Which sweet trends are predicted to stick in 2021?

By Flora Southey contact

- Last updated on GMT

Dr Morgaine Gaye predicts mochi will infiltrate doughnut, pancake, and ice cream categories in 2021. GettyImages/vasiliybudarin
Dr Morgaine Gaye predicts mochi will infiltrate doughnut, pancake, and ice cream categories in 2021. GettyImages/vasiliybudarin

Related tags: Diageo, Sweet taste, Indulgence

This year, consumers will embrace oat-based desserts, grow their fondness for Japanese cuisine – including mochi-flavoured doughnuts – and explore combinations of sweet, sour, salty, umami and pickled flavours, according to food futurologist Dr Morgaine Gaye.

Of all the food trends to gain traction in 2020, indulgence was high up on the list.

How does industry expect growing demand for all things sweet, rich, and comforting to evolve as we move into 2021?

Diageo-owned Baileys Irish Cream has teamed up with ‘food futurologist’ and director of London-based Bellwether Food Trends, Dr Morgaine Gaye, for some crystal ball-gazing.

The year of the oat?

One of the major ingredients of 2021, according to Gaye, is oats.

Of course, this humble wholegrain is not new to the mainstream. Oat drink companies such as Oatly have done much to bring oats to the fore. The dairy alternative business has since expanded its oat offerings to include a range of ‘Oatgurt’ products, alongside ‘Whippable Creamy Oat’ and ‘Creamy Oat Fraiche’.

oats Okea
Is 2021 the year of the oat? GettyImages/Okea

“Oats have been a big deal for a while now,” ​noted Gaye in the Baileys 2021 Treat Report. “But we aren’t talking porridge, oat milk, or even…flapjacks.”

Rather, the so-called food futurologist sees potential for oats in a broader range of finished products – including some sweet. “Oat based milk chocolates, ice creams, cheeses, yoghurts, and even double cream are coming our way,” ​she noted.

“They’ve moved on from their wholesale appearance and have made the jump into decadent luxury, meaning we can look forward to rich and indulgent oaty treats.”  

Flavour combinations

In a trend Gaye has termed ‘clashing combos’, the forecaster said flavour combinations are set to expand beyond sweet and salty.

“We’ve been a big fan of sweet and salty for a while now. Though [in 2021] it’s ramping up into something even more indulgent and creative.”

Gaye predicts a growing number of foods to launch that mix sweet, sour, salty, umami and pickled flavours. One such product to champion such flavour combinations is the Ube doughnut, which Gaye described has having “more clashing taste combos per bite than anything you can imagine”​.

Ubes are purple yams from the Philippines. Once made into a doughnut, it is covered with a deep purple Ube halaya glaze, she explained.

mochi Yok_Piyapong
Mochi is made from pounded rice. GettyImages/Yok_Piyapong

“It’s then filled with Ube cream and tapioca pearls and topped with salty parmesan sprinkles.”

Elsewhere in the ‘clashing combos’ trend, Gaye predicts we’ll see ice cream fries, Danish dessert pizza, potato snacks covered in milk chocolate and caramel flavour crisps.

Japanese indulgence

For Gaye, Japanese indulgence is both savoury and sweet. Whether it be fluffy Japanese pancakes, iced coffee, or fish, the trend forecaster expects the nation’s cuisine to increase in popularity this year.

Taiyaki fish is one such delicacy on Gaye’s radar. “The soft waffle-like cone in the shape of a fish is stuffed to the gills with ice cream, sprinkles, sauces and wafers,” ​she explained.

Another Japanese dessert in favour is pounded sticky rice, otherwise known as mochi. “Mochi can be a love it or hate it affair. But [in 2021] there’s going to be a mochi for everyone.

“Our crystal ball…is seeing ice cream with a mochi textured top layer, mochi pancake mixes, mochi doughnuts and even savoury skewers of stuffed mochi balls for all on the horizon.”

Innovating the spreads category

spread Kkolosov
Consumers should expect to see a 'million different nut and seeds spreads' this year, says Dr Morgaine Gaye. GettyImages/Kkolosov

Gaye also expects the spreads category to grow this year, with R&D driving innovation.

Indeed, it appears the category is already on an upwards trajectory. According to Statista, revenue in the spreads segment is expected to reach £167m in the UK this year, with the market predicted to grow annually by 1.3% until 2025.

“From garlic-free sweet hummus flavoured with apricot, beetroot or chocolate orange, to latte inspired spread of green tea and pumpkin spice, these spreadables are worth keeping an eye out for,” ​noted Gaye in the report.

“We’re going to be seeing a million different nut and seed spreads including a rich watermelon seed and an outrageously decadent bourbon peanut butter.”

The trend forecaster continued: “For those who want to add a touch of luxury to their afternoon tea routine, Sloe Gin spreads and Champagne butters will make the humble piece of bread into a meal fit for royalty.”

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