Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Search in posts
Search in pages
Filter by Categories
Articles
Blog
In Conversation
News
Webinars
White Papers

Ten Key Health and Nutrition Trends 2021

Ten Key Health and Nutrition Trends 2021 - Cucumber slice

The Kerry Health and Nutrition Institute experts provide their perspectives on the 10 biggest health and nutrition trends for 2021 and beyond. Read on for opinions from our scientists, resources that break down the science behind each trend, and the impact that immunity, sustainability, plant-based eating, and more are having on the world of foods and beverages.

Click on each trend to navigate to that part of the page.

Ten Key Health and Nutrition Trends 2021


Sustainable nutrition

Man and woman in botany labSustainable nutrition is key to the future of the planet and part of the strategies for many companies in the food and beverage industry. It refers to our ability to provide positive and balanced nutrition solutions that help maintain good health, but are also created in a way that does not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their nutritional needs. This means an increased focus on sustainable farming and sourcing practices, closed-loop supply chains, finding health and nutrition value in waste streams, as well as development of solutions to feed populations in need.  Sustainable nutrition is at the heart of all the top health and nutrition trends for 2021.

Major takeaways:

  • Work is still being done to understand the true impact that changes to food systems have on sustainability metrics
  • The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals underline the importance of each facet of sustainability. For example, fighting hunger in communities where there is not enough food while also minimizing food waste in communities where food is plentiful.

UN Sustainable development goalsExplore further:

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Webinar – Reducing Food Waste: Optimising Safety and Sustainability

Webinar – Plant-based Protein Future: Myths and Realities

Farming for a Healthier Fork – The Link Between Animal and Human Nutrition

Learn more about Kerry’s sustainability strategy and commitments

Back to top


Proactive health

Thin slices of beet on white backgroundUsing diet to improve day-to-day life, rather than focusing on fixing a health problem once it has already occurred, is what proactive health is all about. This trend was dominant in 2019 and only made more important by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and moving into 2021. “Food as medicine”, “naturally functional”, and “superfoods” all come to mind when thinking about proactive health. Immunity, mood, energy, and digestive health are some of the most common health benefits people look for from foods and beverages.

Naturally functional foods, such as yoghurt that contains protein and live and active cultures, are one way to support health. On the other hand, adding new functional benefits to foods or beverages with science-supported ingredients is becoming more and more important. Examples of this include adding science-supported probiotics to foods like snack bars for digestive or immune support or adding botanical ingredients to a beverage to enhance mood.

Major takeaways:

  • Balancing consumer beliefs, science, and regulations is a major challenge in proactive health
  • Functional ingredient dosage matters – be sure to include them in amounts shown to have a benefit in scientific studies
  • Immunity, mood, weight management, and energy are top-of-mind in 2021

Straight from our experts:

“Adding proactive health benefits to new foods and beverages is a great way to improve the health of people without them having to drastically change what they eat. However, it is extremely important to make sure claims around proactive health are supported by science. This can be hard since science is still emerging for many ingredients and health benefits. Pairing consumer perceptions of what is healthy with scientific research is important for proactive health product development and ingredient innovation. ” – Nathan Pratt, PhD, RD, Nutrition Scientist with the Kerry Health and Nutrition Institute

Illustration showing use of lentils as the base of a salty snack

Explore further:

Proactive Health white paper (North America) – reviews which naturally functional benefits consumers seek the most from foods, and which ingredients they associate with those benefits.

Nutrient Density and the “Quality Calorie Concept”

Does Intermittent Fasting Work? A Science-Based Answer

Back to top


Immunity

Immunity was top-of-mind throughout 2020 and will continue to be in 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a lot of questions around how the immune system works and how to support it with nutrition.

Nutrients like zinc and vitamin C are seeing more popularity for their role in immunity. Ingredients like yeast beta-glucans and probiotics are also becoming more common in food and beverages for immune benefits.  According to a 2020 study by Innova Market Insights, 54% of global consumers say they have spent time educating themselves on ingredients that can support immune health. With so many questions around immunity, it can be easy to come across misinformation. Our resources below are science-based to help you navigate the world of immune system nutrition.

Major takeaways:

  • Look for science-based claims – many products with an immunity health halo do not include science-supported ingredients, or do not include a dose that would provide a real benefit
  • Avoid misinformation – rely on resources that cite real scientific studies, or are written by experts in the field of nutrition or immunity

Straight from our experts:

“One question I am often asked is ‘what foods can I eat to boost my immunity?’ A variety of nutrients support the immune system, so a varied, balanced diet is still the best advice. The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is one of the most microbiologically active parts of the body and plays a key role in immunity. Both probiotics (either naturally occurring, like those in yoghurt, or strains added to foods and drinks) and prebiotics (foods that naturally support our own bacteria that can be found in bananas, apples, or oats, for example), may have a positive impact on the GI tract on immunity.” – Lisa Ryan, PhD, Head of the Natural Sciences Department in the School of Science and Computing at the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology and Scientific Advisor to KHNI

Explore further:

Immune System Nutrition – Science At-A-Glance – learn about the roles of zinc, vitamin C, selenium, probiotics, and beta glucans in supporting a healthy immune system

COVID Isolation: Expert Advice for your Nutrition and Health

The Role of Food in Maintaining Immune Health in Ageing

Back to top


Plant power

Now that the plant-based trend is becoming a mainstay in the global food economy, plant-based foods and beverages are no longer getting a free pass on nutrition. In the United States, for example, health and nutrition are the top two reasons people purchase plant-based cheese, yogurt, or ice cream and health is ranked third for plant-based meat alternatives (Winning with Plant-based, Kerry Proprietary Research 2020).

Eating more plant foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts has long been the hardest part of dietary recommendations for many of us to achieve. The presence of this trend on the list means that food science has found ways to help plants make it into our diet in tasty, convenient ways. Products with plant protein and vegetable-based pasta are just a couple of examples of this trend’s power for stealth health.

Major takeaways:

  • “Healthy” is a major consumer expectation of plant-based products. Adding fiber, whole-grains, fruits, and vegetables can help future-proof.
  • Build the nutrition of dairy back into dairy-alternatives to avoid creating nutrient gaps in consumer diets.
  • Not all plant proteins are equal – consider protein quality when formulating, especially for kids and active agers.

Straight from our experts:

“The key to success is to deliver on the expectation of ‘healthy’ in plant-based. This could mean providing the same amount of calcium, vitamin D, and protein in plant-based dairy alternatives to what you’d find in a dairy product. It could also mean adding a new health benefit, such as a serving of whole grain in an oat-based milk alternative. Be mindful of the amount of sugar, sodium, and saturated fat in plant-based foods…being ‘plant-based’ does not necessarily mean something is healthy unless we are intentional in making it healthy.” – Nathan Pratt, PhD, RD, Nutrition Scientist with the Kerry Health and Nutrition Institute

Explore further:

Plant-Based Nutrition – Challenges and Opportunities for Foods and Beverages

Nutrition Benefits of Plant Proteins Taking Root with Consumers

Nutrition for Plant-Based Diets: Managing Nutrient Intake and Bioavailability

Webinar – Plant-based Protein Future: Myths and Realities     

Soy’s Role in Health

Barriers to Plant-Based Meat – “Meat, the Challenge” white paper

Graph showing PDCAAS scores of plant and animal proteins to demonstrate differences in protein quality

Back to top


Mood & mental wellness

Tea leavesFood has long been associated with emotional well-being. It is often a tool used to comfort, to celebrate, or to socialize. Recently, there is interest in the scientific role that our diet can play in our mood and mental health. However, mood can be a difficult thing to study. This means there is not always alignment between consumer demands and what science-supported solutions are available. The gut-brain axis, the link between botanicals and mood, and even exercise are all growing areas of research related to mood. Words like “nootropics” and “adaptogens” are words you might see related to this nutrition trend. Turmeric, L-theanine, ginseng, B vitamins, and gingko are all ingredients that might come up when mood is discussed.

Major takeaways:

  • Botanical ingredients like herbs have strong health halos for mood
  • Science is still emerging in the area of mood – pair health halos with scientifically supported solutions.
  • Think about dayparts when choosing a type of mood benefit (e.g. energy for morning, relaxation for afternoon, sleep for evening)

Straight from our experts:

“The scientific evidence for the impact of individual nutrients on mood is still emerging, and there are no approved health claims at present. However, many food companies are marketing products with soft claims in this area due to increasing consumer demand. In 2020, as consumers grappled with the challenges of local lockdowns and restrictions, they turned to food and supplements to support their physical and mental wellbeing.

Ingredients such as ginseng, lavender and chamomile are popular in foods and beverages targeting the mood category. Probiotics are being positioned to support the ‘gut-brain axis’ and emerging ingredients such as GABA and CBD are also gaining in popularity. What we do know is that eating well-balanced nutritious meals regularly throughout the day, combined with physical activity, adequate sleep and social interaction, will support a healthy and happy mind.” – Aoife Marie Murphy, PhD, Nutrition Scientist with the Kerry Health and Nutrition Institute

Explore further:

Food & Mood: Exploring the Science Behind Nutrition’s Role in Mental Wellness

Which ingredients do consumers associate with mood? (North America) – “Proactive Health” white paper

What Does Energy Really Mean?

The Impact of Social Isolation on Eating Behaviour and Nutrition

Your Guide to the Gut-Brain Axis

Back to top


Transparency for trust

Woman shopping for vegetables“Where did my food come from?” “What impact did it have on the planet?” “What is in it?” “Why are these ingredients in my food?” These are all questions that summarize the demand of transparency in not just food products, but entire food systems. 3 in 5 global consumers say they are interested in “learning more about where their food comes from and how it is made” (Innova Market Insights 2020).

Products with a story have increased appeal, and each ingredient in a food should have a clear purpose. Processing foods in ways that reduce the number of ingredients needed is also an area of innovation. Ingredients that have multiple functions within a food, such as an oat flour that retains the nutrition benefits of oat but also has improved emulsifying capabilities, are also helpful for this trend. Food should be safe first and foremost, so finding natural ways to preserve food and prevent spoilage and pathogen growth are also a major opportunity.

Major takeaways:

  • Find a sourcing story, such as ingredients that give back to the farmers or community they come from
  • Keep labels short and ingredient choices deliberate and meaningful – multifunctional ingredients are the future.
  • Moving closer to the food source of a specific ingredient (e.g. “orange extract” instead of a flavour) has appeal to consumers

Straight from our experts:

“Consumers are becoming more curious about how food is produced and what it contains. Transparency regards ethical production practices, environmental impact and information on product labels are influencing purchasing behaviors. End to end supply chain visibility will make it easier for consumers to select brands they trust and those that align with their values.

The popularity of plant-based foods as an alternative to animal proteins presents opportunities for ingredient suppliers. Meat & poultry have a long history of use with well-established regulations and scientific data about the effectiveness of ingredients in these applications. In contrast, plant-based alternatives are a newer development. Their shelf life limitations relating to flavor and microbiological characteristics are still being understood, in addition to the nutritional variations across offerings. Understanding how to replace chemical ingredients with more recognizable consumer friendly ingredients in addition to optimizing  the nutrient profile of plant-based foods is imperative.” – Vivien Sheehan, PhD, Global Vice President R&D, Applied Health & Nutrition, Kerry

Explore further:

Webinar – Reducing Food Waste: Optimising Safety and Sustainability

‘Why is Lecithin in my Food?’ An Overview of Emulsifiers

The Role of Enzymes in Food

The Future of Food white paper

3 Hidden Challenges of ‘Natural’ Foods: Waste, Safety, and Appearance

Back to top


Healthy ageing is active ageing

A senior woman and young girl help out in the greenhouse at the local farm.When it comes to ageing, the main question has shifted from “how long can I live?” to “how active can I be in my later years?”. Physical activity and high protein intakes are recommendations we usually associate with younger people, but these recommendations are even more important as we age. Research on healthy ageing has underlined the importance of getting enough protein and being physically active to maintain muscle mass. Older adults need much more protein than younger adults to grow or maintain muscle mass. However, people tend to decrease food and protein intake beyond age 50. Cognitive health, memory, and hydration are also important to healthy ageing.

Major takeaways:

  • Maintaining muscle mass is essential to keep us mobile and independent in our later years
  • High protein intake and staying physically active are of utmost importance to maintain muscle mass
  • Hydration has links to cognitive health and memory, and people tend to drink less fluids beyond age 50

Straight from our experts:

“One of the major determinants of the rate at which we age biologically (e.g. our brain and body) is our lifestyle, such as diet, exercise, not smoking, etc. This means that healthy ageing is not something we start at age 65, but rather something we work on over the course of our entire lives.  Nutrition, physical activity and other healthy lifestyle choices have the potential to slow many of the ageing processes. For example, beginning in our 40s, we tend to lose about 1% of our muscle every year. Dietary changes like increasing our protein intake as we get older can help maintain that muscle so that we’re better able to perform activities of daily living in our later years.” – Caoileann Murphy, PhD, Research Dietitian at University College Dublin.

Explore further:

Maintaining Healthy Muscles and Mobility in Older Adults

Webinar – Active Ageing: Distinct Nutrition, Distinct Innovation?

The Role of Food in Maintaining Immune Health in Ageing

Muscle Ageing – Nutrition Interventions During Adulthood

Cross-sections of muscle showing the impact physical inactivity can have on muscle mass during ageing. Taken from the webinar Active Ageing: Distinct Nutrition, Distinct Innovation?

Cross-sections of muscle showing the impact physical inactivity can have on muscle mass during ageing. Taken from the webinar Active Ageing: Distinct Nutrition, Distinct Innovation?

Back to top


Digestive health

Digestive wellness has been a high-priority trend for years, but it continues to evolve. The key is to make sure a true health benefit is being offered to consumers. Foods that can help reduce feelings of gas, bloating, or more severe gastrointestinal symptoms are the focus in this trend. Fermented foods have been a major area of growth for digestive health, with consumers associating health halos with foods like kimchi and sourdough bread. It is becoming more and more common to add digestive health benefits to foods you wouldn’t typically find them in, such as probiotic teas or snack bars, to create new functional foods.

Major takeaways:

  • Probiotics can now be found in many types of products, not just yoghurt
  • Fermented foods are gaining traction and new research continues to develop
  • Prebiotics have dual-roles in digestive wellness support and sugar reduction

Straight from our experts:

“Probiotics are living organisms that we introduce to our bodies’ living, dynamic environments. The more we understand about how they interact with this environment, the microbes that already live there, and the food we eat, the better solutions we can find for human health and food safety.”– Maria Marco, PhD, Professor of Food Science and Technology, University of California-Davis and Scientific Advisor to the Kerry Health and Nutrition Institute.

Explore further:

Webinar – Fermented Foods: Stacking Up the Science

What Does Digestive Health Really Mean?

Are Fermented Foods the Same as Probiotics?

Probiotics: Dispelling Myths

Your Guide to the Gut-Brain Axis

Back to top


Proteins for sustainability and health

Close up of soy beans and bean podsResearch is continuing to show protein’s relevance for all age groups and lifestyles. Increasing protein intake is a staple of weight management strategies, exercise training, healthy ageing, and a core focus of global sustainable nutrition. Innovations in protein farming, sourcing, and processing are all key to the development of this trend in 2021. People are looking for more protein in foods and beverages at increasing amounts. This can bring major taste challenges to foods and beverages, especially when using plant proteins. Strategies to improve taste of these proteins have continued to advance this trend.

Major takeaways:

  • Sustainable protein sourcing and production are a constant focus of innovation
  • Research continues to support protein’s role in the diet, especially for physically active people
  • Protein quality is becoming more of a focus as consumers learn about the differences between plant and animal sources of protein

Straight from our experts:

“Sustainable protein isn’t just about the plant or animal it’s sourced from.  It’s also about how it’s processed, energy required to extract the protein, protein yield from the source, and how it’s distributed throughout the supply chain.  Finding protein sources that can be locally, efficiently cultivated to minimize transportation needs, identifying agricultural side streams that contain high potential proteins, and fermenting existing protein sources are all keys to innovation.” – Dr. Stacy Pyett, Program Manager of Proteins for Life, Wageningen University and Research

Explore further:

Webinar – Plant-based Protein Future: Myths and Realities

Nutritional Benefits of Plant Proteins Taking Root with Consumers

Three Things You Need to Know About Protein for Exercise Performance

Do High Protein Diets Impact Kidney Health?

Back to top


Sugar

Strawberry jam close upSugar has been a main nutrition trend in foods and beverages for years, and this trend will only continue. Public health recommendations and tax legislation continue to emerge globally, driving reduction in sugar content of foods across all categories. The answer to the question ‘what is the best solution?’ is continually being explored. Natural sources of sweetness still seem to be preferred, for now. New sugars like allulose may see more use due to their lower calorie contribution.

Major takeaways:

  • ‘Natural’ still has the most appeal
  • Food-based solutions, such as fruit purees, can deliver extra nutrition instead of only sugar
  • “Is this sugar really needed?” Think about the type of product when determining sweetness level. People can be more forgiving with sweetness in health-focused foods than indulgent ones

Straight from our experts:

“Sugar reduction is getting a lot of focus globally, but there is a larger opportunity for calorie reduction beyond just sugar to improve health. Foods with similar calories can be very different in their nutrient profile. The Quality Calorie Concept, which was developed by the British Nutrition Foundation, is a great toolkit to help people make simple swaps to improve the nutrition of their diets for the same or fewer calories.” – Aisling Aherne, PhD, RNutr, Nutrition Manager with the Kerry Health and Nutrition Institute

Explore further:

Tips to Determine if a Sugar Should be Labelled “Added” or “Naturally Occurring”

Consumer Perspectives on Sweeteners (North America) – “Sensibly Sweet” white paper

Webinar – Sugar Reduction: Formulating for Success

Image showing differences in added vs natural sugar

Back to top


 

Newsletter Banner

Monthly Newsletter

Sign up for our monthly KHNI newsletter to hear about the latest content from our experts, upcoming webinars, and more.

Subscribe
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!