Native's reaction to Whole Food's 10 food trends of 2021

Updated: Jan 20

Earlier last week, Whole Food released “The Next Big Things: Top 10 Food Trends for 2021”. As a company working in the food space, with an interest in consumer trends and engagement, we couldn't help but give it a read. And as your humble blog writer with plenty of opinions, I have a couple of thoughts & takeaways from what I found in their thought piece.

(P.S. this a departure from the usual content write, so if you like this reaction-style piece let us know!)

Food as medicine is more than a trend

Given Native’s market position, we’ve lobbied “Food as Medicine” for years - and it’s finally become more than a trend. Within the top 10 trends were several that highlight the growing understanding that the best way to maintain a premium engine (your body) is to pump it with premium gas (healthy food). Top trends like “Well-being is served”, which focuses on how grocery aisles are evolving into supplement shops, selling superfoods that incorporate ingredients like vitamin C & adaptogens, or “Fruit and Veggie Jerky”, which explored how even the vegans are getting down with jerky mushrooms, bananas, and pineapples, even “The Mighty Chickpea”, the new heir-apparent to cauliflower. Point being, the food health revolution is no longer on the horizon, it’s smack dab in our faces - according to Whole Foods anyway.

My thoughts? I couldn’t agree more. Considering data showing 1 in 4 U.S. adults are on a nutrition plan with the goal of promoting health rather than weight loss, the idea of “premium engines needing premium gas” is becoming more commonplace by the day - a trend Native & I are happy to be a part of.

Variety is the spice of life (and kitchens apparently)

When you think about spices in a kitchen, you’d generally think of just that - cumin, cinnamon, thyme, etc. But Whole Foods trend list has a new spice popular with home chefs - variety. Pantry staples have become stale, and home chefs are looking to shake things up a bit. How are they doing so? Reimagining the classics in innovative ways: Switching to walnut & pumpkin seed oils, adding booze into dishes, “meaty” vegan dishes (somehow…), the list goes on.

My thoughts? I believe these trends were inevitable in the current time. You take more people at home than ever, add in closed or reduced hour restaurants, and the result would be a major increase in people eating at home - a result that over the last 7 months has led the “there’s food at home” cooks to find new ways to package old ingredients. While the economy opening back up, Americans going back to work, and restaurants increasing their hours & capacity may decrease the number of people eating at home, the creativity they put in making those meals will more than likely last beyond COVID.

The most important meal of the day

While I’m still talking about eating at home, I’d be remiss to not talk about the most important meal of the day: Breakfast. From pancakes to egg bites, breakfast items have been flying off the shelves like never before. And, as an homage to the former sections, good ole’ variety & health has found its way to breakfast as well, from meat-free sausage patties to breakfast pizzas. Clearly, 2021 will be an awesome year for the early-birds without commutes to work - and the companies that feed them.

My thoughts? I can’t help but agree here either. Not as much to say here as the rationale for this trend is the same as the last - more people at home makes an increase in eating meals at home a natural conclusion, and breakfast happens to be one of those meals.

Coffee & baby food reimagined

The reimagining of food & beverage offerings is a theme of this piece, but I felt these two deserved their own section. In the realm of everyone’s favorite pick-me-up, Whole Foods is reporting a major makeover in the way we get our coffee fix. No longer limited to a mug, they predict a major uptick in coffee-flavored bars and granola, smoothie boosters and booze, coffee yogurts, and even coffee-based (wait for it) cocktails. Brands like Jameson Cold & EVOLVED are leading the way in what looks like the coffee renaissance.

The same can be said for food aimed at the little ones. Portable, on-the-go squeezable pouches, and many more new ways to feed babies are in the works from brands like Once Upon a Farm & Happy Baby Organics.

My thoughts? Personally, I’m not much of a coffee drinker so I’m not the ideal consumer (I would not drink coffee in a boat, I would not drink coffee with a goat, or whatever Dr. Suess said). However, this seems like an interesting trend for everyone’s (besides me) favorite drink, so we’ll see how much staying power it has. As for the baby food, considering the amount of footage my parents have of me not wanting the airplane to land in my mouth, I think repackaging the way babies eat adds a variety to their eating experiences that fill their little hearts with glee and parent’s by extension - as well as the benefits it brings beyond cool packaging.

The decline of food waste

The Native Americans were famous for using every part of the bison they would kill, having more than 150 different uses for their parts - they even used their bladders to hold water. However, just like the settler that hunted them for sport, we have a horrible issue with food waste. But Whole Foods believes the advent of “Upcycled Foods” will cut this down, as they report a rise in products that use neglected and underutilized ingredients that were on pace to become food waste.

My thoughts? I love this, and so does Native! One of our biggest goals is to help farmers cut down on food waste & maximize the food supply, especially in regions full of food deserts. And with the upcycled food industry being valued at $46.7 billion and several startups making the process of creating these products scalable, I hope & believe this trend is here to stay!

Key takeaway

Most of these new trends are seemingly unrelated beyond being about food, so what’s the key takeaway here? For us, there seems to be one underlying similarity: an understanding of their consumers. Companies maximizing upcoming trends with new products and offers have mastered keeping a pulse on market trends, then taking that knowledge to roll out products consumers will love. Given our interest in helping brands engage & learn from their consumers, we’ve found brands doing this at scale are reaping the regards in droves - and the aforementioned companies have taken full advantage of this.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you think these trends are here to stay or a flash in the pan like activated charcoal or cake pops? Did you find this type of blog entry enjoyable & would like to see more reaction-type pieces in the future? Let us know below, we’d love to hear your perspectives!