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Top 5 European food trends in 2022

As we look ahead to accelerate the transformation of the food system, EIT Food has combined expert insights and analysis to highlight the top 5 European food trends in 2022...

28 Jan 2022
12 min reading time

Employing over 4.5 million people and accounting for 290,000 small to medium enterprises (SMEs), the food and drinks industry is one of the largest manufacturing sectors in the EU (1). As the industry continues to grow and the need to find solutions to food system challenges increases, what are the influences driving the transition of the food system to be healthier and more sustainable?

From policy and legislation to consumer trends and market growth, we have combined insights from the EIT Food community and key food system stakeholders to collate our top 5 food trends for Europe in 2022:

  1. Food systems will play a key role in discussions and decision-making about climate change in the run up to COP27
  2. More large-scale farms and corporations will begin to adopt regenerative farming practices
  3. The European alternative proteins market will see further growth in 2022 including more ‘meaty alternatives’
  4. The role of young people as food activists and agents of change will increase
  5. More brands will adopt front of pack environmental labelling in 2022

1. Food systems will play a key role in discussions and decision-making about climate change in the run up to COP27

2021 was labelled by many as a landmark year for food system transformation, with flagship milestones such as the UN’s first food systems summit stressing the urgency of change and the importance of collaboration. However, it has also been described by some as missing the mark, with food not being ‘high enough on the agenda’ in the negotiations and dialogues at COP26 in November 2021 (2).

With the importance of limiting global warming to 1.5°C becoming more evident, and as the countdown for the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals draws closer, the food system needs to be front and centre in dialogues leading up to, and at, COP27 in Egypt. Dr. Andy Zynga, EIT Food CEO, stated that, “as we look to make food a high priority in global sustainability and health dialogues over the next year and beyond, we need to involve all stakeholders in conversations.” (2) The role of farming in climate mitigation and adaptation, for example, cannot be considered in isolation - it must be tackled as part of a wider systems approach, with the food system as a whole included in dialogues surrounding climate change.

Collaboration between organisations in the food system is likely to increase in 2022 and food brands will be under greater pressure to further develop sustainability roadmaps. Policymakers will also be expected to start to introduce further legislation that encourages sustainable and ethical practices within the food system. As part of the Paris Agreement, countries recently submitted action plans to reduce their carbon emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. In these plans, known as Nationally determined contributions (NDCs), countries provided a wide range of information on adaptation in various priority areas. Food systems featured highly as priority areas within the submitted NDCs (3), highlighting widespread recognition of the importance of food systems and food security in climate adaptation strategies.

The intersection between climate and food is profound – if we do not address food systems-driven climate emissions, we simply cannot make our 1.5°C target; and if we don't, food systems will suffer the most. So, for many of us, postponing this conversation is a luxury we cannot afford.

- Dr. Agnes Kalibata, UN Special Envoy (4)

Hear more about food trends in the run up to COP27 on the Food Fight podcast, featuring Ed Bergen from FutureBridge:

Discover some of the startups and projects driving positive change in this area:

  • EIT Food RIS Policy Council: The RIS Policy Council is a policy advisory body established in 2019 to support dialogue and other interactions in EIT RIS countries, contribute towards the further elaboration of EIT Food instruments and projects, as well as promote linkages with government authorities and other stakeholders.
  • WE Lead Food: Designed to equip women with the tools to make a difference and achieve results, the network is open to all discipline backgrounds including research, business, policy and civil society members and will ensure a high level of interaction, spontaneity and dynamism to build the network and opportunities for collaboration in decision-making.

2. More large-scale farms and corporations will begin to adopt regenerative farming practices

Labelled as the biggest food system trend for 2022 by the EIT Food community on our FoodHIVE platform, regenerative agriculture, which aims to improve soil health and increase biodiversity on farms, is likely to see greater uptake by large-scale farms and corporations in 2022. As research surrounding regenerative agriculture increases, for example the health benefits and economic business incentives that farming regeneratively could provide, regenerative practices will be better understood and, as a result, likely to be implemented by more farms and food brands in 2022.

Hear more about regenerative agriculture on the Food Fight podcast, featuring Founding Director of the Sustainable Food Trust, Patrick Holden, and Agriculture Project Manager at EIT Food, Philip Fernández:

On the 2022 agrifood trends episode of the Food Fight podcast, Ed Bergen from FutureBridge pointed to the fact that, as we understand more about soil health, more food brands and large-scale farms are recognising the importance of protecting and preserving soil and farmland. He highlighted that the industry is seeing more and more brands using ingredients that are not only better for human health, but also for the environment. As a result, Ed said there has been a shift in how brands run farms and how they regulate and protect soil. He also highlighted that big food brands will be key in driving the global transition to regenerative agriculture, with the rise of agricultural technology as a key enabler in this (5).

Regenerative agriculture has gone from being a ‘marketing strategy’ to becoming a real solution to current unsustainable food production models. By restoring the environment, and increasing biodiversity and food quality, producers at all levels, from smallholder farmers to large corporations, are starting to explore and transition to regenerative agriculture practices.

- Philip Fernández, Agriculture Project Manager at EIT Food

Governments and authorities are also likely to support more farms transitioning to regenerative agriculture in 2022. In the UK, for example, the government introduced new subsidy plans as part of its Agricultural Transition Plan 2021-2024 where farmers will be offered up to £70 per hectare to adopt regenerative techniques, including mixed farming systems where crops are cultivated alongside livestock to help boost soil health.

We anticipate that other European governments will announce similar schemes and trials in 2022, with the European Commission’s Farm to Fork Strategy and individual Nationally determined contributions (NDCs) playing a role in how these are shaped. Within these initiatives, there is also likely to be a clear focus on how they are tailored to farm size and capabilities. Farms account for approximately 39% of the EU’s land area (6), and there is a huge opportunity for more farms to transition to more sustainable farming practices, including regenerative agriculture.

Discover some of the startups and projects driving positive change in this area:

  • The Regenerative Agriculture Manual: As part of the Regenerative Agriculture Revolution project, a crop-specific guidebook has been designed to help Mediterranean farmers transition from conventional or organic production systems to regenerative agriculture.
  • The European Carbon+ Farming Coalition: Catalysed by the World Economic Forum’s CEO Action Group for the European Green Deal, EIT Food joined organisations in the European farmer-centric coalition to accelerate progress towards European Green Deal goals on carbon neutrality and biodiversity.
  • SatAgro: Part of the RisingFoodStars network, SatAgro supports farms of different sizes by linking them with state-of-the-art satellite monitoring and connected agroanalytics. This provides them with actionable data and insights which in turn helps them to become more profitable and sustainable.

3. The European alternative proteins market will see further growth in 2022 including more ‘meaty alternatives’

As part of our food trends predictions for 2021, we stated that the alternative proteins market would continue to gain ground with consumers. This is likely to persist in 2022, with both existing and new players in the space working to perfect the ‘meatiness’ of alternative proteins to appeal to a wider range of consumers, such as those who may not consider themselves vegetarian, flexitarian or vegan. This will result in more meat alternatives on supermarket shelves and restaurant menus.

High profile investment into alternative protein innovation is also likely to grow in 2022, with the recent example of actor and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio investing in two EIT Food RisingFoodStars focusing on cultivated meat, Mosa Meat and Aleph Farms. In fact, Mosa Meat representatives have said the company aims to have cultured hamburgers on the European market in the first half of 2022 (7).

On the Food Fight podcast, Ed Bergen pointed to the fact that meat companies themselves are also starting to invest more in cultivated meat startups and technologies (5). This investment by meat companies represents wide recognition that cultivated, or cell-based meat, is indeed the direction the industry is travelling in, and collaboration between these sectors is going to be crucial for the future of sustainable protein diversification.

With a wider demand for sustainable alternatives to traditional food products, this trend also extends beyond meat. The United Nations General Assembly has declared 2022 as the International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture to make seafood production more sustainable, and this is supported by an increase in innovation to develop alternative seafood ingredients and products. The first half of 2021 saw record investments of $116 million into alternative seafood products, surpassing 2020’s total investments (8). The number of companies across the world creating alternative seafood ingredients and products also grew from approximately 29 in 2017 to more than 87 by mid 2021 (8). A recent example includes the TASTE2MEAT from Israeli startup Plantish.

Discover some of the startups and projects driving positive change in this area:

  • TASTE2MEAT: With the aim to identify and assess new alternative protein ingredients from underutilised plant sources, such as legumes and oil seed press-cakes, the TASTE2MEAT project is developing knowledge-based strategies for high sensory quality meat alternatives by specifically focusing on flavour and structure.
  • Juiciness of plant-based meat alternatives: This project is developing an experimental toolbox which will help to better characterise and understand the juiciness of plant protein-based meat alternatives which, in turn, will enable links to be made between juiciness and specific ingredients, product structure and processing.
  • Redefine Meat: As part of the RisingFoodStars network, Redefine Meat's mission is to make the perfect steak without the need for animals by utilising plant-based ingredients, proprietary meat-modelling and industrial-scale 3D food printers.

4. The role of young people as food activists and agents of change will increase

The rise of youth activism has seen widespread attention in recent years, and the food system is no exception in this. Young people are calling for change with how food is produced and consumed in Europe and they are demanding a seat at the decision-making table.

With this in mind, 2022 will likely see more young people starting agrifood businesses, an increase in environmentally conscious consumption in the Gen Z demographic, and the emergence of new youth movements within the food, climate and health space. The EIT Food FutureFoodMaker initiative, for example, saw 10 young Europeans launch a manifesto for the food system, the Menu for Change, in late 2021 where they called on European policymakers and stakeholders to make changes in areas such as food waste reduction, agriculture and food education. They plan to expand their work in 2022, and they are also calling on all European consumers to take steps as individuals to drive change. “We eat three times a day, meaning we can have an impact three times a day, 365 days a year,” said FutureFoodMaker Chloé Dorin on an episode of the Food Fight podcast (9).

In fact, our research has shown that food sustainability has become more important for two-thirds (64%) of 18–24-year-olds in Europe in the past year (10). And, as a result, agrifood organisations must react in 2022 to help amplify the voices of young people and include them in decisions about the future of food.

Young people should continue to fight for the future of food, and food sector stakeholders need to actively involve young people in conversations about food as standard.

- Dr. Andy Zynga, CEO of EIT Food, and Sasha Cohen Ioannides, FutureFoodMaker (1)

As stated by Mike Nkhombo Khunga, a global youth advocate for nutrition, “never before has a generation been so proactive in the way we think about food and environment. As it stands, young people are to inherit a planet that will be four degrees warmer, threatening the availability and nutrition quality of what they eat as well as the air they breathe.” (11)

Discover some of the startups and projects driving positive change in this area:

  • Foodathon: The Foodathon was an innovation and creativity hackathon which seeked to empower young innovators from Europe and Africa to transform our food systems. Through a two-day programme, the young people developed and pitched an agrifood business idea, with prizes awarded to the winning pitches.
  • EIT Food RIS Fellowship: Dedicated to MSc students, graduates and young entrepreneurs, beneficiaries are given the opportunity to apply academic knowledge in practical contexts of work and develop a creative problem-solving competence at partner organisations to spur a weave of entrepreneurial innovations in their home countries.
  • Girls Go Circular: With the aim to contribute to gender diversity policy objectives and sustainability, this project will bridge the gender diversity gap by equipping young women and girls with digital skills and competences, empowering them to develop solutions to circular food challenges.
  • FoodUnfolded: As EIT Food’s consumer facing platform, FoodUnfolded shares stories about the past, present, and future of food; to shed light on how food is deeply intertwined with our lives and societies. FoodUnfolded aims to bridge misunderstandings and create trust to foster a new relationship between everyone in the food system, including consumers, academics, experts and those in the food industry.

5. More brands will adopt front of pack environmental labelling in 2022

With the recent momentum of environmental food labelling trials as well as official European-level recommendations, 2022 will likely see more food brands taking part in trials and rolling out environmental labelling initiatives, such as the Foundation Earth environmental label.

In December 2021, for example, the European Commission adopted a recommendation to help companies to calculate their environmental performance and manufacture more environmentally friendly products. This includes transparently communicating with consumers about how products are produced using an internationally agreed life-cycle analysis method. Analysis elements include climate change and impacts related to water, air, resources, land use and toxicity.

With consumers often having concerns about confusing and misleading claims on food labels (12) and up to 59% feeling that product labels do not provide enough information (13), it is clear there is an opportunity for improvement in 2022 and beyond. What’s more, environmental labelling can also provide benefits for food system stakeholders, making it easier to see what the environmental impacts of different parts of a product’s supply chain has, therefore highlighting where changes can be made.

Environmental food labelling will allow consumers to see the environmental impact of a food product on its packaging so they can make more sustainable food choices. This also means that businesses that want to be good corporate citizens will gradually improve their ratings which, in turn, will create food chains that are much more sustainable.

- Dr. Andy Zynga, CEO of EIT Food (13)

Discover some of the organisations and projects driving positive change in this area:

  • Foundation Earth: Foundation Earth is an independent, non-profit organisation established to issue front-of-pack environmental scores on food products, enabling consumers to make more sustainable buying choices. The environmental label is being developed from research, drawing on two evidence-based methodologies: Mondra (developed in collaboration with University of Oxford) and Enviroscore (a former EIT Food project). ScanTrust
  • ScanTrust: Scantrust is a connected goods platform for companies that depend on selling physical products in a connected world. Founded in Switzerland, the startup uses unit-level product digitalisation to drive digital transformation within supply chains and achieve end-to-end transparency to consumers.
  • Connecting Food: Helping brands to regain consumer trust, Connecting Food uses data at every level of the food chain to track products in real time, from farm to fork. A digital auditing module that verifies if each product is truly compliant with its requirements, including sustainability, is then enabled.

EIT Food in 2022

Trends are what drive the agrifood industry and it has never been more important to follow the voice, needs and demands of the consumer. EIT Food is committed to building and supporting an inclusive community of agrifood stakeholders, promoting collaboration and inclusive systems innovation as the key to transforming the food system. If you are interested in learning more about food trends in 2022, listen to this episode of the Food Fight podcast and join our community to keep on top of the latest food system developments.

References

  1. FoodDrinkEurope: Data and trends: EU food and drink industry 2021
  2. Reuters Events: ‘Young people must be at the table if we are going to succeed in transforming food systems'
  3. United Nations Climate Change: NDC Synthesis Report
  4. UN Food Systems Summit: UN Special Envoy calls for a focus on food at next climate talks to limit global heating and prevent future famines
  5. EIT Food: Food Fight podcast: Emerging trends in the food system: 2022 and beyond
  6. Eurostat: Farms and farmland in Europe – statistics
  7. Euractiv: Cultured meat could be on the EU market ‘as early as 2022’
  8. Good Food Institute: State of the industry report: Alternative seafood
  9. EIT Food: The Food Fight podcast: The future of food with FutureFoodMakers
  10. EIT Food: Gen Z demand overhaul of food system to protect the planet
  11. UN Food Systems Summit: Young people can play a role in building food systems in crises like COVID-19
  12. EIT Food: EIT Food Trust Report 2020
  13. European Commission: Single market for green products initiative
  14. Food Ingredients First: Introduction of environmental labelling in on-pack communications

About the author

EIT Food is Europe’s leading food innovation initiative, working to make the food system more sustainable, healthy and trusted.

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