They say that “less is more.” Yet unfortunately in the world of new prepared foods and beverages—last year was a case where less was indeed, less. The unfortunate truth is that many shoppers have found grocery store shelves temporarily bare in certain categories.

Entering a third year of the global COVID pandemic, shoppers and consumer packaged goods companies face issues of rising inflationary prices, supply chain disruptions and shortages of key ingredients or other materials. And throughout this year’s “State of the Industry” New Products Annual, there are several references to declining year-to-year new product introductions as tracked by Innova Market Insights.

Even so, like the coming of spring—there are seemingly brighter days ahead. After 2020’s strict stay at-home work orders, last year brought some relaxed guidelines so R&D teams could return to offices and labs. This year brought the return of face-to-face manufacturer and retailer events such as the Specialty Food Association’s Winter Fancy Food Expo and New Hope’s Natural Products Expo West.

In December, market data tracker IRI summed up 2021 with its IRI CPG Market Review and Outlook titled, "Discovering Pockets of Demand." IRI analysts observed that at-home CPG consumption remains strong compared to pre-pandemic levels. They noted that low-income consumers and younger cohorts continue to drive growth in CPG due to remote and hybrid work and suburban living. Consumption of breakfast, convenient meals and self-care products remains elevated, while personal care and on-the-go foods recover.

Looking specifically at packaged food and beverage innovation, IRI points to on-trend growth in three areas—involving at-home meals and meal replacement, bold flavors and premium indulgence, and enhanced and dietary alternatives.

In the first instance, IRI points to strong sales of at-home frozen meals, nutrition “shots” and snack bar meal solutions. Also popular are products with unique and strong flavors and that offer pack variety. Finally, consumers also are looking for on-trend dietary alternatives in dairy and meat; as well as products that address carb, functional benefits and/or sustainability.

Read on for a category-by-category look at food and beverage finished product trends.

Looking for Meat, Dairy Alternatives?

Prepared Foods’ February 2022 issue has an extensive review of new plant- and cell-based meat, poultry and seafood products. The issue also has a larger cover feature about plant-based solid dairy product formulating.