Louise M. PollockLouise M. Pollock

From TikTok, online food shopping and snacking, to eating for health and immunity, the 10th annual Pollock Communications and Today’s Dietitian “What’s Trending in Nutrition” survey provides an analysis of food industry trends for 2022 and beyond, as well as a flashback to what we’ve learned from the past decade. The survey is the most comprehensive collection of data from nutrition experts actively working in the field, and this year’s results—from a survey of nearly 1,200 Registered Dietitian Nutritionists—provide compelling new insights for food manufacturers and marketers.

The last decade of industry change highlighted by the survey reveals how changes in consumer behaviors have shaped how food manufacturers and marketers redefined their businesses. The industry has shifted to accommodate radical swings in eating patterns, the explosion of social media, and of course, the unexpected and most radical catalyst of change, COVID-19. An IFIC survey found that 85 percent of people reported a change to eating and food preparation due to the pandemic.

There’s more change to come resulting from COVID-19’s impact, as the survey findings indicate health and immunity will be the biggest trend shaping the industry in the next decade, continuing to fuel an era of food innovations. Here’s a closer look at the data, as well as tips for how food manufacturers and marketers can translate these trends to benefit the bottom line.

This article is featured in O'Dwyer's Mar. '22 Food & Beverage PR Magazine
(view PDF version)

Glean insights from the past

RDNs agree that the most surprising food and nutrition change in the past decade is the shift from low-carb to high-fat diets like the ketogenic diet, underscoring how quickly consumers can go from one diet extreme to another. This overcorrection in diet culture reinforces that food manufacturers and marketers need to consistently monitor changing eating behaviors and be prepared to make necessary adjustments to product offerings. Flexibility is key to meeting these ever-changing consumer demands.

The survey cited other notable changes from the past decade, including the popularity of plant-based eating, dairy-free and plant-based milk products, vegetarian and vegan diets, and online grocery shopping. Many of these trends are responsible for significant innovations. For example, we’ve seen a plethora of plant-based milk products, from nuts to oats to hemp and pea “milk.” Danone’s Silk brand was a leader in the trend, joined by a surplus of products trying to capture a portion of the market. Capitalizing on the plant-based eating trend, Impossible Burger increased its presence in U.S. supermarkets from about 150 to more than 20,000 during the pandemic, catapulting the brand from a 5 percent market share in fresh plant-based patties sold at retail to 55 percent, according to an AllianceBernstein analysis.

Monitoring trends and becoming an innovator in new category offerings that meet growing demand is the recipe for these brands’ business success.

Meaningful digital marketing is powerful

The continued explosion of social media platforms and influencers reveals that most consumers are getting information about health and wellness from digital media with Facebook, blogs/vlogs and Instagram taking the top three spots. New to the game, TikTok danced its way into the number-five spot for nutrition information sources. As the fastest growing social media platform, TikTok will be an important way for businesses to stay on top of food trends, engage with relevant influencers and reach broader target audiences.

In this digital age of easily accessible information comes the existence of misinformation—and nutrition is no exception. RDNs cite surprise at the proliferation of social media pseudoscience. In fact, RDNs say that consumers are getting the most nutrition misinformation from social media, with the top three sources being Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. It’s imperative for food marketers to have a meaningful presence in digital marketing to ensure accurate information about products is being shared. This stresses the need for reputable food and beverage brands and commodities to create a digital presence with accurate information from RDNs, the qualified health experts, to crowd out false health tips.

COVID continues to shape food’s future

The global pandemic changed all aspects of normal living and ushered in an era where health and wellness are paramount decision drivers. This is especially true when it comes to food and beverage choices. According to our survey, health and immunity will be the biggest trend shaping the food industry in the next decade, followed by plant-based eating and sustainability. Consumers are now keenly aware of how food can impact their overall health and longevity—and they’re taking action to improve their bodies’ natural defenses. As a result of the pandemic, RDNs predict the top purchase drivers of 2022 will be foods and beverages that support immunity, are affordable and value-based and promote comfort and emotional well-being.

Due to the pandemic, 95 percent of RDNs say that consumers are snacking more. RDNs believe that the increase in snacking is related to more consumers working from home, followed by an increased desire for comfort foods. According to IRI, e-commerce snacking sales grew 84 percent in 2020.

Frito-Lay capitalized on this trend during the height of the pandemic by creating a direct-to-consumer shopping option through its first e-commerce site, Snacks.com, which offered features like “Make Your Own Variety Pack” to meet consumer demands. The company saw an increase in their “Better Options” brands, such as Smartfood, SunChips and Simply.

Online food shopping is the biggest trend from the pandemic that 90 percent of RDNs say will continue, compelling marketers to reimagine ways to reach consumers on virtual shopping platforms, including more online promotions, digital coupons and immersive virtual branding experiences. According to Forbes, searches for “food delivery services” skyrocketed 300 percent during the pandemic, which included both restaurant services like DoorDash, Grubhub, Uber Eats and grocery services like Instacart, Amazon Fresh and Shipt. The line between fresh food and prepared meals is blurring as restaurant and grocery chains partner to meet changing consumer needs. DoorDash is teaming up with Albertson’s to offer grocery delivery, while Kroger now offers an on-demand meal pick-up and delivery service from popular restaurants.

With the focus on health and immunity in the next decade and the increased popularity of plant-based eating, nutrient-dense options will be an important part of consumer diets as they embrace food as medicine to help prevent disease. In addition, food manufacturers and marketers should note that there will likely be an increased interest in functional foods containing ingredients that provide health benefits beyond their nutrient profile. Being prepared to meet consumer demands with online marketing, new product innovations, better sustainability practices and educating consumers through experts like RDNs in meaningful digital marketing campaigns will help companies stay relevant and successful.


Louise Pollock is the President and Founder of Pollock Communications.