Summer 2021 is in full swing, and with it comes a plethora of rising stars in the food scene. Wondering what’s about to replace spiked seltzer? Looking for this year’s equivalent to the Aperol spritz? Here are four food trends that are defining the season (and one we really can’t sign off on).

RELATED: 7 Food Trends That Will Reign Supreme in 2021

summer food trends air fryers
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1. The Air Fryer Is (Still) Everywhere

If you haven’t yet hopped on the air fryer train, don’t worry—it still has plenty of steam. A quick check with Google Trends shows that the mini-yet-mighty convection oven has surpassed searches for Instant Pots in the last 12 months. And according to Vox, market research firm NPD Group found that from October 11 through November 28 of 2020, air fryers were the second most-purchased small appliance in the US, only after single-serve coffee makers. Could it be thanks to the appliance’s high-speed fans, which crisp up food without the need for much oil? Possibly, or it could be the countless viral recipes shared by TikTok-ers around the globe. (We’re looking at you, pasta chips and corn ribs.)

summer food trends pickles
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2. Pickles Are Back, Baby

Remember back in 2018, when pickled-flavored everything was on the rise? (It even went as far as ice cream.) Look who’s making a comeback. From Sam’s Club pickle popcorn to those viral ranch pickles on TikTok, the briny, mouth-puckering flavor is popping up everywhere. For the most part, we’re totally on board—it just so happens to be the ideal addition to a summer barbecue spread, and we hope the preserving goes beyond cukes in the coming year. But we’ll draw the line at Snickles, aka pickles that have been cut in half and stuffed with a Snickers candy bar.

summer food trends spicy foods and snacks
Lay’s

3. Spicy Is Still Going Strong

At the start of 2021, Pinterest predicted that spicy foods would make 2021 a real scorcher, with searches for fiery foods like hot honey and jalapeño pepper jelly on the rise. Brands took note: This year’s Sweets & Snacks Expo featured many a chile-infused treat (habanero-flavored walnuts and chili lime-dusted avocado chips, to name a few). Next, keep an eye out for Screamin’ Hot Terra Chips, Scorchin’ Sour Cream & Onion Pringles and Lay’s Chile Mango and Wavy Jerk Chicken chips. But if we learned anything from the sriracha-doused era of the early 2010s, it’s good to branch out. This time around, all types of peppers are getting a spot in the limelight.

summer food trends non alcoholic beverage
Figlia

4. Non-Alcoholic Drinks Are the Norm

After a year plus of being cooped up inside—which, for many, meant consuming more booze than ever before—folks are flipping the switch and turning to beverages with low to no alcohol contents at all. But these aren’t your typical O’Douls and Shirley Temples: Brands like Kin Euphorics, Figlia, Ghia, Amass and Athletic Brewing Co. are combining inventive flavors with chic packaging to cater to the alcohol-free (or sober-curious) set. And don’t expect a slowdown anytime soon: The IWSR, the leading source of data, analysis and insights on the global beverage alcohol market, predicts that sales of no/low alcoholic beverages will increase by 31 percent over the next three years.

summer food trends summer soup
Panera

5. Honorable Mention: Summer Soup

And we’re not talking about gazpacho. After surveying its customer base, Panera—purveyor of broccoli cheddar in bread bowls—announced that 70 percent of its customer base continues to eat soup during the summer months, heatwaves be damned. The result? A line of soup-themed swimwear, including broccoli-cheddar trunks, a green one-piece emblazoned with the word “SOUP” and a bread bowl pool float. But we’d only marginally consider this a trend, considering about a third of the Panera menu is soup. In the paraphrased words of Regina George, “Stop trying to make summer soup happen.”

RELATED: Habanero Walnuts & 3 Other Snack Trends You’ll See in Stores Everywhere This Year

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