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Data Essentials 10 Food Trends to know in 2021 and 2021 flavors

Data Essential’s 10 Food Trends to Know in 2021

At the end of 2020 is when we start thinking about the trends and concepts that will impact the food industry in 2021. And after the year we have had, the idea of a fresh start can’t come soon enough.

We are still in the middle of COVID-19 and different variants. It may take a little can mean a lot more, be ready for consumers to head back to restaurants and other food service locations again. They will be looking for the unique and exciting trends.

When you think about your plans in 2021, there are 3 macro trends and 7 flavor and ingredient trends to consider.

Here are three macro factors specific to the food industry to consider:

The Future Chef –The role of the chef has always been evolving, from the fine dining chef’s leading the back-of-the house brigade to the celebrity chefs with their own shows during the Food Network era. Now, as technology breaks down walls, the chef’s role will continue to evolve and become more personal. Chef’s who used Zoom and Instagram to teach classes and answer questions during stay-at-home orders will continue to use technology to forge a connection with consumers.  As ghost kitchens and virtual brands expand, a chef may be called upon to develop entirely new concepts and lead multiple virtual “restaurants” operating out of one space.

Modern Comfort – The year 2021 is all about expanding your definition of comfort foods. For an upcoming generation of consumers, “comfort” can mean a lot more than mac and cheese and burgers --- it can mean global flavors, new brands they grew up eating, and healthy options that make them feel better. Some of the comfort foods that Gen Z loves include ramen, baby carrots, tacos and avocados, options you might not find on a traditional “comfort food” menu.

Plant-Based Evolves – After explosive growth before the pandemic, the plant-based and lab-grown meat industry spent 2020 gearing up for a big year in 2021. McDonald’s announced its McPlant burger will go on sale in 2021, marking another milestone for the mainstreaming of plant-based meat.


Every year we look at some of the early-stage flavors, ingredients and dishes that we think should be on your radar. These options are somewhat new to US menus and retail products. They have the potential to make it big.  Seven flavors and ingredients to know:

Fermented Honey: Tangy and sweet, fermented honey takes a customer’s favorite food in a new direction.

Chicory Root: Chicory root’s profile has been growing as consumers seek out caffeine-free alternatives. A number of innovative brands have introduced chicory options to their menu or product line, which bodes well for future growth. Watch for it to show up in more baked goods and desserts in the future.

Sudachi: This Japanese citrus fruit is like a next-level version of yuzu, showing up in drinks (particularly cocktails) or as an acidic finish to Asian-inspired meat and veggie dishes.

Future Produce: Speaking of produce trends, a number of brands are developing unique produce varieties to grab customer attention in the age of plant-based cuisine and Instagram. Think options like Driscoll’s rose’ strawberries and Del Monte’s Pink Glow pineapple.

Carob: As one time carob was touted as a healthier replacement for chocolate, but now chefs and consumers are giving it new attention as they seek out more health-driven, natural, plant-based alternatives. You will find everything from carob flour to carob molasses showing up in drinks, bars, baked goods, and beyond.

Honeysuckle: foragers have been using this wild plant/flower to make syrup for years, but now chefs and manufacturers are discovering it as a next-level take on floral flavors like elderflower and rose.

Guisada: Move over carnitas and carne guisada is growing on menus as a rich, comforting taco or bowl protein. Typically made with beef, now “guisada-style” proteins made with chicken, pork, and seafood are being menued by chefs.         

Food and Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Food and Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Coronavirus, like the one that causes COVID-19, are thought to spread mostly person-to-person through respiratory droplets when someone coughs, sneezes, or talks. It is possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object, including food or food packaging, that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. However, this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that handling food or consuming food is associated with COVID-19.

After shopping, handling food packages, or before preparing or eating food, it is important to always wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together gently until they feel dry. Remember, it is always important to follow good food safety practices to reduce the risk of illness from common foodborne pathogens.


The Risk of Getting COVID-19 from Food, Treated Drinking Water, or Food Packaging is Very Low.

The risk of getting COVID-19 from food you cook yourself or from handling and consuming food from restaurants and takeout or drive-thru meals is thought to be very low. Keep in mind, food safety must be practiced at all times. Currently, there is no evidence that food is associated with spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.

The risk of infection by the virus from food products, food packaging, or bags is thought to be very low. Currently, no cases of COVID-19 have been identified where infection was thought to have occurred by touching food, food packaging, or shopping bags.

Although some people who work in food production and processing facilities have gotten COVID-19, there is no evidence of the virus spreading to consumers through the food or packaging that workers in these facilities may have handled.


Food Safety in the Kitchen

Use proper food safety practices when handling food and before, during and after preparing or eating food.

The virus that causes COVID-19 cannot grow on food. Although bacteria can grow on food, a virus requires a living host like a person or animal to multiply.

Currently, there is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 spreads to people through food. However, it is important to safely handle and continue to cook foods to their recommended temperatures to prevent foodborne illness.

The virus that causes COVID-19 has not been found in drinking water.


Clean Surfaces

Regularly clean and disinfect kitchen counters using a commercially available disinfectant product or a do-it-yourself disinfecting solution with 5 tablespoons (1/3 cup) unscented liquid chlorine bleach to 1 gallon of water or 4 teaspoons of bleach per quart of water. Leave the solution on the surface for at least 1 minute. Before preparing food on the kitchen counter, rinse disinfected surface with water. WARNING: do not use this solution or other disinfecting products on food or packaging. If someone in your home is sick, clean and disinfect “high – touch” surfaces daily such as handles, kitchen countertops, faucets, light switches, and doorknobs.

Everyday Handling of Packaged Food and Fresh Produce


Handling packaged food

When unpacking groceries, refrigerate or freeze meat, poultry, eggs, seafood, and other perishables within 2 hours of purchasing.

Do NOT use disinfectants designed for hard surfaces, such as bleach and ammonia, on food packaged in cardboard or plastic wrap.

If reusable cloth bags become soiled, follow instructions for washing them, and dry them on the warmest appropriate setting.


Handling and cleaning fresh produce

Do NOT wash produce with soap, bleach, sanitizer, alcohol, disinfectant or any other chemical.

Gently rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under cold running tap water.

Scrub uncut firm produce (potatoes, cucumbers, melons) with a clean brush, even if you don’t plan to eat the peel.

Salt, pepper, vinegar, lemon juice, and lime juice have been shown to be effective at removing germs on produce.

Healthy bowls strike it big in What’s Hot 2020 chef survey

Healthy is hot


The bowl trend has been around for a few years, but it’s still hot, hot, hot. Chef’s ranked healthy bowls tops in the new menu items category. Healthy kids meals continue to be top-of-mind, also.       

Bowl meals are on the rise not because they fit important nutrition and culinary trends, but also because they meet other needs for both customers and operators. Healthy bowls are delicious, customized meals that combine all sorts of greens, lean proteins, legumes, squash, berries, seeds and other flavorful power foods.

Packaged in attractive containers with transparent lids that show off the vivid colors. These customizable meals are appropriate for either sharing or solo dining. Whether hot or chilled, they travel well and are ideal for take-out and delivery.

Top Restaurant Trends for 2020

Top Restaurant Trends for 2020

Plant –based everything, eco-friendly packaging, revamped classic cocktails, healthy bowls, zero waste and much more. Six hundred professional chefs in 12 food and beverage categories were surveyed to identify top trends.

The What’s Hot survey was conducted by the National Restaurant Association in November – December 2019.

Top 10 overall restaurant trends for 2020

  1. Eco-friendly packaging
  2. Scratch made
  3. Plant-based proteins
  4. Healthy bowls
  5. Creativity with catering
  6. Delivery-friendly menu items
  7. Revamped classic cocktails
  8. Stress relievers (ingredients that promote relaxation/relieve stress)
  9. Specialty burger blends (mushroom-beef burgers, etc.)
  10. Unique beef and pork cuts


Restaurants, grocers, and food manufacturers have teamed up with the federal government to find ways to cut billions of pounds of food waste at every step of the process – from the field through processing to groceries, restaurants and home fridges.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates we waste between 30% and 40% of the food supply each year. At the same time, USDA estimates 37 million people live in food-insecure households.
The National Restaurant Association and Food Waste Reduction Alliance—the Grocery Manufacturers Association and Food Marketing Institute, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the USDA, Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency pledging their support for the government’s “Winning on Reducing Waste Initiative.”
This private-public partnership aims to reach consumers with messages about food waste and improve information about how food waste and loss is measured.

Food waste is exactly what it sounds like, any food substance that is discarded. It can be raw or cooked, solid or liquid. It’s generated by the processing, handling, storage, sale, preparation, cooking and serving of foods; so it can happen anywhere along the supply chain, from the farm to the manufacturer to the retailer or restaurant, and in our homes or at work.
The opportunity and the need to reduce food waste has never been greater. Reducing food waste in the U.S. can deliver significant environmental, social and economic benefits. In addition to increasing food availability, this reduction can alleviate poverty and reduce pressure on ecosystems, climate and water. This is a critical element for closing the food gap between food available today and food needed for 2050 to adequately feed the planet’s projected 9.3 billion people.
Some of the food generated in the U.S. is not actually waste at all, it is safe to eat and nutritious. In these instances, the food can be donated to food banks and other anti-hunger organizations, keeping it out of landfills while helping those in need.
Reducing the volume of food waste in food manufacturing, retailing and foodservice operations means the overall costs of these operations. Efficient, cost-effective companies are best positioned to deliver affordable products to consumers, grow, create jobs and support their communities.

How Government Responds to Food Illness Outbreaks

What is a Food Illness Outbreak?

When two or more people get the same illness from the same contaminated food or drink, the event is called a foodborne outbreak. Public Health officials investigate outbreaks to control them, so more people do not get sick in the outbreak, and to learn how to prevent similar outbreaks from happening in the future.

How Does Food Get Contaminated?

It takes several steps to get food from the farm or fishery to the dining table. Contamination can occur at any step in this process—during production.

           Steps        Definition Examples of Contamination
Production Growing the plants we harvest or raising the animals we use for food If fields are sprayed with contaminated water, fruits and vegetables can be contaminated before harvest.
Processing Changing plants or animals into what we recognize and buy as food. If contaminated water or ice is used to wash, pack, or chill fruits or vegetables, the contamination can spread to those items.
Distribution Moving food from the farm or production plant to the consumer or a kitchen. If refrigerated food is left on a loading dock for long time in warm weather. It could reach temperatures that allow bacteria to grow.
Preparation Getting the food ready to eat. This may occur in the kitchen of a restaurant, home, or institution. If a cook uses a knife to cut raw chicken and then uses the same knife without washing it to slice tomatoes, the tomatoes can be contaminated by pathogens from the chicken.

Who Responds to Outbreaks?                         

Local agencies: Most foodborne outbreaks are local events. Public health officials in just one city or county health department investigate these outbreaks.

State agencies: The state health department investigates outbreaks that spread across several cities and counties.  This department often works with the state department of agriculture and with federal food safety agencies.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): For outbreaks that involve large numbers of people or severe or unusual illness, a state may ask for help from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC usually leads investigations of widespread outbreaks— those that may affect many states at once.

Federal Regulatory agencies: The CDC collaborates with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) throughout all phases of an outbreak investigation. In the case of an outbreak of foodborne illness, these federal agencies work to find out why it occurred, take steps to control it, and look for ways to prevent future outbreaks. They may trace foods to their origins, test foods, assess food safety measures in restaurants and food processing facilities, lead farm investigations, and announce food recalls.

Clean Eating …. Another Great Way to Stay Healthy

Clean eating is a deceptively simple concept. At it’s simplest, clean eating is about eating whole foods, or “real” foods----- those that are minimally processed, refined, and handled, making them as close to their natural form as possible.

Eating clean is a good was to refresh your eating habits. It is about eating more of the best and healthiest options in each of the food groups and eating less of the not-so-healthy ones. That means embracing whole foods like vegetables, fruits and whole grains, plus healthy proteins and fats. It also means cutting back on refined grains, added sugars, salt and unhealthy fats.

 10 Tips for Clean Eating

1. Limit Processed Foods
2. Bump Up Your Veggies
3. Cut Down on Saturated Fats
4. Reduce Alcohol Intake
5. Un-Sweeten Your Diet
6. Watch The Salt
7. Choose Whole Grains
8. Eat Less Meat
9. Up Your Fruit Intake
10. Nix Refined Grains

 eat right

Promote Your Restaurant

Promote Your Restaurant’s Dedication of Food Safety

To successfully execute food safety measures and develop a culture of food safety in your restaurant, your entire team must diligently participate. One mistake, such as using a contaminated utensil to handle ready-to-eat food, can lead to foodborne illness and tarnished business reputation.

According to the Center for disease Control, roughly one in six Americans gets sick from a foodborne illness annually. Just like you promote your latest and greatest menu items to your customers, take time to share how much your restaurant focuses on serving food safely.

Here are three tips to help communicate your food safety commitment to customers:

1. Teach employees the “how” and the “why.” When showing employees how to prepare food, clean and sanitize surfaces, and dispose of any waste, share all the reasons why following through every time is important. And that’s not just the back-of-house staff, it’s top-level management and front-of-house staff, also. Help keep each other accountable and informed, so if a customer or employee has a question, you’ll know how to respond.

2. Show and tell. Develop a front-of-house cleaning schedule, and stick to it. To help reduce the spread of pathogens on a daily basis, incorporate the cleaning of front-of-house high-touch items, which could include laminated menus, condiment bottles, and salt and pepper shakers, into your cleaning schedule. If a customer asks employees a food safety question in the front-of-house, team members should feel confident in their food safety knowledge. If they do not, the next step is reaching out to a team member who can answer these questions and requesting a training refresher.

3. Stay polished. If an employee’s clothing gets dirty, it should be replaced with a clean garment. Failing to do so can not only affect customer perception but also lead to cross-contamination. Dress for success! Nonverbal clues matter. When leaving a food prep area, remove aprons and single use gloves. Food handlers must also keep their fingernails trimmed and hair covered in a hat or hairnet.



##National Restaurant Association##