A – Artificial Intelligence (AI) – The startup AI Palette, an AgFunders portfolio company, is using AI to track consumer food preferences. Intelligence derived from the tool found growing desire for foods that boost mental health and reduce stress, along with continuing interest in plant-based products as an alternative to conventional meat and dairy products from animals.

B – Blooming Spices – The technique of cooking spices in oil or ghee (clarified butter) produces flavor compounds that are fat soluble. Fat that coats the tongue allows the spice’s aromatic compounds to stay in contact with the taste buds for a longer amount of time. Toasting whole seeds produces crunchiness and makes ground spices toasty.

C – Chewy – A texture celebrated in East and Southeast Asian cuisine but often unfamiliar and misunderstood in the West. Known as “Q” in Taiwan, jjolgit jjolgit in Korean and dai in Vietnam, the texture celebrates traditional cooking techniques requiring an exploration beyond mainstream Asian cuisine.

D – Demand – Desire for authentic sauces, chutneys and seasoning blends continue to rise as consumers seek out restaurant-like experiences at home. Melanie Zanoza Bartelme, global food analyst at Mintel, predicted consumers will use global flavors to create an at-home culinary adventure through the use of products such as guchugaru, a Korean seedless chile pepper that adds fruitiness and heat and douchi, fermented black soybeans that add a natural source of umami to Pan-Asian foods.

E – Eating at home – YouTube cooking sensations inspire new ways to approach home cooking with videos that focus on the use of pantry staples and easy-to-find ingredients such as kimchi in the deli or sushi from the perimeter. For example, using fresh bread from the instore bakery to make kimchi toast with cream cheese or stir fry meals that feature kimchi and whole grains.

F – Fusions – Often representative of twists on classics, fusion cuisine continues to take the best of multiple cultures and mix them up in new ways. Fusions of Chinese-Peruvian and Mexican-Korean represent the rise in second- and third-generation immigrant chefs fusing their native cuisines with local and regional flair.

G – Global travels – Maybe not just yet, but that won’t stop the exploration of new lands through food. The mainstreaming of chilis, sauces to top Korean barbecue, kimchi and spice blends are a gateway for experiencing a culture through food. Asian-inspired soups are also proving popular in the deli with products such as Kansas City, Kan.-based Tippin’s sriracha corn chowder soup.

H – High Population Concentration – States with the highest concentration of Asians include Hawaii, California, New Jersey, Nevada, Washington, New York, Alaska, Virginia, Maryland and Massachusetts. This can include individuals with origins stemming from the original peoples of the Fast East, Southeast Asia or Indian subcontinent (Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands and Thailand), as defined by the 2010 Census report. Seventy-two percent of Asian-Americans make grocery shopping an experiential family affair, according to IDDBA’s What’s in Store 2020.

I – Insects – High in protein and easy to farm and produce, insects are consumed by 2.5 billion people throughout the world. Considered good eating, insects are eaten raw, ground or fried. The World Atlas estimates more than 1,000 species of insects are eaten in 80% of countries worldwide. Some highlights include crickets in Thailand, live scorpions in China, deep-fried A-ping (fried spider) in Cambodia, ground wasps cooked with seasonings in Japan and dragonflies in Indonesia. At the end of 2020, two major European grocery stores announced they will carry insect products in 2021.

J – Jaggery – The traditional, non-refined cane sugar is unspun, so the nutritious molasses and crystals don’t separate. Used in cooking and in snacks, the non-centrifugal sugar contains date or palm sap. The golden-brown sweetener is known as Gur in India, Namtan tanode in Thailand, Gula Melaka in Malaysia and Kokuto in Japan.

K – Kits for Meals – Perimeter deli operators can remain on the trend, offering Asian-inspired meals for grab-and-go or online meal kits with convenient delivery options and/or contactless pickup. Paired with accompanying traditional sauces and spice blends, beverages and fresh produce, consumers can have meals created with indulgence or wellbeing in mind. Gains in grab-and-go continue to exceed 2019 levels, according to the 2020 IDDBA and IRI COVID Impact reports.

L – Longevity and Health – Continuing aftereffects of the pandemic have pushed the desire for functional ingredients to new levels. The Food and Safety Survey found 85% of individuals have changed their diet in some way. Three in four said they plan to eat and drink healthier with spotlights on natural immunity-boosting ingredients such as honey, ginger, turmeric and garlic that play prominent roles in Asian cuisines. McCormick and Co.’s Flavor Forecast spotlighted a 253% increase in food and drink retail product names featuring turmeric over the last six years.

M – MSG – Ajinomoto Co., a leading producer of MSG, is championing science to set the record straight on MSG. The Ontario-based company created a new “Know MSG” symbol as it looks to balance “No MSG” signs with information about MSG, supported by science. The “Know MSG” campaign addresses the growing desire for transparency in food and its origins. The educational hub, knowmsg.com, demonstrates how MSG is made through fermentation, a natural process. As a plant-derived seasoning, MSG provides a savory umami flavor with a 110-year history of safety.

N – Nutrition – The trend of plant-based foods may not qualify as a trend for much longer. Introduction of plant-based foods and beverages is expected to increase 10 to 20% annually through 2024, according to the Specialty Food Association. Dovetailing with values-based buying, plant-based and flexitarian eating continues to provide a boost for those looking for sustainable food options, increased transparency and functional ingredients that tap into physical and mental wellbeing.

O – Olympics – Postponed because of the worldwide pandemic, the 2021 Tokyo Olympics are slated for July 23-Aug. 8 in Japan. As a result, some, such as UK-based Dalziel Ingredients, predict Asian foods to be one of the top trends for summer 2021.

P – Probiotics and Postbiotics – Studied for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits, probiotics may bolster the immune system and improve the gut barrier. EpiCor, a science-backed, immune-supportive ingredient from Cargill, Minneapolis, can infuse foods its used in with superpowers. Postbiotics are naturally found in sourdough bread and kimchi.

Q – “Q” Factor – Considered a key to good food in Taiwan, “Q” is the degree of chewiness and how it feels against the tongue and teeth. Considered a complement, “Q” is also an indication of freshness and at times, firmness. (See C – Chewy)

R – Reducing Stress – Lingering stress, triggered by ongoing unknowns, finds consumers looking for foods to provide comfort and wellbeing, improve mood, soothe anxiety, combat depression and support mental health. Highlighted in Whole Foods’ 2021 trends, the desire for wellbeing will find consumers seeking out superfoods, fermented items like sauerkraut and kimchi, fortified broths and natural sources of probiotics.

S – Sushi – Full-service sushi from JFE Franchising, Houston, offers consumers the opportunity to see sushi chefs making fresh sushi in front of them. Grab-and-go options, located in kiosks by the deli or near the seafood section, offer sushi made fresh daily. In deli prepared, deli sushi dollar sales are $1,377,196,085, which is up 8.2% vs YA (for the latest 52 weeks ending 11-29-20) and volume sales at $91,630,614.

T – Traditional Deli – Taking a look beyond traditional seasonings offers an opportunity to create an updated focus on Asian flavors such as the inclusion of sriracha in deli meats and sides to jump-start interest. Don’t forget to cross-merchandise at the deli counter with pantry staples such as Japanese mayo, a food blogger favorite, and bags of dried nori for snacking.

U – Unlimited Demand – The sheer range of Asian food varieties leaves plenty of room of experimentation, particularly in prepared deli. For inspiration, consider regional factors and new trends and innovations in the area to produce innovative takes on standard, fusion and new Asian concepts.

V – Values-based Buying – The Trendspotter Panel of the Specialty Food Association found values-based buying to be one of 2021’s top trends. This includes investing in and purchasing from companies committed to environmental sustainability and/or social responsibility.

W – Waste Minimized – Consumer interest in producing low-waste meals continues full steam ahead. Help build momentum by offering tips to revive leftovers, innovative sides to accompany a protein, and soups highlighting repurposed veggies, pasta and sauces.

X – X marks the spot – As food dollar spending continues to be concentrated in the grocery store, make sure to offer consumers what they’re looking for. A quick glance at social media channels can identify what’s working and what’s not. When in doubt,  reach out to the most-vocal — these individuals have the potential to become your most valuable influencers.

Y – Yelp – Don’t think grocery store departments are exempt from Yelp reviews. Poor customer service is one of the biggest complaints that can garner a one- or two-star review.

Z – Zoom and Virtual Cooking – A quick search reveals a multitude of options for virtual cooking lessons and entertainment. With more chefs planning to offer some version of virtual entertainment in 2021, now is the time to showcase your grocery department experts with short tutorials about plant-based eating, functional and superfoods and low-waste cooking.