As the year 2021 draws to a close, we find ourselves reminiscing on the previous 12 months and anticipating what lies ahead. It’s also the time of year when many food companies and data houses release their forecasts for the future year. We at Lentils.org enjoy geeking out about food, operator, and consumer forecasts and expectations, and we were thrilled to see so many of the top trends matching lentils and what they provide to the table.
The National Restaurant Association (NRA) and the American Culinary Federation (ACF) collaborated to create 2022 What’s Hot Report, which identified the following important trends as the top ten for 2022:
- Click here to discover more about why lentils are a critical component of sustainable food systems, including the fact that they are carbon neutral, require little to no additional water during production, and leave the land healthier after harvest.
- Immunity-boosting foods (snacks and functional components) – click here to learn why lentils, with their high protein and fibre content, are an excellent fit for this way of eating.
- Plant-based sandwiches – plant-based and plant-forward hand-helds are a terrific way for customers to explore new products or flavours in a common platform – for a round-up of worldwide hand-held menu inspiration, go here.
Other noteworthy mentions for the midday daypart included globally inspired salads and grain-based bowls, as well as plant-based burgers for dinner. Click here for power bowl inspiration. Power bowls are one of the most popular ways to use lentils on a menu, covering all restaurant segments. Lentils are also a crucial ingredient in many blended and plant-based burgers, providing a strong texture component as well as aiding in the binding and moisture retention of the patties — for burger inspiration, check here.
North and Western Africa were likewise ranked among the top five global regions that influence menus. Lentils are consumed in a number of ways as a staple component in many cultures throughout these regions, owing to their capacity to absorb and carry the intriguing and powerful flavors of these cuisines. To read more about African cuisine, go here.
The following things garnered the most verbatim comments when ACF chefs were asked what they anticipated the biggest culinary trend would be in 2022, and they were exactly in line with some of the lentils’ best features for menu application:
- Plant-based foods
- Comfort foods
- Healthy & immunity-boosting foods
- Global fare and flavours
Some of the key standouts in Technomic’s prognosis, 2022: The Year of the Climb, are persistent problems as we emerge from the epidemic. As operators battle with supply chain constraints and labor limitations, ‘All in One Prep’ and ‘The Fight for Labor’ rank high. Cross-utilization of ingredients is critical right now as menu innovation is evaluated. To learn more about how lentils are an important component to consider when looking for proteins that can be used in a variety of ways on the menu, click here. ‘Proteins in Play’ is also on Technomic’s list, stressing alternate protein interest and use, as well as using foreign cuisines to magnify them, such as Western African, which was previously noted in the NRA’s study.
The term “plant-based” may be losing meaning and credibility with consumers, according to Nourish Food Marketing’s 2022 Trend Report, as the better-for-you halo for plant-based products begins to fade – consumers are recognizing that plant-based products, particularly those that mimic the appearance of meat, are not necessarily healthier. Instead, customers are opting for plant-based and alternative protein choices that are high in nutritional value. Lentils are a high-protein whole food that may be used in burgers and other plant-based dishes.
Sustainability and regenerative agriculture are highlighted in Whole Foods Market’s Top 10 Food Trends for 2022, with ‘Reducetarianism’ and ‘Grains that Give Back’ also appearing on the list. Reducetarianism suggests that consumers who aren’t interested in completely eliminating meat from their diet are simply looking to shift their focus, perhaps by reducing their overall consumption of meat, dairy, and eggs without completely eliminating them, and replacing them with more plant-forward foods, such as plant-based proteins. ‘Grains that Give Back’ demonstrates a customer interest in purchasing grains and other items that give back, highlighting agricultural practices and farming processes that help address soil health, which lentils are a significant driver of, as we previously mentioned.
Finally, two Indian-inspired meals make the top ten of Datassential’s 10 Future Forward Trends & Flavors to Watch in 2022, one a classic dish and the other an Indian-inspired twist on an American classic that we are all about right now. The first is chaat, India’s favorite savory, crunchy, spiced street food snack, which is gaining popularity in the United States, particularly at Chit Chaat Corner outside of DC. The second food on the list is Indian pizza, which incorporates Indian flavors, ingredients, spices, and variations on traditional Indian dishes onto a pizza. Indian pizza businesses and menu items are springing up all over the United States, with dishes like tikka masala and butter chicken on the menu. In the United States, Indian cuisine is the most popular category for lentils on menus, and both are excellent entry points for customers and lentils.
Finally, although continuing to face challenges as a result of the pandemic, the food industry’s future appears bright. Consumers have made it clear that they want more from their food, whether it’s sustainable food and ingredients, ingredients with functional or immune-boosting properties, or plant-forward eating, which is still popular but needs to be linked to great taste, and that leveraging global cuisine and flavours may be the best way to increase consumption.