The Covid-19 pandemic, closing people off from their usual activities and habits, evidently created significant sudden changes in how people shop, eat, and live.
However, some of these changes are more than immediate responses to safety restrictions; they signal attitudes and preferences that will lead consumption in 2021 and likely continue to shape the food and beverage industry.
Initially triggered by the desire to ensure one’s immune system is strong enough to tackle the virus, people around the world have been exhibiting greater health consciousness through increased physical activity and healthier diets.
This shift and its interaction with twenty-first century technology characterise the five top industry trends for the year 2021. Here we unpack the market research findings combined with expertise from Dr. Hughes (Dr. Food).
6 out of 10 consumers around the world want to know more about where their food comes from, seeking more transparency and traceability in food supply chains. This mega-trend builds on last year’s Number 1, “Story-Telling: Winning with Words”.
Most consumers want food to be good for their families but also good for the planet, for the local community, for farmers and more. This is linked to sub-trends such as ‘clean labels,’ sustainable sourcing, and plant-powered nutrition.
Catching up on this trend, Starbucks is launching a Blockchain initiative so that consumers can look down the supply chain to see where their coffee comes from and farmers can look up the chain to check out where their coffee beans are consumed.
Crucially, changing habits and growing awareness are driving greater consumer criticality; consumers look for more thorough clean labels, more directly accessible information, and closer connections to producers.
Research into plant-based diets has grown over the years along with the number of people adopting them.
In 2020, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) launched ‘Planet-Based Diets’ urging us to channel our power through changes in our diet to reduce food-based greenhouse gases by 30%; wildlife loss by 40+%; agricultural land use by 40%; and premature deaths by 20%.
The plant-based mega-trend is expanding to different regions and categories. Reebok’s plant-based sneaker is an extreme example of category expansion. The expanded dairy category best exemplifies this trend as “Flexidairians” show an appetite for using both conventional dairy and “non-dairy dairy” products together.
This trend has even greater potential when integrated with the first: sustainable, interesting, healthy food with visibly ethical production.
Tailored to fit
As we move from industrial to lifestyle economies where human satisfaction, fitness, and well-being are paramount, people are increasingly becoming interested in personalized nutrition.
This trend is supported by technological platforms, which are already enabling the majority of consumers to personalise their products and consumption to align with their needs.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) will become a daily essential in selecting the right nutrition for specific individuals when planning their meals and diets.
MyFitnessPal for example has announced the launch of its new AI-powered scanning feature that automates some of the process of identifying and tracking the ingredients in a user’s food items. The company has partnered with Passio, which provides computer vision for companies through its AI platform to develop this new feature.
New omnichannel eating
Consumers want to eat what they want, when they want, and where they want.
For some time now attention has been on the convergence of food retail and food service, and the consequent marginalisation of traditional supermarkets and restaurants. The popularity of meal delivery services has been reinforced by pandemic restrictions, and many restaurants have faced no choice but to jump on the bandwagon.
Simultaneously, consumers are increasingly turning to home cooking, but seek the variety and experience of restaurants. A second strategic response involves restaurants producing ‘meal kits’ or ‘ready meals’ to challenge the existing growing range of supermarket-produced convenience foods.
In tune with immune
Consumers have been increasingly interested in their immune systems and Covid-19 has simply served to accelerate this trend.
There’s a link here with personalised nutrition as those consumers already attuned to issues around immune health discuss the role of their microbiomes and the impact of specific diets on strengthening immunity.
Probiotic dairy foods score well on this trend, and the trend offers a strong link with the plant-based personalisation trends above.
Three core takeaways emerge from these trends. Firstly, whether through brand and product storytelling or blockchain technologies, consumers want greater connection to what they eat and where it comes from.
Secondly, consumers seek accessibility, be it to food through meal delivery and cooking kits, or information through invisible barcodes.
Finally, they are determined to be healthier – more sustainable, plant-based, ethical, and immune.
Crucially, many want this health to be personalised: echoing the desire for connections with producers, consumers want to know they are individuals as part of a community; living through a pandemic, no one can argue with that.