffee farmers and Robusta producers around the world.

“The United States is in this cultural moment where a lot of Asian American entrepreneurs are standing up and saying, ‘We matter, we’re bringing some really cool stuff here. Our culture has value and we want to share it with you,” Ms. Nielsen said.

climate hero kelp

Kelp is the top ingredient associated with regenerative agriculture, according to WGSN’s food and drink social media influencer map. Fast-growing algae continuously remove carbon dioxide from the environment. A good source of protein, calcium and other nutrients, kelp has gained momentum in snack foods like puffed seaweed snacks from 12 tides.

WGSN expects kelp to appear in a wider range of products in the coming year. Examples include a tomato-based pasta sauce formulated with seaweed from Ocean’s Balance and a popcorn kelp seasoning from Barnacle Foods.

“All of these different applications really show the range of kelp,” Ms. Nielsen said. “It doesn’t have to be just a kelp snack. It is a question of integrating it as a new protein ingredient.

Glowing Prebiotics

Functional prebiotics are making their way into next-gen sodas, brimming with natural flavors, clean labels, and a healthy dose of carbs to feed the good bacteria in the gut. With brands like olipop and poppi Gaining popularity among millennials, WGSN expects gut-friendly fizzy drinks to become more popular in the coming year.

“I see these brands being very millennial-focused for people who already buy things like kombucha or other functional drinks,” Ms. Nielsen said. “Think about the amount of hard seltzer water, flavored seltzer water, and sparkling water consumed.”

Functional sodas portend an increase in prebiotic ingredients being added to all kinds of foods, she added. UK-based TROO offers a syrup made from chicory root, a prebiotic fibre. The gut-friendly alternative to honey can be used as a spread, for baking, or to sweeten coffee and tea.

“We’re also seeing prebiotics being called into cereals,” Ms. Nielsen said. “There’s also a lot of traditional bread with more prebiotics.”