By Lori Karpman
It will be a banner year in the restaurant industry with many new food and beverage offerings. Here’s a roundup of the top 10 food and drink trends for 2022.
The plant ecosystem
Over the past few years, many people have switched from meat and dairy to plant-based foods. These flavors are now replaced by those of non-meat or dairy products, such as soy, peas, cashews and almonds, tempeh, mushrooms (which are especially popular for 2022) and beans. This does not mean that traditional proteins will soon disappear, but there will be an increase in plant-based food concepts.
It’s no surprise that cannabis is one of the fastest growing categories for products of all kinds. CBD is the non-psychoactive compound in cannabis, so it won’t get you high, but some claim it can relieve pain, anxiety, and lack of sleep. CBD drinks have become very popular and come in the form of waters, teas and wines. Snacks of all kinds abound, from lavender almond candy bars to lemon poppyseed cookies and CBD-infused whipped honey – the list keeps growing exponentially. CBD is also making its way into sparkling water, beer, coffee, cocktails, and even candy to help people.
Potato chips have always been considered an unhealthy snack option, but nowadays new “better for you” options are popping up. Using ingredients like chickpeas, beets, quinoa and kale, these snacks are supposed to be healthier even if you eat the whole bag. They may not be the most aesthetically appealing, but they do satisfy snack cravings.
While ingredients like adaptogens (herbs and mushrooms), probiotics, and nootropics (substances believed to increase brain power) aren’t necessarily new, the way they’re incorporated into foods and drinks is.
Functional foods are moving from pill or powder form and are now incorporated into teas, coffees, sparkling water, energy bars and chocolate. Other ingredients such as prebiotics, often found in yogurts, are now making their way into on-the-go beverages and foods, such as nutrition bars and yogurt drinks.
Non-dairy milks made from oats, almonds and soy have become commonplace in grocery stores and coffee shops, but a new competitor is entering the market: potato milk. Potato milk might also be the most environmentally friendly dairy option, as it takes 56 times less water to grow potatoes than to produce almonds.
Unique flavors and health in beverages
Consumers who are concerned about sugar but still want to satisfy their carbonated craving are turning to flavored sparkling water, and the choices are growing exponentially. All major beverage brands are getting into this trend. Consumers are open to exploring more unique fruit flavor varieties, including bergamot orange, yuzu, makrut lime, pomelo, meyer lemon, and blood orange.
In recent years, drinks and supplements containing collagen, a protein that structures our skin and our organs, have multiplied rapidly.
As you have seen in the news, climate change, the disappearance of tropical forests and plastics in the ocean are dominant topics. Consumers are now demanding sustainability, especially in packaging. This can be something as simple as replacing styrofoam and plastic with paper, bamboo or cotton, or buying ingredients from sustainable sources. From biodegradable straws to simple cardboard boxes, most restaurants are moving towards some sort of green packaging. Healthy foods and reusable or recyclable restaurant supplies are expected to be on the rise in 2022 for food establishments.
More investment in emerging labor-saving technologies
As restaurants brace for continued labor struggles, more operators will invest in technology, making them less dependent on employees, minimizing costs and maximizing efficiency. A robot does not call in sick, usually works weekends, and requires no training or discipline. A significant number of operators, owners or managers believe that adopting technology has been key to businesses surviving amid the pandemic. Restaurants have already automated ordering and picking up food, and soon restaurant tasks such as washing dishes and simple background tasks such as inventory control and restocking will be automated.
In the United States, robots are being tested to make coffees, using a combination of liquids, powders and ice that can be programmed into some form of automation. The same goes for making smoothies and other such foods.
Consumers can also expect to see more voice-based artificial intelligence in the drive-thru, especially since this channel has performed so well throughout the pandemic and continues to see heavy traffic. Currently, these drive-thrus are staffed with employees, but in the not-too-distant future, we’ll probably be talking instead about robots that can do the ordering better. Drive-thru robots can improve the experience by moving the line faster and can increase sales by offering additional items based on what the consumer has ordered, such as “do you want fries with that?” A bot can be programmed to do this automatically and consistently, when staff are often busy and forget to sell.
Dining out is more than eating. From the reservation to the exit of the restaurant, the consumer lives a series of mini-experiences impacting his return or not. As more and more people move away from collecting objects to gain experiences, restaurants must look for ways to provide a memorable journey from check-in to check-out. Serving good food just isn’t enough anymore. The dining experience should offer rewards, adventure, fun, surprises and entertainment in order to connect with the emotional needs of customers.
Thanks to the ever faster pace of life, the market for meal delivery services is booming. Meal delivery, in the form of a single order or a box of ingredients, is expected to increase significantly in 2022, as are convenient on-the-go food options. Additionally, some brands even have in-store portals where customers can pick up their food after placing and paying for an order online, significantly reducing labor costs. Expect to see this trend grow as time-pressed consumers demand healthy, ready-to-eat products.
As mentioned at the beginning, 2022 will be very interesting in the restaurant industry, as food and beverage manufacturers and sellers are constantly creating new and different options for consumers to discover and enjoy.
Lori Karpman is the founder of Lori Karpman & Company (LKC), a franchise consulting firm based in Montreal. For more information, visit lorikarpman.com.