New year, new habits: five trends to watch out for in 2021

Published: 21-Jan-2021

Jessica Wilford, Head of Category Development and Planning for Europe at Tate & Lyle, looks ahead at some of the top ingredients trends that manufacturers should keep in mind as we move into the new year

Last year, beyond doubt, was one like no other. Manufacturers had to contend with new challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic and adapt to uncertain and constantly shifting consumer behaviours.

Indeed, there have been significant changes in the types of food people are choosing and the way they are consuming food, with 85% of consumers saying they have changed their food habits during the pandemic.1

This has led to the rapid acceleration of trends that were already beginning to emerge … and which we expect to play a more prominent role as we move into 2021.

Clean label

With time, clean label has evolved beyond a trend; it is now the expectation among many consumers, with roughly one third of people looking to avoid food or drink that contains artificial ingredients.

We are seeing a notable shift towards products that are perceived as being inherently “natural” and include claims such as “no additives or preservatives” or “organic.” As a result, these claims are likely to become more and more prevalent front-of-pack during the next few years.

We offer a wide portfolio of solutions derived from natural sources, including starches, fibres, emulsifiers and sweeteners, to help manufacturers boost their clean label credentials while maintaining the quality of their products.

However, clean label is now evolving to encompass factors such as sourcing, production and packaging. There is an increasing tendency to consider origin and environmental impact, so it is key for manufacturers to look at their supply chain and think of how they can best meet a holistic definition of “clean label.”

Health and wellness

In particular, there has been a demand to replace sugars with sweeteners from natural sources, such as stevia. The use of stevia-derived sweeteners in formulations has been increasing steadily, with demand growing during the last three years.2

Stevia has a broad range of applications; we have partnered with customers on a host of formulations, including yoghurts, soft drinks, sauces and condiments, confectionery and fruit spreads. This will only increase as technology evolves and we continue to grow our portfolio.

More broadly, at-home baking increased in popularity last year as people spent more time at home, with a poll by the National Association of British and Irish Millers finding that more than half (54%) of UK adults had turned to baking during lockdown.3 This is something we expect to continue into 2021.

Jess Wilford

Jess Wilford

Alongside this, almost three quarters (73%) of the 400 senior bakery industry professionals across Germany, France, Spain and the UK we surveyed as part of our European bakery industry research report say reduced sugar and calorie products are the biggest driver of growth.4

With these trends in mind, manufacturers should consider how they can provide inspiring solutions to help customers get creative in the kitchen, as well as reformulating products to improve their health credentials.

Enriched products

As well as thinking about what they’re taking out, manufacturers should also look at what they’re putting into their products; 34% of consumers globally plan to increase their intake of fibre during the next year.

In addition, more than half of the professionals we asked in our recent European bakery industry report (51%) stated that consumers are more likely to choose products that offer additional nutritional benefits, such as added fibre.5

Fibre plays an important role in improving digestive health and has added functional benefits for manufacturers. For example, products such as our PROMITOR Soluble Fibre can help to build mouthfeel in sugar-reduced products and provide fibre-enrichment without impacting taste or texture.

Wholegrains, such as those found in whole meal bread, are a good natural source of fibre, but we also know that some consumers — particularly children — may prefer white bread.

We have worked with our customers to fortify white loaves with up to 12% fibre by using soluble fibres in tandem with our range of stabilisers and functional systems.

We have also seen a growing demand for protein across a range of different categories. Protein contributes to the growth and maintenance of muscle mass, so protein-enriched products are a popular choice among those who enjoy active lifestyles.

The development of proteins with different technological functions has increased rapidly during the past 2 years, with a number of options beginning to emerge that can be used to boost protein fortification.

At the moment, the fibre and protein fortification trends are limited to certain products and ranges, such as baked goods and dairy products. However, as demand increases there will be greater scope for more products to offer fibre-fortified and protein-fortified claims.


The rise of flexitarianism means it is no longer just those consumers that identify as vegan seeking options that are free from animal products. More and more people are trying to make environmentally conscious decisions without dramatically changing their diet, and we expect to see even more developments in the space during 2021.

For example, there has been a long-standing desire to find alternatives to gelatine. This issue has risen to the top of the agenda during the past couple of years and as demand increases we are beginning to see manufacturers take different approaches with their gelatine-free alternatives.

We are also working with customers to explore different ways to use our range of starches, in combination with hydrocolloids, to bring new textures to the market.

For example, by using starch, such as our THINGUM Starches, in combination with our stabiliser systems such as our FRIMULSION and HAMULSION ranges, we have been able to develop a vegan jelly formula with a soft, chewy and pleasant texture that is entirely gelatine-free.

Value and convenience

People are increasingly looking to save money during the next 12 months, with 64% of UK consumers saying they have a budget to stick to when they shop.

However, with the growing focus on health and wellness, we should not necessarily assume that these budgetary pressures will always translate into a demand for cheaper products. We expect that, in many cases, consumers will be making nuanced choices about their food purchases, balancing the need for real value with the trends listed above.

Our portfolio provides a range of solutions that can help manufacturers to cut the cost of ingredients and throughout the manufacturing process, for example by reducing wastage.

Value is also associated with a growing need for quick and easy food solutions, which has been evident in the rise of meal kit delivery services and ready meals.

Convenience foods often have to maintain quality throughout a long shelf-life, which can be challenging, but Tate & Lyle’s extensive range of starches, emulsifiers and fibres can provide effective solutions to ensure that products retain their freshness for a long period of time.

Looking ahead

None of us can be certain what to expect during the next 12 months: the industry needs to be prepared to adapt to different scenarios. However, we are confident that these trends will be relevant in multiple future scenarios to varying shapes and degrees so manufacturers should cast an eye to the future to ensure they are in a strong position to benefit from these trends.

More than ever, it is important to be able to adjust to changes so your portfolio can be at the forefront of innovation as new trends emerge. At Tate & Lyle, our team of experts can help customers across different categories to find bespoke solutions using our holistic toolbox of ingredients to quickly tap into the new trends.



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