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Food trends to look out for this year

Abirami Durai

ANN/THE STAR – The past two years have been an arduous litmus test for humankind, one that has ultimately proven that resilience is not in short supply.

The human spirit continues to flourish even in the throes of unforeseen adversity, and this is evident in many economic sectors, including the hard-hit food and beverages industry, which continues to bounce back with remarkable enthusiasm, even picking up new trends to help it chug along.

What’s interesting is that many of the food trends that are likely to dominate in 2022 have been spurred forward and in many cases – accelerated – by the COVID-19 pandemic.

So will these trends continue to soar and surge even as the pandemic meets its highly-anticipated decline and demise? Or will new, independent food trends emerge, entirely unrelated to the pandemic?

Here’s a look at what could potentially be in store in the F&B world this coming year.

In 2022, many mid-range and high-end restaurants in Malaysian urban cities will likely have plant-based meat on their menus, in response to the growing appetite for it. PHOTOS: IMPOSSIBLE FOODS & PHUTURE DAGING

Food delivery will continue to be on the rise in 2022. PHOTO: THE STAR


Although restaurants were dropping like flies in 2020 and 2021, projections are good for 2022 and beyond – strange as it may seem for an industry still reeling from the aftermath of the pandemic.

In fact, according to GlobalData’s report: Malaysia – The Future of Foodservice to 2025, released in 2021, the foodservice sector is projected to grow 10 per cent from 2020 to 2025.

Chef-owner of high-end eateries like Beta and Skillet in the Klang Valley Raymond Tham said this is exactly what he believes is going to happen in 2022.

“Just look at how many restaurants have opened up in the past year alone in Kuala Lumpur! There have been so many restaurant openings in 2021 even when the pandemic was at its worst, so I think there will be even more restaurants opening in 2020, for sure.

“Also people can’t really travel, so many restaurateurs are seizing the opportunity to offer a different range of international foods – like Italian, Spanish, Korean, etc to local customers,” said Tham.


In 2020 and 2021, alternative proteins from brands like Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods and Phuture Daging started sneaking onto Malaysian supermarket shelves and restaurant menus.

At first, its presence was barely noticeable, a tiny dent in a huge equation. But last year, it started making its presence felt in a far more discernible way.

This was augmented by a shift towards plant-based meats during the pandemic when wariness about meat consumption (and meat production plants) caused a massive uptick in plant-based interest. In fact, a survey conducted by Herbalife Nutrition found that in 2020, 61 per cent of Malaysians surveyed were eating more plant-based foods.

This has had a trickle-down effect because according to The Food Purveyor CEO Geoff King, which owns supermarkets like Village Grocer and Ben’s Independent Grocer, sales of plant-based meat shot up by over 200 per cent last year at the height of the pandemic!
“Plant-based foods will play a significant role in 2022. In 2021, we noticed that our consumers in Village Grocer and Ben’s Independent Grocer are actively seeking plant-based products as these products are healthier and better for our planet.

“And, as taste and textures improved, we saw the demand grow in tandem. Currently, we are carrying 15 plant-based brands in our outlets compared to three brands in early 2021,” said King.

It isn’t just retailers that are recognising this growing consumer demand; restaurants have been slowly but surely adapting to these changes too. Last year, KFC introduced a KFC Zero Chicken burger in collaboration with meat substitute brand Quorn, while Korean fried chicken behemoth Kyochon now has an entire range of meat-free alternative proteins on its menu.

Across the Klang Valley, mid-range restaurants like Botanica + Co and Nourish by Kenny Hills Bakers have embraced alternative proteins, and even a few high-end eateries like Hilton Kuala Lumpur’s Chynna and Tham’s Beta have adopted these plant-based meatless meats.

Which is why 2022 is likely going to be the year you’ll see alternative proteins and other plant-based foods like jackfruit patties becoming ubiquitous in restaurant menus across the country.

“I can see the trend is growing – we have a lot more customers asking if we have vegan or vegetarian menus. So it is very obvious that people are more concerned about what they eat.

“And alternative proteins are definitely part of this trend. These days, you have to have at least a plant-based burger or some sort of plant-based item on the menu,” said Tham.


In tandem with the shift towards plant-based foods, wellness and healthy foods have seen a remarkable surge in interest, which will only get bigger in 2022.

GrabFood’s Food Trends Report 2020/2021 shows that seven out of 10 Malaysians want to eat healthier and 44 per cent are willing to pay more for healthier food. Additionally, in 2020, orders for healthy food were three times more than in 2019.

“We have seen a burst of interest in health or wellness foods and organic foods. Our consumers value these healthy and organic food options as there has been greater awareness of gut health and overall health,” affirmed King.

King’s views are echoed by Ewen Lim, who runs the Klang Valley’s first fruit-centric healthy food eatery Hey Peach!

“The healthy eating trend is a worldwide trend that started a few years ago but Malaysia is always three to five years behind. So right now, we are finally catching up with the trend, and I can definitely see that there will be more restaurants and other F&B businesses developed around healthy food in 2022.

“This is also because since the pandemic, people have put more effort into taking care of their bodies and going for healthier food options. For example, if a restaurant said their nasi lemak or nasi goreng is ‘healthy’, people will opt for it.

“So restaurants are catering to this growing demand – you can see it on many menus now,” she said.


GrabFood Food Trends Report 2020/2021 show that the pandemic has cemented food delivery’s ascent and continued growth well into 2022 and beyond. According to data from the report, meals ordered using delivery services in Malaysia increased by 13 per cent during the pandemic.

This is fairly unsurprising, because for many Malaysians, food delivery has become a part of their daily lives, especially families with young children who are often the most cautious about eating out and also don’t have the time to cook after a busy working day.

In fact, the data shows that 52 per cent of food delivery consumers are married with kids and 61 per cent are 25 to 44 years old, which means that the core customer base is young and will continue to expand and grow over the years.

Consequently, this pattern of ordering food online has become such a regular facet of Malaysian eating culture these days that according to the report, 87 per cent of consumers said that they will keep ordering food delivery in the future.

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