With 2020 almost behind us, there's much to look forward to with a fresh year just around the corner. And while Christmas is known for being the season of treats, there's plenty more you can expect from the food and drink industry in 2021. Here, Mike Hardman from catering supplies specialist Alliance Online shares five of the biggest food and drink trends set to drive the industry next year.

  1. Sustainability
    It's no surprise 2021 will be a year of greater sustainability. During 2020, many consumers became more aware of the benefits of buying ethically sourced, high-quality goods, with a shift towards shopping locally and supporting small businesses during the pandemic. So, if you're looking to raise the profile of your food business in the new year, consider auditing your current processes, suppliers, and produce, and think about how you can make these more sustainable.

You'll also do well to give consumers exact information on where their food came from — for example, if it was locally sourced. If you sell any animal products, you should also think about detailing on the packaging how these foods were reared, and whether they were free range.

Minimising waste is a key aspect of sustainability, so it'll be a good idea to provide consumers with advice on how to recycle both the packaging and leftover food. Not only will this clearly show your business values, but it can encourage your customers to try something new such as composting their leftovers. Showcasing your eco-credentials can help attract environmentally minded consumers to buy your products.

Sustainability is so important that some organisations are currently using innovative technologies to reduce their carbon footprint and waste. Such phenomena include 3D printing to ensure they are only using the necessary resources to create food and lowering transport costs as the food can be printed anywhere. However, this is a relatively new process, so while your own company may not be ready to make such an investment, seeing the results of others can help your future strategy plans.


  1. Vegan alternatives

    As we approach January, many of your existing and potential customers may be looking to start the year with a resolution for their health and fitness. Veganuary has been a great challenge that hundreds of thousands of people take part in each year, many of whom stick to this lifestyle or incorporate elements of it into their diets after the initial month is over.

So, if your food or drink business has previously glazed over the demand for vegan produce, it's time to start embracing these trends over the next year. This could be something as simple as offering dairy-free milks for your hot drinks, to undergoing training to learn about veganism and conducting research into the latest new vegan dairy and meat substitutes. You can then think about how these alternatives can be used to make new products you've never made before. And with over 600,000 vegans in 2019, it's important you ensure your vegan offerings are just as tasty and flavoursome as your main product lines are (Veganuary).

More often than not, vegans are faced with a poor selection of products to choose from, so it's important you create a great range of food and drink to suit vegans of all personal tastes, just as you would for your non-vegan customers.

  1. Health-conscious ranges
    Large supermarkets have been creating and releasing health-conscious ranges for some time now, but it's typically harder to find something healthy to eat or drink when you're out of the house. But with more people moving to healthier diets, especially at the beginning of the year, you'd be missing a trick if you didn't look into developing your own low-calorie ranges and products.

These shouldn't be plain and boring, but instead use fresh ingredients to create healthy meals that are tasty and nutritious. The portion sizes of these may be a little smaller, but as long as they're bursting with flavour and filling enough, you're sure to make product lines consumers will love.

  1. Middle-ground drinkers
    Many Brits love a tipple every now and again, especially during the festive season, but trends for 2021 are pointing us towards a new phenomenon known as the middle-ground drinkers. With a move away from heavy drinking or weekly drinking, this trend focuses on everything in moderation. These predictions are supported by KPMG's Beyond Beer insights report which revealed over the years 2018–2023, zero-alcohol cocktails are predicted to rise by 8.6%, with alcohol-free beer and wine increasing in popularity by 8.8% and 13.5% respectively.

And with search volumes of phrases including 'benefits to not drinking alcohol' increasing by 60%, it's clear many drinkers may even start to phase this out completely in search of a healthier lifestyle in 2021 (SEO Monitor). No matter what area of the drinks industry you work in, there is something to be learned here. For example, take a look at your mocktail drinks range compared to your alcoholic one and try to expand it so it'll meet the requirements of those who don't want to drink as much anymore, or have totally given it up.

Similarly, you might want to look at the volumes of pre-packaged drinks you already offer and consider whether you can produce smaller quantities. This could include single-serving cans or bottles instead of full-sized ones to ensure you're catering for these middle-ground drinkers.

  1. Personalised nutrition
    With advancements in medical diagnosis meaning more people are aware of their allergies, it'll be more important than ever to focus on possible dietary requirements people may need you to cater for in 2021. So, your whole team will need a solid understanding of the possible allergens people could have and whether you can adapt your offerings or adjust your production methods to satisfy these.

In addition to this, subscriptions to meal prep services are on the rise, meaning now is a great time to offer some healthy pre-prepared dishes that include macronutrient breakdowns, as well as ready-made tasty protein shakes and drinks. These are quick and easy for those who are always on the go and can ensure they stick to their fitness goals.

Need help with your strategy for 2021? No need to panic — there is plenty of support available for your company. Organisations like Visionary Food Solutions will work with you to audit your existing product lines, processes and values and develop commercial strategies that work towards the exploding trends. This can result in quicker business growth and increased profitability.

Written by Mike Hardman, Marketing Manager at Alliance Online.