In advance of Ed Keenan’s predictions for the food and drink industry in 2022, we are looking back at our head of process’ forecasts for this year. In a three-part series, he explored the alternative and environmental trends that we expected to see over the course of the year.  

As we reflect on 2021 so far, Ed is returning to his predictions to see which have become reality and what he expects to see in the remaining months of the year.

You can read the original series, “top food and drink industry trends for 2021” via the links below:

Food trends

The re-opening of indoor dining has not yet disturbed the growing sales of takeaways and home deliveries we saw over the COVID-19 lockdowns. In the first half of this year, Deliveroo reported that the value of orders doubled, despite indoor dining returning in May. Furthermore, this has seen more ghost, or dark, kitchens opening, offering restaurant brands the ability to provide consumers with a huge range of options while significantly reducing overheads.

US burger chain Wendy’s is the latest brand to launch ghost kitchens in the UK, opening 700 locations across the US, Canada and the UK over the next five years.

It’s not only takeaways which are seeing a boom, with shifting consumer buying habits continuing to have an impact on home cooking. Frozen food sales in particular have benefitted, with sales increasing to more than £7bn a year in February 2021, making it the second fastest growing food and drink category only behind alcohol.

We expect to see the growth of high-end offerings appearing in the freezer section over the rest of this year as consumers adapt following a desire to keep their freezers well-stocked during lockdowns. Brands such as byRuby could become household names as demand for premium frozen meals continues into 2022.

Drinks trends

Increasing awareness about the health benefits of what consumers buy has continued into the drinks category, with more people searching out reduced alcohol or calorie alternatives, as well as ‘super’ drinks full of important vitamins.

Hard seltzer was one product I expected to see strong growth in 2021 and this has proven to be the case. After a breakout year in 2019, sales grew by 200% between 2019 and 2020 in the US, the carbonated beverages have continued to rise in popularity, with big-name UK brands such as BrewDog adding seltzers to its range alongside a number of smaller indie producers.

In the US, hard seltzers accounted for 13 per cent of all retail dollars spent on alcohol during the 2021 July 4th holiday weekend, according to NielsenIQ, outperforming all red table wine in the process.

Amazake was another product which I expected to see grow in popularity with health-conscious shoppers. The traditional no or low-alcohol Japanese sweet drink, made from fermented rice, has many gut benefits thanks to health-boosting probiotics and metabolism-boosting digestive enzymes. In July 2021, Google data showed that searches for Japan’s original energy drink were up by 50 per cent year on year.

Another East Asia-inspired product has continued to generate interest, with yuzu-flavoured products becoming increasingly mainstream, particularly with the larger drinks brands. Searches for the tart citrus fruit were up 49 per cent year on year in July 2021.

It’s not just low and no-alcohol drinks which are enjoying a surge in popularity in 2021, as boozier alternatives continue to prove a hit with consumers. Although South African wines, which I predicted to enjoy a renaissance this year, have been hit by domestic bans on alcohol, boxed wine alternatives are overcoming traditional taboos.

In February of this year, it was reported that wine sales at some UK supermarkets had grown by as much as 77 per cent and many fine wine producers are shifting production over to more sustainable, easier to transport and recycle boxed alternatives.

Food and drink trends continue to shift at breakneck speeds and manufacturers will have to factor adaptability and flexibility into their strategies to keep pace.

 Environmental trends

It was widely predicted across the industry that 2021 would be “the year of the alternative eater” following on from the success of the meat-free burger last year. We have certainly seen a rise in the number of alternatives to other animal products on supermarket shelves and restaurants, including eggs, milk, chicken and seafood.

While ‘imitation’ meat is not a new concept, we are seeing an already competitive market continue to congest. The demand for meat-free alternatives was shown by Beyond Meat’s IPO in 2019, which broke records when it debuted on the New York Stock Exchange. Experts are predicting that Impossible Food could follow the trend if it goes public, as rumoured, in 2022.

Other innovative brands, such as THIS, are poised to capitalise on this trend, with its high-quality alternative meat products providing a genuinely comparable eating experience for those cutting meat out of their diets.

The meat free market was valued at £572m in July 2021 and is expected to be worth £658m by the end of the year. We expect to see this market continue to go from strength to strength as consumers move towards a greener diet, which has been accelerated by the pandemic.

A study by Proagrica in May found that 48 per cent of consumers are paying greater attention to the provenance of their food; 57 per cent have reduced their meat and fish consumption, and 46 per cent want their animal products to be ethically farmed.

As Ed predicted in his original blog, this rising consumer demand for more environmentally friendly options and a move towards a ‘climatarian’ diet has led to Government intervention, with a new traffic light system being launched to allow consumers to make more sustainable choices.

The scheme was developed by Foundation Earth and backed by brands including Nestle, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, the Co-Op and Costa Coffee. The pilot will run in autumn and introduce a range of food and drink carrying “eco scores” on the front of packaging for the first time. As ever, the winners here will be the manufacturers that can boast the environmental credentials to match their product.

Shoppers are increasingly savvy around sustainability and these measures will only increase knowledge around the green credentials of food and drink products. In a recent blog, we revisited the topic of food waste and explored how food producers can limit their impact on the environment.

This is, however, just part of the environmental challenge and manufacturers will have to factor the sustainability of every product to meet the ever-widening demands of consumers.


Integrated Food Projects have partnered with Kettleby Foods on a number of high-profile multi-million pound capital projects since 2003/4, helping the business to develop and grow. Throughout that time they have provided cost-effective and efficient solutions on development projects both at our existing ready meals production facility and also in creating a new satellite facility. The projects at our existing facility were managed without impact on our ability to service our own clients, and all projects have been delivered within budget, in a timely fashion and to the requisite standards of safety and quality. Their team work ethos and professional approach ensure successful projects and I would utilise Integrated Food Projects in the future without hesitation.

- Jarrod Thorndyke, Production Director

I have worked with Integrated Food Projects on many capital expenditure projects since 2004, the latest being the development of the new plot of land adjacent to our main site. They successfully employed a project delivery process to ensure the integration of a leased modular building solution with the development of the site infrastructure to improve logistics and Health and Safety. Their staff are always positive and enthusiastic and have fostered a team-work approach ensuring another successful project delivered. I look forward to working with them again in the near future.

- Engineering Manager, Major UK Ready Meals Manufacturer