Whether it’s a sustainably-sourced clean beauty item or herbal supplement to cure an ailment, wellness-seekers have long turned to Whole Foods Market for more than their groceries. What humbly began as a small vegetarian natural food shop in 1978 in Austin, Texas—the city aptly known today as the “Silicon Valley of Wellness”—has since grown to become a leading expert on wellness trends, with over 500 stores across the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
As the organic and supplement departments of grocery stores increasingly expand, there is no doubt the health-oriented approach of Whole Foods Market continues to influence not only what we eat, but our wellness goals too. “Wellness is always top of mind for our customers,” Rachel Bukowski, team leader of product development at Whole Foods Market, tells Forbes. “We’ve seen that message pull through in all of our trends reports over the past seven years of this program.”
The program Bukowski is referring to? The Whole Foods Market Food Trends Report—the latest of which was released today.
Every year, the Whole Foods Market Trends Council—a team of “foragers” (trend-spotters), culinary experts and buyers from all over the world—curate a list of the top ten anticipated food trends for the following year.
“They spend time looking at restaurant menus, reading food blogs, shopping at local markets and attending trade shows, all in the name of staying on top of what’s next in the industry,” Bukowski tells Forbes. “Their predictions are based on decades of experience and expertise in product sourcing and studying consumer preferences, as well as in-depth workshopping with emerging and existing brands.”
As people increasingly take the “food as medicine” approach, the new 2022 predictions report demonstrates the continued infiltration of wellness culture into the food and drink space. “We’ve continued to see the blurring between the supplement and grocery aisles,” Bukowski tells Forbes. “[We] actually predicted that consumers would look for more products with functional ingredients in our Top 10 Food Trends for 2021, and we’ve seen that come to fruition.”
It’s no surprise then, that functional foods offering health benefits unique to the times—like immune-boosting herbs and anti-inflammatory spices—are pervasive across next year’s list. “As the food industry slowly adjusts to a new normal, we expect to see consumers prioritize food and drink products that deliver additional benefits—like functional sodas and tonics,” predicts Whole Foods’ chief marketing officer Sonya Gafsi Oblisk in an official press release.
The pandemic has not only heightened consumers’ interest in eating and drinking in a way that supports their health, it’s made them more concerned with treating the planet well too. Whether it’s choosing ingredients that regenerate the environment or seeking out sustainably sourced animal products or simply eating less meat overall, Whole Foods Market finds consumers are becoming even more mindful of their impact. Oblisk anticipates “products that support their sense of well-being, like urban garden greens and products grown with farming processes that help address soil health,” will become even more popular next year.
Particularly attuned to how the pandemic has shifted not just what, but how consumers eat, Whole Foods Market is offering an assorted box of 10 products for consumers to sample the 2022 trends at home. The limited edition Trends Discovery Box includes products that highlight next year’s trends—like yuzu, with Acid League’s Pink Peppercorn Honey Yuzu Vinaigrette; and functional beverages, with Poppi’s Strawberry Lemon Prebiotic Soda.
Whether you’re looking for a snack that addresses a particular ailment, to be kinder to the environment or simply want to add some excitement to your pantry, look out for these wellness trends in the grocery aisle as we head into the new year.
Hibiscus Is Hot
Known for its high vitamin C content—a nutrient commonly used in the treatment of colds and flu’s—it’s no surprise hibiscus has received a surge in interest lately amidst the increased demand for immune-boosting products. While historically used in teas, the sweet, tart plant can now be found in everything from yogurt to spreads to collagen supplements. But it’s in drink form—alcoholic and non-alcoholic alike—that it continues to shine the most, thanks to its bright pink hue.
Fizz That’s Functional
Trending hibiscus drinks are just one example of a growing interest in functional beverages. “Not only are food brands getting involved with incorporating functional ingredients, we are seeing this in beverage as well, with traditional sodas and tonics incorporating prebiotics, probiotics and botanicals,” Bukowski tells Forbes.
Gone are the days when a traditional can of soda will satisfy, consumers now expect their drinks to not only contain less sugar, but have added ingredients that offer specific health benefits—like prebiotics to balance the gut flora and adaptogens to relieve stress.
Try It: Poppi Prebiotic Sodas
The increased interest in healthy drinking in recent years has given rise to a boom in boozeless innovation, and the pandemic has only accelerated the trend.
“Buzz-less spirits is a 2022 trend that has definitely flourished due to the pandemic,” Bukowski tells Forbes. “The category experienced record growth in our stores this year—in part due to many millennials and Gen Z-ers dabbling in ‘drysolation’ during the pandemic.”
While young people reported drinking less during the pandemic, the end of lockdown has not stopped the sober-curious movement. With floral botanicals and medicinal herbs, not only do the latest mocktails rival their boozy counterparts on flavor, they increasingly promise to deliver a feeling too—with adaptogens like ashwagandha promoting relaxation. Rachel Bukowski, team leader of product development at Whole Foods Market, tells Forbes.
Try It: Ghia Non-Alcoholic Apéritif
Turmeric Gets Creative
As the “golden spice” commonly used in Indian Ayurvedic practices and Traditional Chinese Medicine, turmeric has long been a popular remedy for its anti-inflammatory benefits. One that has increasingly infiltrated the Western world, with golden milk lattes now a staple cafe menu item across the United States. Next year, Whole Foods predicts the spice will be found in more inventive food forms—from cereals to sauerkrauts to plant-based ice cream sandwiches.
Swapping Nuts For Sunflower Seeds
Gone are the days when consumers are limited to the sunflower seed selection at the concession stand or gas station. The seed is expected to take the snack aisle by storm—not just to be eaten as is, but as the star ingredient in spreads, crackers and plant-based alternatives like dairy-free cream cheese and ice cream. High in protein and unsaturated fats, it’s no surprise the allergy-friendly seed is expected to become our new favorite nut alternative.
Morning Moringa Replaces Matcha
While matcha has long been the go-to morning brew for non-coffee drinkers, moringa is expected to become another popular alternative for a jitter-free buzz. Traditionally used as a herbal remedy in India and Africa, moringa leaves are not only packed with nutrients, but used to fight malnutrition, due to the fast-growing, drought-resistant nature of their trees, aptly called the “miracle tree.” Next year, you can expect to see the plant in everything from frozen desserts to grain blends; sauces to protein bars.
Try It: Yolélé Greens! Fonio Pilaf
Yuzu Enters The Home Kitchen
Whether used as an essential oil to reduce stress or consumed for its rich antioxidant and vitamin content, this tangerine-sized fruit offers no shortage of health benefits. But with a tart, sour flavor, the Asian citrus has been most commonly found in the kitchens of esteemed chefs, used as a surprising ingredient in soups, noodles and fish. Next year, it’s expected to expand beyond the restaurant scene to grocery and supplement aisles, in the form of sweet treats, fizzy beverages and Asian-inspired marinades.
Flexitarianism Meets Reducetarianism
With a growing awareness that reducing meat consumption is the most effective lifestyle change a person can make to curb climate change, consumers are increasingly realizing that they don’t need to go full vegan in order to support the planet. The pandemic has made consumers even more climate-conscious, as they’re not only incorporating more plant-based foods into their diets, but choosing premium grass-fed meat and pasture-raised eggs when they do opt for eat animals. Whole foods predicts the “reducetarianism” mindset is here to stay.
Consumers not only want their food choices to support their body, they want them to support the health of the planet too. Two years ago, Whole Foods predicted regenerative agriculture—a farming and grazing practices that restore degraded soil and increase carbon capture—would be one of 2020’s biggest food trends. This year, the grocer predicts a continuation of the trend, with an increased demand for particular grains cultivated using regenerative techniques, like kernza: a sweet, nutty perennial grain that improves overall soil ecology.