2022 Trend Forecast: Honey’s Lookin’ Sunny

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It’s that time of year when trend forecasting is hotter than freshly baked bread. Consumer trend reports and market research companies are weighing in on what to look forward to in 2022’s food and beverage industries, and the new year is primed for an all-natural ingredient to take center stage: honey.

The Dryification of Consumers

First, we head to the beverage trend space, where flavor innovation and sugar reduction is a hot topic with both low- and no-alcoholic beverages and alcoholic drinks. Consumers, according to Food Navigator, are going to expect more from both coffee and tea “in terms of flavor and taste experience, functional ingredients, and ‘better-for-you’ health and wellness benefits” in 2022.

Additionally, there will be an even bigger demand on ready-to-drink (RTD) coffee and tea, as consumers are clamoring for convenience. Challenges noted by Food Navigator include reduced sugar formulations and functional ingredients, both of which are readily met by using honey in RTD tea products. Functionally, honey includes a variety of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants. Further, honey is up to one-and-a-half times sweeter than sugar, which means beverage developers can use less of Mother Nature’s sweetener to obtain the same desired sweetness.

Beverage Daily reports that consumer demand for health-boosting ingredients has also risen in functional coffee. Almost one-third of coffee lovers “are interested in purchasing coffee with added functional benefits.” That’s great news for honey lovers, as research has shown that honey contains a wide array of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants1. Flavonoids and phenolic acids, which act as antioxidants, also are found in honey1. The amount and type of these compounds depend largely on the floral source1.

For Those Who Want a Buzz

RTD is also hot in the alcoholic space, where flavor is a major driver. With more than 300 varietals of honey in the United States alone, hard seltzer, premium RTD cocktail, and other traditional brands that have crossed over from the energy drink and coffee space are thriving with made-with-honey drinks. Beverage Daily reports that flavor is the key driving force behind RTD purchases, preferred by almost 70% of consumers for spirit-based RTDs. Further, 56% of RTD drinkers said regular releases of new flavors is “an important factor in establishing a premium image.”

Throughout 2021, we certainly saw a boom in made-with-honey alcoholic RTD beverages and we predict 2022 to be a standout year as well. However, in Whole Foods’ 2022 outlook, booze-free drinks will thrive. “We don’t see the sober-curious mindset going away anytime soon. Consumers can expect to see a new lineup of drinks that provide the taste and sophistication of cocktails without the buzz.” Looks like the only buzz the space will see is the one derived from honey bees.

Honey Takes Lead in All-Natural Sweeteners

There is no doubt that the competitive space in sweeteners is sometimes overwhelming. However, honey is taking the lead in several trend forecasts. According to a recent survey from the International Food Information Council, honey ranked highest among consumers in terms of their likelihood to consume foods and beverages with various sweeteners.

Continued Plant-Based Momentum

Plant-based everything was huge in 2021, and 2022 will see no stoppage. Innova Market Insights ranked consumer interest in plant-based alternatives as its No. 2 trend. Whole Foods’ forecast showed a rise in reducetarianism, where consumers are looking to reduce consumption of animal-based products but not necessarily go all-out plant-based. And, Ipsos called plant-based a “movement,” with more than 50% of worldwide consumers adopting some sort of plant-based diet.

What could be more plant-based as a sweetener than all-natural honey? Countless made-with-honey products popped up on supermarket shelves in 2021, and we can’t wait to see what the future has in store — pun intended — for honey’s growth.

1National Honey Board, “Nutritional Benefits of Honey.” Sept 2008.