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Six Key Food Trends To Watch for in 2021


January 28, 2021
By Elaine O’Doherty

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Plant-based and high fibre are some of the keywords in baking we’ll see this year.. Photos: ardent mills

Nobody could have imagined how tumultuous 2020 turned out to be. But consumers and the food industry have proven resilient, adapted quickly and some interesting trends have emerged because of it. Here are six key trends we predict will show up strong in 2021.

Owning Your Health

Consumers have a desire for functional and immune-boosting foods, and this has increased due to the pandemic. They want to feel a sense of control, especially when it comes to health, and are using food to do so. We see this showing up in highly individualized and specific nutrition approaches that will achieve consumers’ personal definitions of optimum health. 

Expect to see this trend continue in 2021 in areas such as specialty diets, like keto and paleo; avoidance diets, such as clean label, gluten-free and allergens; and benefit diets, like high protein and fibre. Fibre will be an interesting trend to watch as 44 percent of consumers say they have increased their consumption of it, according to Innova. However, according to the Government of Canada, Canadians are only getting half the recommended amount. 

Another interesting trend we’ve seen is in organic ingredients. Demand has remained strong and even picked up slightly due to the health and economic crisis COVID-19 has caused. This is driving many consumers to look more closely at the healthfulness of their overall diet. Since consumers perceive organic as a shortcut to cleaner label, we expect this category to continue to grow throughout 2021. 

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The “Whole”some Story

Consumers are thinking critically about what they put in their bodies and that includes ascribing a much deeper meaning and connection to the food they eat – the who, what, where and stories of the why behind the foods they are purchasing. In fact, 65 percent of global consumers want to know the story behind the food and drinks that they buy, and 57 percent of global consumers say that stories around a brand influence their purchase decision, according to Innova. 

As a result, there will be a rising demand for safety and transparency. Expect to see this trend play out in terms of a more granular food sourcing movement, growth of craft food, and close attention to detail in food safety – especially surrounding how food is packaged and delivered as ecommerce has become much more prevalent.

Ardent Mills does this through many avenues. For ancient grains specifically, Ardent Mills works with family farms to diversify and add value to their crop rotations. This provides us a great opportunity to connect the dots between our famers, our customers and the finished product.    

Eating for Good

Personal and planetary health is evolving. Consumers want to eat well and also do good – they are seeking products that not only nourish their body, but actively contribute toward a better food system.

The perfect crossover is food that pushes toward better well-being and “well-doing” – whether that’s plant-forward, climate friendly menus, regenerative agriculture and corporate philanthropy, social causes for foods and more. Eight-seven per cent of global consumers expect companies to invest in sustainability, according to Innova, so it’s not something that can be overlooked. 

Ardent Mills aligned our sustainability practices with the Sustainable Development Goals put together by the United Nations – identifying three key goals where we believe we can make the greatest impact. These goals include zero hunger, responsible consumption and production, and climate action which can be found in our most recent CSR report. 

Modern Traditions

In times of uncertainty, we turn to the things we know, love and that bring us comfort. In 2021, we’ll continue to see consumers gravitate towards nostalgic foods, however, they’ll start to put a modern twist on these timeless dishes for safe exploration. Expect to see new ingredients and techniques make their way into time tested heritage traditions that will satisfy today’s taste and preferences. 

Baking is one way to satisfy this trend. As consumers are looking for more ways to boost their bake, “super” flours like quinoa can help deliver additional protein and fibre that can elevate consumers’ classic traditions and marry multiple trends. Blending traditional and ancient grain flours is another way to accomplish this.

Convenience without Compromise
We’re not on the go as much this year due to stay at home orders, but that doesn’t mean convenience isn’t important. Convenience will remain a key trend for 2021 but will show up in different ways. Expect to see a new, in-home definition of convenience in the form of unique prepared foods, premium frozen and microwave meals and upscale mail order food.

A great example of this is meal kits. We have seen tremendous growth in meal delivery services and foodservice pivoting to provide premium ingredients that consumers can take home and make a restaurant quality meal. Retail and instore bakeries can lean into this trend by assembling kits that consumers can take home to make bread, cookies, cakes and more by providing all the ingredients necessary along with the step- by-step prep and bake directions.

The Pure Joy of Food

Times of turbulence brings the need for increased joy – and that means every now and then throwing out the “food philosophy” book and indulging in the pure delight of food with decadent, soul-satisfying and inspired culinary creations. In 2021, we predict consumers will continue to indulge in comfort foods and eating for the pure joy of it. 

A few interesting applications we’ve seen are around pizza and pasta. Pizza has certainly been a bright spot for foodservice during the pandemic as it meets family and individual needs for customization across toppings, crust and style preference. Ardent Mills has numerous flours and mixes suitable for any variety of pizza crust – from Chicago deep dish to Neapolitan style and everything in-between.

2020 and 2021 may look a little different than what we expected, but these six key trends are here to stay throughout the rest of the pandemic and beyond.    


Elaine O’Doherty is the marketing manager for Ardent Mills. 


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