Watch: Eight food trends you'll want to try in 2022
We have eaten our way through the pandemic, with home cooking, home delivery services and takeaways all experiencing a huge surge across the past two years. Comfort eating, along with the sourdough and banana bread frenzy of Lockdown One, has kept us going. But as we emerge - we hope - in 2022, what will we be eating?
Food innovation consultant Jennifer Earle says, "Plant-based will continue across all categories and I expect we’ll see vegan versions of high-sales mainstream products (like vending-machine style chocolate bars) appearing on shelves.
"Both small and large businesses will collaborate with niche food brands and with people who have large social media followings, to leverage their cool factor and their audience to grow their own sales."
She also anticipates a boom in 'high-end' products - "premium spirits, dramatic sharing desserts and cakes, giant stuffed cookies with toasted white chocolate or other premium ingredients and superior cuts of meat and meal-kits.
"This will be due to people wanting to splash out because the last two years have made them feel like life's too short not to - and also because of Brexit and inflation causing such an increase in prices that the only way to stay in business will be to make a decent margin on an ultra-premium line to carry the rest of the products."
When it comes to the next big thing, she adds, "in terms of bakery and confectionery we’ll see more freeze-dried fruits, more 'exotic' fruits, more caramelised white chocolate and more miso."
Read more: What will be the top food trends of 2022?
As for general trends, plant based is only getting bigger. "A combination of consumer interest and potential future supply chain issues mean manufacturers and retailers are racing to make sure their product lines fully capture this market and hedge against the risk of not being able to get quality meat and dairy in the future," Earle explains.
"We’ll see more mainstream chocolate bars launch vegan versions as the switch to animal-free is not just about health (or even at all, for some people)."
Like fashion, Earle believes the food industry will also see "more collaborations as businesses try to leverage the audience of non-competing brands and influencers to grow their own customer base."
Fruit and veg have trends too, and as price rises bite, Brexit rules kick in and consumers look for sustainability, "we'll see a massive rising trend for home grown produce," Says Executive Chair of The National Fruit Show, Sarah Calcutt.
"This is coming from many angles – the rise in plant based diets, the rise in awareness of the environmental benefits of food grown closer to home in terms of not importing other nation’s poor ethical or environmental issues.
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"There is also an increasing difficulty in bringing in food which is driving innovation. Westlands from Evesham are the experts of micro herbs, oriental leaves, oriental flavours – they have glass houses for samphire, wasabi, Shizu, and they're really driving eating trends in fine dining."
Calcutt also predicts a boom in British fruit "such as KISSABEL® apples, being grown in the UK."
Our newfound wellbeing obsession will also be vital, thinks Calcutt. "Nutraceutical, or functional foods are a growing trend – I have seen a steep rise in investment in crops that we’ve not historically grown here - high vitamin C berries Aronia and Sea Buckthorn are being grown for juice blends and supplements."
Julia Kirby-Smith, director of sustainable retailers Fridge of Plenty, adds, "With the continued growth of the conscious consumer, people are definitely demanding more sustainability when it comes to food. Retailers will be thinking about how they can do better on food miles, packaging, organic production methods and food waste."
She agrees that plant based is here to stay. "This year we're expecting to see even greater demand for vegan cheeses and plant-based products like Zalmon and Vegan Wellingtons.
"We're also expecting foraged foods to be a big hit - last Spring, everyone went mad for wild garlic, this year we think it'll be all about wild fruits and adding edible plants to your salads."
For those not turning vegan, she adds, "we're seeing that meat-eaters have a strong interest in organic meat and low food miles. Regenerative farming will be the buzz-word this year."
The recent Waitrose/Wholefoods report into the food and drink industry also highlighted some novel trends for 2022, and with 41% of survey respondents agreeing that food is more important to them than it was pre-pandemic, it's no surprise a return to the classic dinner party is predicted.
A quarter of all respondents said they planned to host more dinner parties post-pandemic - and "shoppers have increasingly turned to more expensive and better quality ingredients when entertaining guests at home."
Online grocery shopping will continue to grow, but, the report also predicts that 'more frequent shops with smaller baskets' will slowly grow in popularity this year - 8% now shop locally daily, a rise of 4% on pre-pandemic grocery shopping.
When it comes to trends, social media will be driving our interest in new ingredients and recipes, with TikTok proving the home cook's friend.
Easy, viral recipes like feta baked pasta and pesto eggs drive searches for ingredients and will encourage us to try new flavours and ways of cooking - we're looking for maximum flavour with minimum effort when it comes to casual cooking, with three-quarters of all 18 to 24-year-olds looking to TikTok or Instagram for inspiration this past year.
Across age groups, almost a third of people said they regularly looked at social media for food inspiration.
Using up the food we buy and avoiding waste will also drive our foodie decisions.
The Waitrose report found a massive 75% are determined to waste less this year, in the wake of COP26 and renewed focus on sustainability.
The supermarket predicts a boom in the veggie '5:2' diet, where we eat vegetarian or vegan food five days of the week and restrict animal-based eating to two.
The Waitrose report also predicts the rise of potato milk- it's low in sugar and fat, and sustainable - climatarianism (eating to protect the planet) and the return of the 'family breakfast'.
When it comes to treats, image-sharing site Pinterest has predicted a trend for amazing cakes - rainbow, gravity-defying cakes, 'bubble' cakes, made with gelatine bubbles, and photo-realist 'work of art' icing will be huge with the younger generation.
And our ancestors will be influencing us this year, as Pinterest reported a dramatic rise in people looking for the food their families used to make.
Looks like we're still looking for comfort in 2022 - and frankly, who can blame us?