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"Healthy" has many dimensions among top food trends for 2022

New dimensions of "healthy" among this year's top trends.

Our food system is complex and constantly shifting. As we face a burgeoning climate crisis, continually strained food system, growing population, and a renewed focus on what constitutes a nutritious diet, food professionals must look to science and technology to help keep pace with this evolution and develop a sustainable, nutritious, and safe food source for the global population. With this in mind, IFT’s Science and Policy Initiatives team identified the top five food industry trends they predict will take shape in 2022. 

1. Sustainability expectations will continue to drive change

In 2021, the UN Climate Change Conference and Food Systems Summit set the stage for increased focus on a sustainable food supply. This is even more critical as we lost ground over the past 18 months during the pandemic. Food company and retailer commitments on sustainability and reduced water usage will accelerate, and we will see carbon labeling become more common. Emphasis on reducing food losses will increase and the use of waste streams to produce value-added ingredients and foods will grow from niche to mainstream. 

2. Exponential growth in alternative proteins technology

One of the major beneficiaries of concerns over climate change is the growth of alternative protein sources and products. Many meat industry giants are joining the plant-based protein race, and we will see an emphasis on increased nutrition benefits and lower costs. Meanwhile, Singapore led the way in approving cell-based meat, which should spur further approvals in 2022. Advances in the technology in the U.S., Europe, and Israel pave the way for this to become the third key protein source in the future. A major focus area will be on reducing energy usage and costs.

3. "Healthy" has many dimensions

An updated definition of "healthy" from the FDA may drive reformulations and provide new opportunities for food companies as well as spurring an effort to globally align on how the term is understood. The 2020-25 Dietary Guidelines for Americans could lead to efforts to reach a consensus on how to define nutrient density in addition to continued emphasis on added sugar reduction with newer sugar-based sweeteners. The FDA voluntary sodium reduction goals will also provide a renewed focus on "stealth reductions in sodium" as well as new product introductions.

4. The silver lining of the pandemic for the food supply chain

Digitalization of the food supply chain is accelerating partly due to the pandemic, aiming to mitigate the impact of future supply disruptions. The use of artificial intelligence to analyze and interpret data and internet of things sensors are improving the safety and nutritional consistency of food products and reducing waste. Broadband internet can capture production and transportation level data to strengthen both the efficiency and resiliency of the food supply chain. 

5. The New Era of Food Safety is here

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) food traceability rule due to be finalized soon will drive increased global interest in and implementation of traceability principles and tools. The insights from this emphasis will enhance both food safety and reduce costs. The recent FDA summit on e-commerce food safety is stimulating significant activity against this growing channel. In the aftermath of the pandemic, expect some of the enhanced global handling practices (GHPs) to become standard, and the use of remote auditing to grow.

For more food trends for the new year and beyond, check out the top picks from Food Technology magazine’s editors. 

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