The Top 10 Food Trends for 2021, According to Whole Foods

updated Feb 24, 2021
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Each year, Whole Foods kicks off the food trend prediction cycle with their list of what they think customers will be buying in droves in the coming year. For 2020, they were right on the money with alternative flours, the rising interest in foods from West Africa, the blended burger trend, and non-alcoholic drink options. The previous year they nailed the trailblazing frozen treats and upgraded snacks. 

To assemble their list, the grocery chain surveys 50 people from around the stores, including their foragers, buyers on both a regional and global level, and culinary experts, compiling opinions and insight. Overall, this year, they see the obvious adaptation of consumer buying habits to the pandemic reality. The Chief Marketing Officer, Sonya Gafsi Oblisk, says they see a lot of renewed passion for cooking, more people eating breakfast at home, and an interest in health and wellness products. “Food trends are a sign of the times,” she says. “Our 2021 trends are no exception.”

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Wellness Through Food

As Gafsi Oblisk says, they see a lot of people looking for wellness benefits from their meals, so naturally healthful products like kraut, mushrooms, and broths are topping the lists. On top of that, foods that incorporate vitamin C and adaptogens are a growing category.

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Breakfast Is Back, Baby

While I personally have been long devoted to breakfast and consider it an equal to all other meals, it’s been shoved aside in favor of “just coffee,” because “I forget to eat until lunch.” Or it’s a tragic victim of the hurry to get to work, transformed into a granola bar in the car or a yogurt at the desk. But Whole Foods says interest in the morning meal is resurging and I, for one, welcome the lost souls back into my breakfast fandom. Pancakes are back on weekdays! You can make sous vide egg bites at home! It’s all very exciting.

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Coffee Goes Wild

As breakfast expands, so, too, does its beverage companion. Coffee’s coming out of the mug and into your whiskey, granola, protein bars, yogurt, and smoothies, says the Whole Foods report. Which makes sense, as we live in a time where deep, peaceful sleep without worrying about what is coming next is an unattainable dream. 

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Baby Food but Not Baby Flavors

Baby food makers have noticed the trend toward feeding small children the same foods as adults, so they’ve started creating squeeze pouches and jars that keep up with the big flavors for little people. Look for the usual sweet potatoes and apples supplemented with rhubarb, rosemary, turmeric, oregano, and chickpeas.

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Hot Takes on Old Classics

Basically, the basics aren’t so basic anymore. The phrasing on this trend of gussied-up pantry ingredients seems to be sort of a catch-all for cool things that they wanted to talk about but didn’t fit into another of their trends — examples they offer include applewood smoked salt, Meyer lemon honey vinegar, and linguine made from hearts of palm. 

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Upgrading the Oil

But oil isn’t included in the hot takes on old classics, because it gets its own trend: all kinds of oils are finding their way into the kitchen and various food products. Whole Foods suggests looking for pumpkin seed and walnut oils, as well as tortillas and salad dressings made with sunflower seed oil. 

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Gimme the (Hard) Tea

If 2020 was the year of the hard seltzer (and boy, was it ever), consider Whole Foods’s prediction that 2021 will be the year of the hard kombucha. Although the fermented tea naturally has some very low levels of alcohol, producers have gone ahead and added in even more. That means the always-interesting flavors that go well with kombucha — hibiscus, ginger, hops — now come with a little bit of buzz.

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Check Out the Chickpea

If you thought aquafaba was old news, think again: The egg white-like byproduct of chickpeas and the chickpea itself have made their way from vegan cocktails and hummus to the big time. Look for them in frozen desserts, snacks, cereal, tofu (actually a traditional preparation in parts of Southeast Asia), and tortillas. There’s even a chickpea pizza crust on shelves. 

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Plant Jerky

Two years ago, Whole Foods included all non-meat jerky on their trend list, but this year they get more specific: jerky made from fruits and vegetables. Shelf-stable jerkies made from dried produce and often spiked with big flavors like chili and salt have grown to the point that they get their own category — look for mushroom, jackfruit, mango, and banana jerkies.

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Scrappy Snacks

Reducing food waste has been a focus for people interested in improving our food system for many years, so it’s no surprise that packaged snacks have seen the trend and jumped on the bandwagon. Producers are taking byproducts and “ugly” produce that they claim might have otherwise hit the compost heap and turning them into chips, flours, and energy bars.

Are you excited about any of these upcoming trends? Let us know in the comments.