As an industry, knowing what consumers want in their food and beverage is of the utmost importance. And few groups in the U.S. are as primed to have their collective finger on the pulse of American diets than registered dietitians and nutritionists.
Last week, the results of the 10th annual Pollock Communications and Today's Dietitian "What's Trending in Nutrition" survey were revealed, providing “an in-depth look at the trends for 2022 and beyond, as well as a flashback to the past decade.” The survey was completed by nearly 2,000 Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs), making it the “most comprehensive collection of data from nutrition experts actively working in the field.”
Based on the results of that survey, trends from the past decade—as well as, and perhaps more importantly, trends to watch in the future—emerged, highlighting what consumers are purchasing and why. Here is a brief snapshot of the most interesting conclusions:
Changing diet culture
The data collected from the 1,700-plus RDNs surveyed showed how much diet culture has shifted over the previous decade. The RDNs noted that the decade began with a low- or no-fat fad, which eventually shifted to the rise in high-fat, low-carb ketogenic diets. In addition to this shifting paradigm, other fads emerged over the last 10 years with differing degrees of staying power. Some of the fads pointed out by the RDNs include plant-based eating and dairy-free diets; increases in veganism and vegetarianism; upticks in online shopping; and renewed interest in gut health and immunity.
2022 purchase drivers
As for what will motivate consumers in 2022 and beyond, the RDNs identified three major purchase drivers. According to the survey results, the most popular food and beverage products in the new year will be those that “1) support immunity, 2) are affordable and value-based and 3) promote comfort and emotional well-being.” In addition, the RDNs predict functional ingredients will continue to gain traction as add-ins to popular food and beverage products, with CBD/hemp and collagen specifically cited as trendy ingredients. From these drivers, it is clear that today's consumers value both their own health—mental and physical—and their bottom lines as many Americans struggle with increasing costs and stagnant wages.
Snacking and “superfoods”
The pandemic has certainly had an affect on the ways consumers interact with food and beverage. The collective RDNs agreed nearly universally that snacking has seen a major uptick during the pandemic, with 95% of the respondants citing an increase in snacking among their clientele. Working from home, added stress and a desire for comfort were some of the leading causes.
Because of this increase in snacking, the RDNs agree “superfoods” will continue to gain popularity in 2022 as consumers turn to healthier options for their at-home eating. Fermented food and beverage such as yogurt, kimchi and kombucha were cited as the top options for consumers, with recent favorites like avocado, nuts and seeds also remaining top choices.
The complete top-10 superfoods RDNs expect to resonate with consumers:
- Fermented foods
- Seeds (i.e., chia, hemp)
- Exotic fruit (i.e., acai, golden berries)
- Green tea
- Ancient grains
- Leafy greens
Good and bad influence
Finally, the RDNs noted the overabundance of input consumers have to sift through to determine what is best for them and their families. Social media “influencers” continue to promote various diets and products, but RDNs warn that “consumers receive the most nutrition misinformation from social media,” and to be wary. Top culprits of online misinformation include, in order, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, which is a new addition to the list. Advice from friends/family and celebrities should also be taken with a grain of salt, the RDNs noted.
As for whose advice consumers should take, “Our survey has accurately tracked health and wellness trends for a decade,” noted Mara Honicker, publisher of Today’s Dietitian. The surveyed RDNs suggest eating more vegetables and fiber and limiting highly processed foods, as well as added sugars.
"We are pleased to have been able to share these insights for the past ten years and especially during this chaotic time in our lives, when food is playing such a major role in providing health, wellness and emotional support,” said Monicker.