We can't decide whether we're more excited for boozy kombucha, sous vide egg bites, or banana jerky.

By Betty Gold
October 19, 2020
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If you’re anything like us, you’re anxiously awaiting the arrival of 2021. What a year it’s been! And though it feels as if we were sending off summer just yesterday, we’re just a few months away from a brand new year.

True to form, Whole Foods Market is ahead of the game. Though the grocer could never have predicted this year’s global pandemic, toilet paper shortage, or mini pancake cereal craze, many of its food predictions for 2020—including the increased use of alternative flours, plant-based proteins, unique sugar swaps, and alcohol-free cocktails—hit the nail on the head.

Whole Foods just released its sixth annual top 10 food predictions report for the coming year, and we’re already popping the champagne. What’s on tap for 2021, you ask? A lot—and like everything in life of late, it's going to look very different from any pre-pandemic predictions.

"The pandemic’s influence on dining is something no one can ignore, says Alan Morgan, executive leader of culinary and part of Whole Foods Market’s Trends Council. "At the beginning of the pandemic, there was a clear rise in comfort meals, however heading into 2021, we're seeing a shift to healthier foods. And with more meals being consumed at home overall, another major dining shift we anticipate for 2021 is people continuing to take more time for a daily breakfast. Our Trends Council is also seeing new at-home chefs take their cooking game to the next level, experimenting with elevated ingredients like new takes on sauces, spices, and pastas."

Morgan and more than 50 other Whole Foods Market team members—including regional and global buyers, local foragers, and culinary experts—came together to craft the insights for what we’ll be eating and drinking in 2021 below. If you find yourself feeling inspired to participate (or more likely, a bit peckish) after giving them a read, you can find a sampling of products that match their predictions on Amazon here.

Remember when there used to be a clear difference between the food aisles and the supplement section at your supermarket? Expect to see that line get increasingly blurry. The more we learn about the importance of wellness—including immune support, gut health, and keeping stress at bay—the more we strive to reap all of the above from food. Manufacturers are listening. In 2021, you can expect to see plenty more probiotic foods (hi, sauerkraut), and packaged products with functional ingredients, such as vitamin C and adaptogens. “For obvious reasons, people want this pronto,” the Whole Foods reporters add.

The longer we spend working from home—free from commutes and the tiresome marathon that was getting out the door—the more time we have to focus on the most important meal of the day. This means Sunday brunch can officially become a Tuesday (or an everyday) thing. Expect to trade in snack bar breakfasts and hastily made smoothies for homemade sous vide egg bites, smoked salmon, and all the protein pancakes.

Many of us have been cooking and eating at home more than ever before, and our taste buds (and culinary exploits) are feeling majorly fatigued. It’s no surprise that searches for low-lift pantry staples—think simmer sauces, spices, jarred marinara, hot sauce, dressings—that can transform bland food or leftovers with minimal effort have been soaring since the onset of the pandemic. Get ready for even more reimagined basics: pasta made from hearts of palm, applewood-smoked salt, meyer lemon honey, and vegan soup that tastes meaty.

America’s love affair with coffee is burning far beyond your basic pot of java. Expect to see supermarket shelves stacked with everything from coffee-flavored granola, protein bars, and candy to yogurt, smoothie boosters, cereal, and booze. Can’t help but wonder: is it the flavor we’re after or the caffeine?

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Aisles once filled with jars of mushy peas and applesauce will soon be piled high with portable, on-the-go squeeze pouches of purees made from fresh rhubarb, rosemary, Apple Butternut Squash with Ground Oats and Turmeric, and Purple Carrots, Cauliflower & Avocado Oil with Oregano (!).

Now that we’re all on board with doing our part to reduce the food waste problem in America, root to stem cooking has become more popular than ever. Read: the movement has officially made its way from broccoli stem stir fry, carrot top salads, and countertop composting to large-scale mainstream manufacturing. “We’re seeing a huge rise in packaged products that use neglected and underused parts of an ingredient as a path to reducing food waste,” reports Whole Foods. “Upcycled foods, made from ingredients that would have otherwise been food waste, help to maximize the energy used to produce, transport and prepare that ingredient.”

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No, you aren’t imagining it: there’s some new type of trendy cooking oil on the market almost every day. While our beloved EVOO isn’t going anywhere, it’s going to have to share a lot more shelf space with a never ending list of new superfood oils, like avocado oil, pumpkin seed oil, sunflower seed oil, walnut oil, and more. For the healthiest cooking oils to use, see our guide here.

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We’ve been raving about our love of kombucha—and kombucha cocktails—for years. Now, ‘booch brands are starting to bottle up boozy versions of their tangy fermented tea so you’ll no longer have to DIY. Following in the footsteps of the hard seltzer hysteria and the probiotic-enriched CPGs trend mentioned above, this one should really knock it out of the park.

According to Whole Foods, you can chickpea everything (it’s true). What started as a fiber-filled healthier base for plant-based pasta—I’m a forever Banza stan—is now making its way into cereals, not-potato chips, chickpea flour tortillas, and my personal favorite, Banza Pizza made with chickpeas.

Who says you need meat to make jerky? The effort to make plant-based eating more accessible has taken the jerky aisle under its wing, and we couldn’t be more thrilled. You’ll start seeing all kinds of produce that have been served up jerky-style, like jackfruit, mushrooms, mangos, bananas, and more. “The produce is dried at the peak freshness to preserve nutrients and yumminess. If that’s not enough, suppliers are literally spicing things up with finishes of chili, salt, ginger and cacao drizzle,” Whole Foods explains.