Spotlight on the Hottest Food Trends for 2022

November 2021

As 2021 begins to wind down, we are found reflecting on the past year and looking ahead to what is on the horizon. It is also that time of year where many food companies and data houses come out with their trend predictions for the upcoming year. We at love geeking out over the forecasts and expectations of food, operators, and consumers and we were pleased to so many of the top trends aligning with lentils and what they bring to the menu.

The National Restaurant Association (NRA) partnered with the American Culinary Federation (ACF) to bring you their 2022 What’s Hot Report where they found the following relevant trends topping their Top 10 List for 2022:

  • Zero waste and sustainability – click here to learn more about why lentils are a key component to sustainable food systems including being carbon neutral, requiring little to no added water during production, and leaving the soil healthier after growing
  • Immunity boosting foods (snacks and functional ingredients) – click here to learn more about why lentils and their health benefits of being high in protein and fiber are a perfect fit for this approach to eating
  • Plant-based sandwiches – plant-based and plant-forward hand-helds are a great application to bridge experimentation for consumers looking to try new ingredients or flavors in a common platform – click here for a round-up of global hand-held menu inspiration

Other interesting call-outs included globally inspired salads and grain-based bowls in the Top 3 for the lunch daypart, and plant-based burgers for dinner. Power bowls are one of the top ways to use lentils on a menu, spanning restaurant segments – click here for power bowl inspiration. Lentils also serve as a key ingredient in many blended and plant-based burgers, offering a strong textural component, and also helping to bind the patty and lock in moisture – click here for burger inspiration.

North African and Western African also ranked in the Top 5 for global regions influencing menus. As a staple ingredient in many cultures within these regions, lentils are consumed in a variety of ways, especially due to their ability to soak up and carry the exciting and robust flavors of these dishes. Click here to read our spotlight on African cuisine.

When ACF chefs were asked what they thought the hottest culinary trend would be in 2022, the following items drew the highest number of verbatim responses, and all perfectly align with some of lentils’ best attributes for menu application:

  1. Sustainability
  2. Plant-based foods
  3. Comfort foods
  4. Healthy & immunity-boosting foods
  5. Global fare and flavours

In Technomic’s outlook, 2022: The Year of the Climb, some of the major standouts revolve around lingering struggles as we emerge from the pandemic. ‘All in One Prep’ and ‘The Fight for Labor’ rank as operators continue to struggle with supply chain concerns and labor shortages – cross utilization of ingredients is key right now as menu innovation is considered. Click here to read more about how lentils are an important ingredient when looking to proteins that can be used in many ways on the menu. ‘Proteins in Play’ also ranks on Technomic’s list emphasizing the interest and use of alternative proteins as well as leveraging global cuisines to amplify them such as Western African as was previously mentioned in the NRA’s report.

In Nourish Food Marketing’s 2022 Trend Report, they predict that the term “plant-based” could be losing meaning and credibility with consumers, seeing the better-for-you halo for plant-based beginning to dim – consumers are recognizing that plant-based products, particularly those mimicking the appearance of meat are not necessarily healthier. Instead, consumers are looking for whole food plant-based and alternative protein options instead with strong nutritional content. Lentils are a great whole food protein option that can be used in burgers and other plant-based applications.

In Whole Foods Market’s Top 10 Food Trends for 2022, sustainability and regenerative agriculture stand out, with ‘Reducetarianism’ and ‘Grains that Give Back’ surfacing in their top 10 list. ‘Reducetarianism’ suggests consumers who aren’t interested in giving up meat entirely are simply looking to shift the focus of their diet, perhaps reducing their overall consumption of meat, dairy, and eggs without cutting them out entirely, and replacing them with more plant-forward foods including plant-based proteins. ‘Grains that Give Back’ indicates an interest among consumers to purchase grains and other products that give back, highlighting agricultural practices and farming processes that help address soil health, which we previously noted lentils are a key driver of.

Finally, in Datassential’s 10 Future Forward Trends & Flavors to Watch in 2022, two Indian-inspired dishes take the top 10, one a classic dish, and another an Indian-inspired take on an American classic that we are all about right now. First up, chaat, India’s favorite savory, crunchy, spiced street food snack – this dish is seeing renewed interest in the U.S. including being featured at Chit Chaat Corner outside of DC. The second dish making the list is Indian pizza, where Indian flavors, ingredients, spices, and takes on traditional Indian dishes are transported onto a pizza. Indian pizza chains and menu items are popping up across the U.S. and include options like tikka masala or butter chicken. Indian cuisine is the top category currently menuing lentils in the U.S. and both are great entry points for consumers and lentils.

In closing, the future looks bright for the food industry, despite still working through some struggles emerging from the pandemic. It is clear from consumers that they are looking for more from their food, whether its sustainable food and ingredients, ingredients that offer something more like functional or immune-boosting qualities, and that plant-forward eating is still of interest but needs to be linked with great taste and leveraging global cuisine and flavors may be the best approach to increased consumption.

For help or inspiration in translating these trends to your menu, reach out to our team for a one-on-one innovation session by contacting us at