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Influenced by feelings of stress and anxiety, shifting priorities caused by the ongoing pandemic, and changes in social connectivity, consumers are taking a more holistic and proactive approach to health and wellness. This according to a new report from ADM.

Based on a compilation of seven research reports by ADM and findings from its proprietary OutsideVoice consumer insights platform, the report highlights how consumers’ food preferences have shifted and what to expect in the coming year.

“We see a heightened demand for food and beverages that support immune systems, enhance our mood and reduce our environmental impact. Emerging human tensions partly drives this demand,” said Vince Macciocchi of ADM. “This has provided a unique opportunity for brands to develop disruptive new products that will forever change the way we eat and drink. It’s going to be a year of innovation marked by significant breakthroughs in nutrition.”​

1. Proactive approach to nourishing the body and mind

ADM research found that 31% of consumers purchase more items tailored to their health. Moreover, 50% report a preference for food and beverages that naturally contain beneficial ingredients. This growing food trend will create new opportunities for nutrient-dense products with functional health benefits aimed at supporting the immune system, enhancing mood, and sustaining energy.

“Sensory factors like flavour and colour also play an increasingly crucial role. Consumers gravitate towards food and beverages with bright and exciting colours that indicate citrus flavours, with their naturally occurring vitamin C, as well as products with familiar, nostalgic flavours during these stressful times,”​ said ADM.

2. Sustainability takes centre stage

More than 65% of consumers want to have a positive impact on the environment through their everyday actions. This is a key reason why 32% of consumers choose to buy sustainably sourced products, according to consumer research from The Hartman Group.

“The growing awareness of our impact on the environment has elicited increasing demand for companies to demonstrate their sustainability commitment beyond the end product to responsible sourcing and operating standards,”​ noted ADM.

“New farming practices, such as regenerative agriculture, are being used to enrich soil. Consequently, carbon drawdown and improvements in the water cycle are achieved. Renewable plant-based materials such as corn starch and seaweed are appearing in consumer packaging.”​

3. Gut microbiome emerges as gateway to wellness

According to Euromonitor,approximately 25% of global consumers suffer from digestive health issues. Of those, 50% claim that it has a moderate or severe impact on their overall health.

“The pandemic has accelerated consumer interest in a more holistic approach to health, which includes a greater understanding of the gut microbiome’s foundational role,”​ said ADM.

“Products targeting the microbiome have been shown to help address specific metabolic conditions. Furthermore, issues such as weight management, immune system support and better emotional well-being are also addressed. This provides fertile ground for food and beverage innovation with functional solutions like prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics that support microbiome function.”​

4. Plant-based food expands beyond the bun

Globally, 56% of consumers are trying to eat more plant-based food and beverages, pushing alternative proteins into an increasingly mainstream phenomenon across major food categories.

Demand for plant-based protein products is rapidly expanding beyond burger analogues to several novel products. These products include plant-based shellfish, shrimp, and cheeses, ready-to-eat protein snacks, and other plant-based product innovations.

At the same time, ADM noted the continued rise and evolution of alternative meat products driven by new processing and manufacturing technologies such as 3D printing and protein fermentation. “New plant-based meat on the horizon include whole-muscle products such as steak and chicken breast, lunch meat, bacon, and more,”​ noted ADM.

In addition, the dairy alternative category, an early leader in the plant-based nutrition space, is growing to encompass other formats such as yoghurt, ice cream, butter, spreads, and creamers. “To stand out in the dairy aisle, products must deliver more protein than traditional dairy. They must also feature a nutritional label fortified with vitamins and minerals or functional ingredients like probiotics.”​

5. Transparency builds consumer trust

Consumers now expect food labels to provide greater transparency concerning the entire product life cycle. Consequently, this drives demand for locally sourced products as consumers seek greater clarity on where their food and beverages come from.

A Euromonitor International Health + Nutrition Survey fielded in February 2020 found that 26% of global consumers look for the country of origin on food and drink labels. Furthermore, according to Nielsen, 73% of consumers globally agree that they feel more positively about companies that are transparent about where and how products were made, raised or grown. Food Navigator