The 2021 Australian food trends were shaped by a year that no one could have predicted revealing these most popular foods in Australia. Many of these trends have continued in the top Australian food trends in 2022.

2020 was a difficult year for everyone, but particularly the hospitality sector which suffered multiple shutdowns for extended periods depending on where venues are located.  Reopening mean reworking internal layouts to create social distancing with reduced numbers.  It was everyone’s worst nightmare and has radically changed the way we eat out.  Gone are the days where you could wander in and expect to find a table. Now we have book ahead for limited time seatings and set menus.  Some restaurants require payment ahead of booking to reduce no-shows and streamline the process.

Despite all that, the scene has continued to evolve and some 2020 trends are expected to grow in 2021. These include food preferences, plant-based diet, sustainability and war on waste, conscious drinking and eating.

One of the biggest changes from 2020 is the attitude towards food delivery services.  At the beginning of 2020, they were perceived as squeezing restaurants beyond their means with high service charges.  During lockdown, home delivery became the bright spot on the food horizon for those who couldn’t leave their homes.

Which are the most popular foods in Australia?

What are we over?  Matcha, charcoal as an ingredient and CBD (cannabis oil) infused foods are tipped to be so last year.

These were my full predictions for 2020 and 2019 and here is my list of what to expect in Australian food during 2021.

Photo above by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

2021 Australian food trends

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Top 10 2021 Australian Food Trends

Online cooking schools and virtual events

Home baking has never been bigger. Its popularity shows no signs of slowing down as cooking becomes an activity people do for pleasure and it is destinated to be one of the top 10 2021 Australian food trends.

The baking bandwagon grew 21 per cent in 2020 according to responses to online food delivery company Deliveroo’s Australians’ Eating Habits and Foodie Trends for 2021. They surveyed over a thousand Australians aged from 18-65.

With COVID lockdown an on-again/off-again thing, the virtual events and learning that made the darkest days half bearable have become the new way to upskill in food preparation.

Now you can learn from the best anywhere around the world without stepping outside your front door.

Chefs and cooking school owners have pivoted their skills to create a myriad of online food course. Kirsten Tibballs, an internationally respected pastry chef and chocolatier saw an opening in the market and took her cooking classes online. Kirsten now has over 350 video tutorials available Savour Online Classes. They are perfect for anyone wanting to brush up on their cooking and baking skills, and a new online class is released weekly with a downloadable recipe.

‘Online learning is the perfect device to connect to people who may be limited economically or geographically. It is why we take such pride in providing an accessible platform with online classes,” says Kirsten. “Virtual learning can really be the greatest tool to educate and engage with people from a wide variety of locations and backgrounds. I can’t wait to see it grow even further into the future.”

Australian baking and cooking authority Anneka Manning is another chef who has created face-to-face and online baking school. Her BakeClub classes explain the how and why of baking to bring real baking into Australian homes. Browse her selection of online courses and see if you can resist. Anneka is also involved in another of the trends for 2021, deep-dive tours into some of Australia’s top food regions.

Do you need to brush up your Zoom skills? Here are some online tips that will help.

Australian food trends

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Growing a social conscience

Today is not enough to just create great food. Now food producers and restaurants also are taking on social issues head-on mobilising for social change as one of the top 10 2021 Australian food trends.

Using kitchen gardens, food banks and pantries, they are reducing waste (a trend in 2020),  redefining roles, and rebuilding communities. It is a win/win for them as supporting their favourite causes also garners a following from those with the same mindset.

Emerging premium Australian mustard brand VanDeRō is an example of a company that takes social responsibility very seriously. VanDeRō Co-founder Callie Van Der Merwe says that people care more now about their impact, whether it’s environmental, social, or community impact, than ever before.

“Australian consumers are making more thoughtful and responsible food choices. This is related to production and ingredients, and in really caring about the mission and ethics of the companies from which they buy. Tasting good simply isn’t enough anymore. People want to know they are making a difference.”

VanDeRō has teamed up with food-rescue kingpins, OzHarvest to offer a “1 Jar = 1 Meal” guarantee. The result is that every jar of VanDeRō mustard purchased allows OzHarvest to deliver one full meal to an Australian in need.

“We wanted to allow everyday people to easily make a difference and encourage other companies and organisations to do the same”, explains Van Der Merwe.

Australian food trend Buddha bowl

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Plant-based eating

Vegan, vegetarian, pegan, flexitarian, pescatarians and those who are plant-curious or plant-forward … the list of new diets goes on.

A quick look at the shelves in your local supermarket will tell you that the 2020s trend toward food preferences is not diminished instead it has firmly earned a place amongst the top 10 2021 Australian food trends. The movement is backed by Deliveroo’s Australians’ Eating Habits and Foodie Trends for 2021 survey that revealed 36 per cent of respondents predict meat-free alternatives will continue to rise.

“Australia is now the third-fastest growing market in the world for vegan food. Packaged plant-based foods were predicted to hit $215 million in 2020, up from $136 million, but we’ve likely superseded this figure​,” says plant-based business owner and third-generation restaurateur Heaven Leigh

“Tied into this is the ongoing trend of buying locally grown produce, which has strengthened in 2020 during COVID. Consumers and restaurants have focused on supporting local business and sourcing local, seasonal ingredients, celebrating regional cooking and artisanal products and, of course, continuing to seek the pasture to plate experience.

“Research by Boston Consulting Group shows a 56 per cent increase in the number of Australians wanting to buy more locally-grown products this year, as compared to pre-COVID.

“I expect this will continue well into 2021, COVID or no COVID. The trend of embracing veganism and plant-based eating will continue to gain steam, fuelled by the undeniable influence of social media. People who are hungry for more on these matters can find plenty of information and inspiration on various digital platforms and find a tribe of others who share these same interests. This groundswell in online conversation and active interest in plant-based living has led to people being much savvier than ever before about what they eat,” says Leigh.

A word of caution on packaged plant-based foods. Just because it is plant-based does not automatically mean it is healthy.

mug and flowers

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Going alcohol-free

Australia’s love of alcohol is well known. Still, it seems that this too is due for a change. 20 per cent of Deliveroo respondents in their Australians’ Eating Habits and Foodie Trends for 2021 said they planned to give non-alcoholic drinks a go.

Despite Australia’s often mentioned reliance on alcohol to get them through tough COVID times, this is another step forward from the 2020 trend of conscious drinking.

Food writer Jane Lawson believes 2021 will see a focus on DIY healthy elixirs and herbal tonics including distillations like flower waters, such as rose or orange blossom, and essential oils or bitters.

Jane says the increasing growth and improvement of non-alcohol- wines, beers, and spirits, along with interesting shrubs (drinking vinegar) are providing increasingly viable alternatives.

Mother and son team, Julie and Michael Pillon from branding agency Let’s Think have answered the call with a healthy and natural bubbly Famous Soda Co. range.

“We noticed how many people drink unhealthy cold drinks and beverages which are laden with sugar and other nasties,” says Julie Pillon. “We set a goal to create a bubbly beverage that is a healthy alternative to other cold beverages in the market. We want people to think about what they drink. We set out to change the world a little bit for the better. The taste was important to us too. No one wants to drink or eat something healthy if it’s not delicious.”

woman with  cup

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Travel via food 

In 2020 there was a predicted increased interest in international cuisines. However, it’s hard to see restaurant trends last year under the haze created by COVID lockdowns.

With travel bans in place for the foreseeable future, the closer we’ll get to discovering and experiencing international locations will be through plates. Expect more destination restaurants run by third culture (people raised in a culture other than their parents) chefs expanding cross-culture cuisines, and ethnic eateries serving iconic dishes.

Travel via food won’t just be limited to restaurant dining. Food writer Jane Lawson predicts that we will be taking our taste buds along to themed dinner parties where our friends do the cooking.

“I think the strong desire for people who travel to eat and connect with other like-minded folks will see a rise in themed dinner parties and possibly cookery classes, events and talks on drilling down into particular cuisines and associated culture. It is travel via your seat and stomach, eyes, ears.”

food tour

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Deep dive tours into Australian food

The idea of heading to one of Australia’s top food destinations for an indulgent getaway is nothing new. However, the latest trend is a longer, deep-dive drill down that takes you behind the scenes. Unless international borders open these holidays look set to be amongst the top 10 2021 Australian food trends.

Instead of exploring the tastes of Tuscany or wandering through Sicily with your mouth open, travellers are being enticed to explore homegrown delights. What is surprising many is how good they are.

Going behind the scenes, Renaissance Tours use experts in their fields to guide small groups into places the public generally can’t access. Their 2021 tours include Food and Wines of the Canberra District Wine Region with the ‘The Wine Man’ Peter Bourne and Taste of the Top End unique tropical epicurean delights of Darwin and explore traditional markets and market gardens in June 2021 with Jane Hutcheon. Other tours take in the Southern Highlands, Yarra Valley and Northern Rivers.

If you are a Bake Club fan, join baking guru Aneka Manning who has teamed with Insight Vacations to host a Tasmanian tour in March. Participants will taste the delicious produce and meet well-known makers.

restaurant kitchen

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Ghost kitchens and temporary popups

Reduced seating and rolling lockdowns, mean restaurants recovering from the hard trading conditions of 2020 will have to find creative ways to unbundle and reframe the dining experience to ensure their existence.

Expect more off-premises kitchens, mobile pods, repurposed industrial sites and popups like Cameron Matthews’ Winston in Noosa. Matthews has taken over the premium riverside quarters that formerly housed award-winning Wasabi and more recently Alana Sapwell’s Esme, to showcase his food philosophy in a must-do dining experience.

Off-premises kitchens also are predicted to be part of restaurant business models going forward. We could even see new versions of travelling food trucks like Mr Whippy doing the rounds of the neighbourhood.

pancake stack

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Conscious consumption

The movement towards choosing your food carefully continues with nearly half of Deliveroo’s respondents opting for clean eating. A further 43 per cent opted for sustainable foods putting conscious consumption firmly amongst the top 10 2021 Australian food trends.

Clean eating means loading up on fruit and vegetables at the expense of processed foods. It’s whole grain, less meat, sugar and salt, all while considered the resources required to put food on the plate. Some call this ‘eating like a nana’ because it also involves growing your own and cooking from scratch.

Supporting local producers is a natural extension for conscious consumers because they finally know where their food is coming from. Whether they buy from farmers markets, food box delivery services, Reko or their local greengrocer, one in five consumers plan to eat more locally produced and sourced dishes according to Deliveroo’s survey. Nearly a third predict seasonal vegetables will feature prominently in the year ahead.


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Condiments and comfort food

Even the dullest meal can be livened up with the right condiment so expect so see more of these hitting the shelves. There will be modern twists on old favourites along with more preserving, pickling and fermenting.

The comfort food that brings warm memories of better times will be our touchstone for 2021 as we struggle to come to terms with the new world order. Comfort food done well is a salve to the soul and can also offer cost-effective dining.

Restaurants will put elevated spins on old favourites while home cooks will seek to master everyday pleasure like the perfect scone.

Food writer Jane Lawson sees the growth focused on anything homemade, particularly something you might want on hand in the event of another lockdown.

food as medicine

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Food as medicine

From traditional remedies turned mainstream to innovative harvesting of food sources, 2021 could be the year that food as medicine really takes off as a top 10 2021 Australian food trend. We are experiencing an unprecedented era of rapid scientific and technological advances that will transform how our foods are produced and consumed.

Dr Diana Bogueva, Centre Manager for the University of Sydney’s Centre for Advanced Food Enginomics says these changes are necessary because the current way we produce our food is under pressure.

Transforming food systems

“As the world’s population builds toward 9 billion our available land to grow food is shrinking, there is freshwater resource scarcity, unsustainable livestock production, the climate crisis and even now the Covid-19 pandemic,” says Bogueva. “The world can no longer produce enough to satisfy the constantly increasing demand for meat. Transforming our food systems is the only way to nourish the world. In this pathway, changing consumer attitudes is crucial in achieving this goal. We all need to be smart about the food we eat and reduce quantities or avoid food that has a big impact on the environment around us.

“Many people around the globe are already changing their diets and looking forward to future food alternatives available because of the scientific and technological advances. Our food-related future will be fascinating and intriguing. We are not any longer going to stick to what we know and were used to consume. We will learn and adapt how to enjoy the foods of the future including plant-based meat, rich in nutrients insects, lab-grown meat, algae, 3D printed food, edible food packaging.”

Replacing meat

With the help of science, food is designed to have a specific aesthetic and function depending on their intended use. Plant-based meat that bleeds is becoming almost indistinguishable from real meat and is considered more sustainable.

“By replacing 50 per cent of the beef we eat with plant-based alternatives, we can reduce our environmental footprint immensely,” she says.

“Another application of modern food biotechnology architecture for transforming and improving our food supply include cultured meat. Based on tissue engineering techniques meat is grown in a laboratory from a few live animal cells. Cultured meat, clean meat or lab-grown meat is scaled up to have major environmental, sustainability, and ethical benefits over traditionally produced meat.

“It uses no farmland, no animal rearing, less water and less greenhouse gas emission (GHG), causes less pollution, and does not lead to antibiotic resistance and also is animal welfare-friendly, no slaughter is required. Cultured meat could be part of the solution to feeding the world’s growing population and at the same time cutting emissions and saving both energy (if using renewable sources) and water.”

While you might expect the new kids on the block, Gen Z, the 5 million people born between 1995-2015 encompassing 20 per cent of the Australian population and 2 billion people globally to lead the push, new research shows they are not so keen.

Research published by the University of Sydney and Curtin University in Frontiers in Nutrition found that, despite having a great concern for the environment and animal welfare, 72 per cent of Generation Z were not ready to accept cultured meat.

Foods also are being developed to combat chronic diseases such as obesity, cancer, diabetes, stroke, and heart disease.

“Biotechnology is used to create functional food ingredients from microbes (specific yeast or bacteria strain) grown in fermentation tanks such as enzymes, hormones, vitamins, nutraceuticals, flavours, and other functional ingredients,” Bogue says.

“The same technology could be used to produce proteins (like in milk, eggs), without the need of any animals to produce milk and egg products that have similar properties to those obtained from animals and again may reduce our animal-based foods reliance and could also lead to environmental and sustainability benefits.

It tastes better than you think

Algae is also used as a nutritional and functional food for its high protein content and amino acid profile required for normal health and growth. some species of algae contain lots of omega 3 fatty acids, which could promote good heart health.

In the category of ‘it tastes better than you think’, Sydney start-up Has Algae is pioneering the use of algae as a crop that can augment everyday foods. Algae grow around 10 times faster than traditional crops in a fraction of the space. They can be grown in different water types, including saltwater, making it practical to grow in arid conditions like many parts of Australia. This provides valuable nutrition without plundering the planet’s resources.

Modern food challenges

Dr Diana Bogueva says gene editing, nanotechnology, and artificial intelligence are being used to address modern food challenges. This includes feeding the growing global population, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, reducing waste, and improving sustainability.

“Scientists can precisely manipulate the genes of animals, plants, and microbes, using new techniques in particular like CRISPR and other lately developed gene-editing technologies. For instance, genetic engineering is being used to increase yields, improve resilience, reduce waste, enhance nutritional value, and broaden agricultural crops and livestock diversity. Although genetically engineered foods are currently perceived negatively by many consumers, this technology has many potential benefits that will help humanity address our pressing future food needs.

Nanotechnology for food fortification

“Nanotechnology is another controversial building food modern technology from the bottom up that that have the potential to build new food materials with new or enhanced properties and performances. Food fortification is an example of one of the most successful applications of nanotechnology such as development of tiny particles to encapsulate, protect, and deliver bioactive food components, such as vitamins, minerals, nutraceuticals, and antimicrobials.”

Predictably, these technologies’ application is facing a backlash from consumers concerned about the potential risks posed to human and environmental health. However, many embrace modern science to build an edible future with better food for improving our gut health and simply transforming the way we eat.

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