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food for thought

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many consumers will continue to focus on healthy eating and personal wellness this year.

Functional foods and supplements that support immune health, stress resilience and mental well-being will continue to trend in 2022, and perhaps more so than last year.

Environmental sustainability will play a more dominant role in this year’s food trends, especially as it relates to the immediate concerns of climate change.

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Here’s a quick look at some food trends likely to emerge in 2022.

Plant-based diets

The demand for plant-based foods has soared in recent years – and it’s a trend that isn’t going away.

Driving the demand are flexitarians, who, according to research from Dalhousie University, now make up the second-largest dietary group in Canada. (Flexitarians eat mostly a plant-based diet but occasionally consume animal products.)

The U.S.-based International Food Information Council’s latest research, published in November, found that two-thirds (65 per cent) of Americans ate plant-based meat alternatives in 2021, with 20 per cent eating them at least weekly and 22 per cent consuming them daily.

The number one reason for choosing plant-based options was healthfulness, but other motives included it being a source of high-quality protein, consumers enjoying the taste and environmental/sustainability factors.

Canada’s Nourish Food Marketing 2022 Trend Report predicts the plant-based trend will “go back to simple” as consumers demand plant-based options that are better from both nutritional (higher in protein, whole-foods-based) and environmental standpoints.

Expect to see more plant-based alternatives, especially snacks, desserts and baked goods, that deliver on these benefits. Sustainable sea plants, such as seaweed, dulce and kelp, are also anticipated to show up in a growing number of foods this year.

From food waste to healthy eats

With climate change firmly on the radar, reducing food waste is one area in which food companies will continue to address sustainability in 2022.

It’s estimated that 58 per cent of food produced in Canada is wasted or lost, which comes with environmental impacts. Food that ends up in landfill produces methane gas, a more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Much food waste is “unavoidable” waste – it comes from byproducts of food processing, such as grains from brewing beer and fruit peel and pulp from juicing. This wasted food is mostly used for animal feed, but some ends up in landfill.

Enter upcycled foods, which incorporate nutritious byproducts that would have otherwise gone to waste.

Montreal-based Still Good Foods, for example, upcycles spent grains from brewers, as well as fruit and vegetable pulp, into cookies, squares and flour. Remix’s Bean Bark snacks, made with upcycled fruit, are available online and at select stores across Canada.

Bruized, a Toronto-based company, offers Pulp Crunch, a granola-like snack made from rescued juice pulp and imperfect fruit.

This year should provide more opportunity to support businesses that used upcycled ingredients in the products they sell.

A brainy approach to aging

Expect to see more foods and beverages targeted at healthy aging this year.

According to Nourish Food Marketing, boomers and the elderly will be willing to pay more for products that help them preserve muscle strength, immune health, restorative sleep and vitality.

As adults look for ways to stay cognitively fit as they age, supplements promising to support brain health is predicted to expand this year, too.

A recent addition to the cognitive health supplement offering, for example, is Memore. The whole foods-based powder contains many brain-friendly foods such as blueberries, spinach, chickpeas and fish.

As these new “brain brands” enter the market, continue to emphasize lifestyle choices, such as healthy eating and exercise, which have been shown to help protect brain health.

Drink up, sober-style

Driven by sober-curious consumers rethinking their relationship with alcohol, the interest in low- and non-alcoholic beverages is on the rise. While younger generations are driving the push for such products, older adults wanting to live a healthier lifestyle by drinking less are also finding them attractive.

Besides low alcohol content, other features that appeal may include fewer calories, less sugar and sustainable packaging.

Whether you abstain from alcohol or you imbibe moderately, expect to find an increasing selection of alcohol-free wines, beers and spirts this year.

Leslie Beck, a Toronto-based private-practice dietitian, is director of food and nutrition at Medcan. Follow her on Twitter @LeslieBeckRD.

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