5 food trends worth watching during the pandemic

SEPT 29, 2020

If you’re tired of reading about how COVID-19 is changing everything, you are surely not alone. But you can't underestimate how significantly the pandemic has affected the food industry — reinforcing some trends, shifting others and reminding us how interconnected our industry is. Read on to learn about five trends that have taken on new relevance during this time. 

To your health: immune-boosting foods are hotter than ever

Nothing forces consumers to focus their attention on health and wellness like a global pandemic and COVID-19 has definitely directed consumers to eat right. But what does that mean, exactly?

Often, it’s choosing foods with established links to better immunity, which explains why dark chocolate, green tea, mushrooms and garlic have all seen increased demand during the pandemic.

Also in the immune-boosting camp: spices ⁠— many with rich histories in Ayurvedic medicine, India’s millennia-old holistic-healing tradition. Turmeric, black pepper, red pepper, cinnamon, ginger and garlic are only a few of the good-for-you seasonings enjoying a renaissance during the pandemic.

Reliable sourcing: supply chain traceability takes center stage

Sourcing and traceability have been making headlines long before the novel coronavirus arrived. But once borders were closed and farm and factory workers were sent home, companies quickly learned how vulnerable they were to shortages — bringing new importance to supply chain resilience.

Take garlic, a crop that is largely imported from China. When the pandemic first hit China, garlic buyers from around the world were quick to notice delays in shipping times and holes in their supply chains. And with little to offer in terms of traceability, in a time when health and safety are top of mind, buyers were forced to look for more reliable suppliers, closer to home. 

Domestic sourcing offers real advantages, such as simplified logistics, a smaller carbon footprint, support for local growers and in the case of Olam Spices’ California grown garlic, full traceability from seed to shelf

Olam’s products also offer the added benefit of AtSource, a sustainability platform created to help customers track their product's journey and measure social, environmental and economic impact.

Dining in: consumers rediscover their inner chefs

An Influence Central survey of 630 consumers conducted in May of this year found that 88% of respondents have been cooking more at home since stay-at-home orders began, with almost half (49%) whipping up meals from scratch.

Another 46% said they relied on pre-cooked and packaged foods at mealtime. No wonder meal-kit companies like Freshly, HelloFresh and Sun Basket saw demand for subscription services surge during shelter-in-place.

So will these newly minted home chefs keep cooking once restaurants reopen? If their creations approach what’s available at their favorite taco, tandoori or teriyaki shop, they will. And by formulating sauces, dips and salsas with vibrant, authentic-tasting ingredients, brands can up those odds even more.

Clean sweep: kicking clean formulation into high gear

Clean eating is no longer just a trend. It’s a way of life for consumers and a powerful motivator for new product development among brands.                                                                                                          

Perhaps that’s because there’s a link between underlying health conditions like obesity, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure — all of which have a dietary component and consumers just want to feel better about their food choices.

The move toward plant-based alternatives, which many perceive as “cleaner,” has intensified since the start of the pandemic, as have reformulations that reduce sugar, fat and sodium levels. However, these two components can significantly change a product’s flavor profile and not always for the better. 

Fortunately, product developers can use “clean” spices to bring flavor, color and texture back into balance. Cinnamon and ginger, for example, enhance sweetness, while onion powder, garlic powder and black pepper can lend an umami boost to savory applications.

Ticket to paradise: exploring authentic flavors from home

With borders closed and many still cautious about flying, dream vacations are being cancelled left and right these days. So anyone hoping to dine their way across Oaxaca, Bangkok or Budapest will have to sate their appetites for authentic global flavors at home.

Luckily, a little bit of seasoning and spice goes a long way toward establishing recognizably global character in foods that consumers enjoy.

For example, aji amarillo chilies, garlic and onion give a distinct Peruvian accent to sauces and marinades. Spices like Coriander , cumin and fennel cross cultures and lend Mediterranean, Latin American or South Asian notes to formulations. 

And every dish, not to mention almost every product category, gets an international passport stamp from garlic, a must-have for culinary authenticity. Visit Olam Spices to find inspiration for your own flavor explorations.

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