Food to Watch—2022 Trends

Wayne Farms
TikTok’s famous “marry me chicken,” the ongoing “best chicken sandwich,” battle and the rise of dark meat menu options - there’s a lot to love when it comes to food trends this year. This month, we’re looking at where food trends are heading in 2022. For poultry products and consumer trends, three categories come to mind.

Ethical Operations

This year, consumers are more inclined to purchase products with a backstory showcasing sustainability, regenerative farming, and humane treatment. Even with the rise in meatless options, a vast majority of consumers still heavily incorporate meat products into their diets. But with 49% of consumers stating that they take “clean and sustainable” operations into consideration before purchasing, it’s becoming more important than ever to showcase what is happening on the backend of poultry production.

“Clean” products may have you just thinking of free-range or grass-fed labels, but consumers are really interested in how their protein is grown and produced this year from any source…the “food story” is the journey from farm to table. Everything from employee health to humane production practices, nutrition and feed to farm practices, environmental impact and sustainability is part of that food story.

Healthy and Wholesome

Health post-pandemic will remain a concern and has the average American working hard to clean up their health in all areas of their life - from food to mindsets. Antibiotics, coloring agents and dyes and other additives rank highly in what consumers are looking to avoid. Even with the rise in grocery stores and menu prices, most people are willing to pay a premium for the products they feel have taken their health and well-being into consideration. Minimal or no antibiotic meat and dairy, hormone-free poultry, and minimal additives and preservatives are among the most highly valued products on menus and grocery store shelves.

What else do people want to know about their food? More than 50% of Americans state that food labels are misleading or hard to understand. Producers and operators should spell out precisely what makes their product more natural by stating the apparent differences such as no-hormones added, no additives, or antibiotic-free. Smart operators already know that menus highlighting “light” or “heart healthy” items score points with health-conscious customers. Now that is spreading to producers and retailers—we’ve recently seen store brands utilizing this method to show shoppers how they’re doing health-wise in their grocery carts. It’s straightforward: red light food is typical junk food, yellow light foods typically have more preservatives/additives, and green light food is all-natural or close to it. This data can be synced to their store loyalty card or app, making it easier for consumers to make fast decisions on which brands and products they should be adding to their cart as they shop.

Chicken Prep Trends—Forward on Flavor for 2022

46% of poultry consumers say they’re really after fresh new flavor combinations and profiles this year. With the rise in take-out in 2021, flavor pallets are burned out from buffalo sauced chicken. Unique flavors, new textures, and new takes on preparation will gain attention on menus and grocery shelves. Jerk chicken, habanero pineapple, and garlic basil will take the place of classic lemon pepper and parmesan in the wing category, with consumers wanting to expand their pallets and excite their tastebuds.

We’ve learned from the 2020 days of eating at home that flavor is everything, and anything pre-flavored saves us valuable time in the kitchen. Operators and producers have a tremendous opportunity to create pre-sauced and pre-marinated options to garner favor on the frozen food aisle, with “smokey” and “bold” flavors being the highest requested items by consumers. Sauces will also play an essential role in frozen and precooked chicken options.

So there you have it…capitalize on consumer taste trends for 2022. On the grocery aisle, at the guest table and in the drive-through—give them more flavor, fewer preservatives, and a food story they can feel good about.