NEW YORK – From climate change to cultural inclusion, environmental and social issues are shaping the way people eat and drink, according to WGSN. West African side dishes and Vietnamese coffee are among the foods and drinks that trend forecasting company owned by Ascential sees take off in 2022.
A recent wave of social unrest in the United States has highlighted the need for more diversity and respect in the food system, said Kara Nielsen, director of food and beverage at WGSN. Food and beverage makers are delving into their cultural roots, helping consumers decolonize their plates while highlighting the benefits of previously overlooked ingredients.
âThis decolonization is really about unpacking what we thought was the kitchen and where it came from,â Ms. Nielsen said. âIt’s about digging, trying to understand the roots of our food and giving credit where credit is due. “
She cited jollof rice as an example. Simmered in reduced tomatoes, onions, peppers and different seasonings, the traditional West African dish is also named after Spanish rice and Creole rice. Black entrepreneurs and chefs are repositioning the dish in the traditional way, paving the way for Jollof rice to travel around the world in new packaged goods, including frozen meals and seasoning kits.
The flavorful dish is part of a range of West African inspired frozen products offered by Ayo Foods. Products like Jollof Rice Pilaf Seasoning and African Pepper Soup Seasoning from startup Iya Foods can be used to create both traditional African dishes and typical American dishes.
âWe are starting to see West African entrepreneurs pushing Jollof rice along with other spice blend dishes,â Ms. Nielsen said. âThey say, ‘It’s a delicious tradition that’s been co-opted to the point where we’ve lost its roots. We are proud of that and we want our contributions to be credited. ‘ “
Koji in the spotlight
Food and beverage manufacturers are promoting the ecological benefits of plants and ingredients native to Asia. Koji, Japan’s ânational mushroomâ, is expected to be in the spotlight in 2022, according to WGSN.
Koji is cooked rice or soybeans that have been inoculated with a fermentation culture. When left on grains, the fungus produces enzymes that break down proteins into amino acids, turn starches into sugars, and turn fats into aromatic compounds.
âKoji is one of the hidden ingredients that is part of the food supply, but no one was really talking about it,â Ms. Nielsen said. “It’s behind the miso and the sake and the soy sauce and it’s basically that little workhorse.”
The versatile ingredient has been loved by chefs around the world for years, but it’s only just starting to play a prominent role in trending products, appearing in plant-based meat alternatives from sustainability-focused startups like First roots and Kuleana.
Vietnamese coffee is set to make an appearance as the world moves towards a post-Arabica future, according to WGSN. The Arabica bean dominates the specialty coffee market but faces a growing threat from climate change. The IDB Group predicts that rising global temperatures will reduce the area suitable for growing coffee in Latin America by up to 50% over the next 30 years.
Vietnam is the world’s largest producer of Robusta coffee, a highly productive species resistant to disease and well adapted to warmer temperatures.
âVietnam has cultivated coffee for a long time, but it is becoming an increasingly important player,â Ms. Nielsen said. âWe’re seeing it in the rise of companies that aren’t afraid to call Robusta, which was previously thought of as an inexpensive, filler bulk bean. “
Nguyen Coffee Supply promotes a range of âhidden benefitsâ associated with Vietnamese Robusta, including its high caffeine content, low sugar content, and low acidity. The startup also aims to bring diversity and inclusion to coffee culture. As the first specialty Vietnamese coffee company in the United States, it works through direct trading relationships, creating opportunities for Vietnamese coffee growers and robusta farmers around the world.
âThe United States is in this cultural moment where a lot of Asian American entrepreneurs stand up and say, ‘We’re counting, we’re bringing some really interesting things here. Our culture has value and we want to share it with you, âsaid Ms. Nielsen.
Kelp, climate hero
Kelp is the primary ingredient associated with regenerative agriculture, according to WGSN’s Food and Drink Social Media Influencer Map. The fast growing algae permanently removes carbon dioxide from the environment. A good source of protein, calcium, and other nutrients, kelp has gained traction in snack products like seaweed puff snacks from 12 tides.
WGSN expects kelp to appear in a wider range of products in the coming year. Examples include a tomato-based pasta sauce formulated with seaweed from Ocean’s Balance and kelp seasoning made from popcorn from Barnacle Foods.
âAll of these different applications really show the range of kelp,â Ms. Nielsen said. âIt doesn’t have to be just a kelp snack. This is to integrate it as a new protein ingredient.
Functional prebiotics are emerging in new generation sodas, loaded with natural flavors, clean labels, and a healthy dose of carbohydrates to feed the good bacteria in the gut. With brands like olipop and Poppi Gaining many followers among millennials, WGSN expects gut-safe soft drinks to become more popular in the coming year.
âI see these brands very millennial focused for people who are already buying things like kombucha or other functional drinks,â Ms. Nielsen said. âThink about the amount of hard seltzer water, flavored seltzer water, and sparkling water consumed. “
Functional sodas portend an increase in prebiotic ingredients added to all kinds of foods, she added. TROO, based in the United Kingdom, offers a syrup made from chicory root, a prebiotic fiber. The gut-safe alternative to honey can be used as a spread, for baking, or to sweeten coffee and tea.
âWe are also seeing prebiotics in grains,â Ms. Nielsen said. “There is also a lot of traditional bread with more prebiotics.”