What trends can the food and beverage industry expect in 2022?
Paul Baker, founder of St Pierre Groupe, comments on what 2022 might look like for the food and drink industry in general, and the bakery sector specifically.
Credit: St Pierre Groupe
I recall compiling my trends forecast last year and giving a wry smile at how any forecasts for 2020 had probably long-been proven wrong and that the idea of trying to predict 2021 seemed laughable.
This time round, and with new restrictions being announced, the impact and aftermath of the pandemic will be felt for a long time to come. A good portion of 2021 has also been spent in and out of lockdown with various pandemic restrictions – and so the habits that we saw emerge in 2020/2021 will be around for a good while yet. Ever the optimist though, these new habits create opportunity and that is particularly true for the food and drink industry.
This trend isn’t going anywhere in a hurry. Consumers are still looking for ways to treat themselves well at home. The move towards premiumisation hasn’t slowed and premium brands like our own – St Pierre – give consumers an opportunity to ‘trade up’ and elevate their everyday meals.
There are, however, more factors at play as we head out of 2021. Many have saved money with various lockdowns and will enjoy spending additional disposable income on great food. For those who have been harder hit by restrictions, job losses and the removal of furlough, having less to spend can make shoppers more discerning.
The reality is that people will continue looking for ways to improve the everyday meals at home, because they miss the luxuries of dining out or travelling. Whilst things are opening up again, there are still barriers to a ‘return to normal’ – especially following the new restrictions and as we head into winter. There’s a real mix of indulgence and impulse buys that will continue to benefit our industry.
Linked to the trend for premium products is the continued adoption of ‘socialising at home’. There are myriad reasons why the at-home socialisation trend will remain key. Beyond consumers having different comfort levels when it comes to ‘returning to normal’ there are new financial factors at play.
The housing market is set to record its strongest year since 2007 – that means millions of consumers are either saving money after a house move, have new homes in which to entertain guests or both! Staying home is the new going out. The past two years have taught consumers how to make the most of at-home events and next year will be about ‘levelling up’ – taking hosting to new levels.
The brands that win out of this will be those who inspire new, different ways to use their products; the brands that consumers are proud to have in their homes when their guests arrive or are happy to gift when they are guests themselves.
Return to homegrown flavours
Consumer palettes are more exploratory than ever before but next year, we’ll see consumers start to embrace homegrown flavours and produce, too. So long spent without travel has meant that consumers have become more aware of what we have on our doorsteps and started to embrace it. There are well-documented challenges in the supply chain and as we continue navigate Brexit, labour shortages and the pandemic, I suspect Britain will start to look inward for its flavour innovation.
Keep an eye out for classic British ingredients and flavour combinations. Think rhubarb, blackberries, redcurrants and greengages. In bakery, I think we’ll see more flaxseed in use – particularly since it can be used as a substitute for eggs. I suspect a growing ‘vegan’ audience amongst British consumers will continue to embrace alternatives.
Plant-based menus will continue to become more mainstream and I think consumers will look, in greater detail, at the authenticity or provenance of ingredients.
Whilst no doubt, there will be some who approach a healthy lifestyle with a renewed vigour as we move out of the pandemic – there will always be room for treats. Food is more than just a meal on your plate and great bakery is a joy to be shared. So, for all those who might avoid indulgent foods, there will be twice as many who embrace the little pick-me-ups that we all need from time to time. There’s a strong argument for ‘everything in moderation’. Bakers know it and retailers know it and that means there’ll always be room on shelves for indulgent, quality-made baked goods.
Our food and nutrition labelling regulations are set by the EU. As such, next year will see changes to UK regulations. We have already seen some of this coming through with changes in flour fortification in bakery, but I would put money on more, similar, regulations coming into play from 2022 onwards. I think hot topics will range from folic acid to changes to imperial vs metric measures.
I don’t think there’s likely to be any huge shift in regulatory procedure, but there’s still a lot of bureaucratic detail to be refined. The food and bakery industry needs time to adjust to new regulations and crystal-clear information ahead of looking to meet new stipulations.
There’s been a huge shift in HFSS and how suppliers can promote products that fall foul of fat, sugar and salt levels – we’ll continue to see the impact of that on supermarket shelves. I don’t think it’s a negative thing – quite the opposite – but even with greater information available about the impact of HFSS foods, there will still be an audience keen to buy their cheeky treats and indulgent goods.
I think the key is in making sure that information is accessible to consumers. The Better Health Campaign backs this up. Some cafes, restaurants and takeaways will, from April 2022, display calorie counts on their menus – as they do in the US. As an industry, we have a responsibility to present the facts to consumers and allow them to make informed decisions. If you know you have quality products that taste better than anything else available, then consumers will keep coming back.
About the author
Paul Baker is one of the founders of £87m international branded bakery business, St Pierre Groupe. Following generations of his family into baking, Paul began his career as a Master Baker, and joined St Pierre Groupe (formerly Carrs Foods International) in 2003. Paul helped to lead an MBO to take the business into private ownership and became a senior partner in 2004.