image displaying a 2021 wellness trend of healthy diets

From Functional Snacking to Climatarian Lifestyles: Here’s What We Know About Dietary Trends in 2021

New Year, New Lifestyle Mindset

The perennial mindset of “New year, new you, new diet” isn’t quite the same in 2021: The pandemic is still on the rise, many people are still working from home, avoiding crowded places, and trying to keep up with their kids' virtual schooling. People might be aiming to start fresh in the new year but you’re not likely to see the same level of crash diets and new gym memberships. 

This year, the mindset is about how to stay healthy, happy, and at home while enjoying foods and staying healthy for the long-term. To help brands and retailers plan strategically, this article will explore how lifestyle habits are guiding diets in 2021:

  1. Why Maintainable Diets Matter: Keto shoppers and climatarians are merging diets with lifestyles.
  2. Heat-and-Eat Healthy Meals: Nutritious but convenient food kits and quick meals are saving shoppers time.
  3. New Take on Comfort Foods: Favorite snacks are getting a boost from functional ingredients.
  4. Diets as a Lifestyle: What it means for retailers and brands and where to go from here.

DEEP DIVE: Lifestyle and Diet

Why Maintainable Diets Matter

Disruption to our daily routines has upended the health goals for many,” says Jake Knepper, data product manager for SPINS. Sedentary lifestyles highlighted by a lack of regular exercise increased stress levels, and more opportunities for snacking have caused many to gain weight or simply feel less healthy.

But that doesn’t mean shoppers are tossing their favorite foods or dietary preferences—whether that’s vegan, paleo, or ketojust to shed a few pounds. They want to reach their health goals without abandoning their favorite foods. They don’t want meals to feel like chores. 

That’s especially true of shoppers who follow dietary lifestyles that are guided by overarching ideals that leave more flexibility in terms of specific ingredients and attributesClimatarians are a perfect example, as these shoppers are focused on the carbon footprint of their diets. Reduced meat consumption is a large part of the climatarian lifestyle, and it doesn’t mean they never eat meat. Rather, they look for ways to reduce their meat consumption seeing as the production of meat products has a large effect on climate 

For everyone from average shoppers trying to mind their nutrition to climatarians worried about climate change, nutrient-rich versions of their go-to pantry staples are helping them stay satiated and on-target to achieve their health goals. Maintainable diets mean there’s no need to go cold turkey on an ingredient, only to crash in a couple of weeks and hop to a new diet to lose weight or boost the immune system. Whether they’re choosing paleo, keto, vegan, or any number of dietary options, shoppers are rethinking their daily eating habits for the long term.  

Heat-and-Eat Healthy Meals

Most of the country is nearing a year of being in some form of lockdown, which means limited restaurant options and more at-home meals. Many shoppers are growing tired of cooking most of their meals and trying to keep their menus fresh. This is why many retailers are offering home meal kits that they assemble in-store. Meal kits are typically consisting of seasoned protein, vegetables, and maybe a side or dessert that don’t require much preparation beyond putting them in the oven or slow cooker.  

Similarly, many shoppers are choosing shelf-stable and fresh items that are just as easy to get from the pantry to the table. Refrigerated entrees are up 56% while refrigerated burritos and tamales are up 24%shelf-stable entrees and mixes have grown 31% and frozen entrees have risen 17%. Like home meal kits, these options save shoppers time, don’t require them to purchase every ingredient to start from scratch, and spice up their weekly menus.   

Functional Snacking

Functional ingredients continue to attract shoppers who want some nutritious benefits from their favorite items. That’s why many emerging brands are bringing new functional snacking items to shelves, such plant-based gelato with adaptogenic herbs, ready-to-drink coffee with electrolytes, and plant-based cookie doughs with collagen and vitamins. With these options, shoppers don’t have to trade their favorite treats for boring snacks just because they’re trying to stay healthy. 

What is functional snacking? Foods that contain functional ingredients (i.e., vitamins, high proteinprobiotics) turn a quick bite into a convenient way to get nutrition between meals or on the go   

Although dairy is off the menu for some shoppers, it’s showing strength when it comes to snacking thanks to their keto-friendly low amount of carbs and sugarsThat could be why natural and wellness products are driving growth within the dairy snacking subcategories, with yogurts and desserts leading the gains. 

New Take on Comfort Foods

Similar to functional snacks, school pantry items are putting a new twist on classic shelf staples. Just because someone is avoiding processed foods or animal products doesn’t mean they’re done with their favorite dishes. Today, shoppers can find everything from chickpea macaroni and cheese to vegan tortilla soup and plant-based meat snacks. Innovation is bringing new life to these comfort foods and reaching a wider audience.  

For shoppers, such as climatarians, who base their diets on broader ideals rather than personal health, upcycled foods have become an exciting space. Upcycled foods make use of ingredients and foods that would have otherwise been discarded. Think of food delivery services that provide shoppers with fruits and vegetables that are discolored or not as aesthetically pleasing as the items you’d normally find proudly displayed in stores. 

Upcycled foods are still relatively new to most shoppers, but they—alongside climatarian dietsare making headway as sustainability and environmentally friendly foods become increasingly important. These items are finding their way into a variety of categories, from food and beverage to body care and even pet. Keep an eye on a growing interest in upcycled foods as they appear in reliable shopper favorites like chips and ready-to-drink beverages. 

What Diets as a Lifestyle Mean for Your Business

For Brands: Convenience is king for today’s shoppers. If your products fit into the many popular dietary habits, publicize it. For example, many shoppers and retailers might not realize that your items are keto friendly if it’s not marked on the package. Talk with them, consider promotional options, and factor that into your marketing decisions. Shoppers are looking to stick with the snacks and brands they love if it works with their dietary focuses, so make it easier for them to see that you’re the right option. 

For Retailers: Make meal prep easier for shoppers with the right merchandising. You can create your own meal kits or simply group together shelf stable and fresh items that can serve as a full meal with minimal cooking time. You can also display products by diet, such as a spotlight on keto that includes the wide range of functional and convenient snacks you offer. 



Inside the report:

  • Why Maintainable Diets Matter
  • Heat-and-Eat Healthy Meals
  • Functional Snacking
  • A New Take on Comfort Foods
  • Plus, What Diets as a Lifestyle Mean for Your Business

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