Exploring 2022 Trend Drivers

    In 2022, wellness is going to be driving the major trends in the industry. Everyone’s pursuit of wellness will be different, however, and these are some of the top trends to watch for in the coming year.


    Clean Food and Beverage Promote Transparency

    Many clean foods and beverages are simple to spot because the label announces it: No artificial ingredients! No preservatives! No added sugars! Some packaging even lists the simple ingredients up front to make it clear that you’re familiar with everything inside. This has led manufacturers to replace artificial sweeteners with fruits or use 100% real beef instead of processed meat substitute. It’s not just food and beverage where clean label is important. SPINS Product Intelligence Vital Clean attribute showed that Vitamins and Supplements were up over 11% and Pet products were up 6.5% from last year, showing that clean label is important everywhere.

    Bonus trend: Pets continue to be included in human trends; look for specialized diets and functional ingredients to continue to surge in Pet Food, Treats, and Supplements.

    Every Food Has a Function

    Treating food as medicine isn’t new, but its top-of-mind nature is—and that is going to accelerate in the coming year. With the blending of supplement ingredients into functional foods happening at a faster speed than ever before, look for functional foods to take on the variety of health focuses that are traditionally save for the supplement or drug aisles. Natural alternatives have always been popular, and with so many people introduced during the pandemic, expect this trend to accelerate. Some ingredients to look out for specifically:

    • Nootropics: +43.5% in the Grocery Department;
    • Super Mushrooms: +70% in the refrigerated department;
    • Adaptogens: +0.6% in the Grocery department.

    Today, shoppers are maintaining an active lifestyle for many reasons. Social distancing and lockdowns turned daily life sedentary for even the most active person. The desire for overall wellness has put performance nutrition on every shopper’s radar. Protein powder (+15%), Pre-workout supplements (+47%), and energy drinks aren’t just for athletes anymore. Shoppers want their diets to help them stay healthy and energetic when they hop on their spin bike or do yoga.

    Bonus trend: We are specifically watching the new wave of functional beverages. Look out for a wave of relaxation, stress relief, and sleep support drinks. Ingredients like magnesium, kava kava, and ashwagandha will boom in this department. Lesser used (in food and bev) GABA and L-Theanine are also ingredients to lookout for in this area in the coming year.

    Shoppers Want to Improve Life

    Using your shopping list to improve life might sound lofty, but that’s what mission-oriented brands are promising. For consumers, every dollar that goes towards a manufacturer who pays their workers a good wage, a farm that raises their animals humanely, or a brand that uses biodegradable packaging is better than a dollar that actively harms or even just neglects quality of life. Some brands promote their ties to their community by donating products to local organizations, sourcing from local suppliers, or employing nearby residents. Whatever approach they take, these brand leaders understand that shoppers want to know what happens to get that food on their table.

    Omnichannel is the Default

    Unsurprisingly, online shopping grew once the pandemic began and shoppers opted for mail order, click-and-collect, or touchless delivery. Retailers had no choice but to adapt by offering these options and upping their online game. However, the trend was already in motion before lockdown happened. The pandemic simply accelerated internet shopping’s adoption and established it as a permanent fixture. That’s why a shopper who can’t find vegan pizza or clean label detergent isn’t going to choose any nearby substitute. Instead, they’re going to see if the store offers a similar product, and if it doesn’t, they will open up their phone’s browser or another retailer’s app to locate the product they need. Shoppers want to be loyal to stores that meet their needs, but they will always be loyal to their needs first. You need to ensure that you offer a seamless transition between buying in store or online.

    The Protein Market Gets Even More Competitive

    One of the biggest themes over the past few years has been the rise of plant-based alternatives. Once an afterthought and only for vegans and vegetarians, plant-based alternatives have exploded onto the scene with products coming much closer to mimicking animal-based analogs. This includes taste, texture, and nutritional parity. Data from this year suggests that while plant based is still hot and expanding into more and more categories, it does seem to be slowing down in its growth explosion of the past few years. This is to be expected as the categories mature and become flooded with competition. Look for plant-based options to take it to the next level of the wellness journey by incorporating other key attributes to differentiate from the competition. Attributes that are important to consumers include: organic, non-GMO, no artificial ingredients, and allergen friendly. The brands that hit on these key themes will continue to thrive while plant-based brands that think being plant-based is enough will likely suffer. Meat and dairy have learned this, as natural attributes are driving growth in that segment as well.

    If the battle between animal-based and plant-based was complicated and strong, we’ll see what happens as other non-animal-based proteins enter the ring. This includes cell-based meats & fermented dairy proteins. Long the talk of the future, I think we will start to see actual entrants to the market late in the coming year. Major disruption to the protein market will ensue if the messaging is done properly.


    In our 2022 Success Toolkit, industry experts share their insights and expertise on top issues to know to set you up for greater success in 2022, from trend forecast to merchandising issues, regulatory updates, and more. Start where you’d like, or read straight through: