The year 2020 was like no other and has had a substantial impact on behaviour around food, eating, drinking and shopping. The following trends were already on the horizon but have developed significantly as a result of the pandemic and become more mainstream. This has allowed us to witness how brands are responding to this shift in consumer demand and adapt to the new norms. Attention is now on the post-COVID landscape to explore how these new behaviours will shape the future of the food and beverage industry.
Retailers and brands will continue to invest in new logistics solutions to maintain or grow their business as they navigate the market, supplier, logistic and environmental changes ahead. This includes quicker, more flexible delivery via dark stores and microfulfillment centres located closer to customers. The introduction of new low capital investment digital technologies is expected as well as digital and integrated supply chains with B2B mobile applications for transport & logistics.
It is also predicted that more manufacturers will build and develop their direct-to-consumer model and increase direct and social media engagement with online customers as well as retailers encouraging more consumers to shop online for home delivery and click and collect.
Sustainability concerns have been magnified by global warming and fires in Australia and Northern California, with consumers intensifying their commitment to products that align with sustainable values.
More consumers now want to have a positive impact on the environment through their everyday actions. This mounting awareness has prompted increasing demand for companies to demonstrate their sustainability commitment beyond just the end product such as responsible sourcing and operating standards.
It is expected that retailers and manufacturers will continue to develop initiatives to help combat climate change as well as reducing plastic and waste.
Transparency throughout the supply chain is becoming increasingly important to build consumer trust and will be more prevalent than ever in 2021. Consumers are looking for brands that can build trust, provide authentic and credible products and create shopper confidence in the current and post-COVID climate. They expect food labels to provide greater transparency around the entire product lifecycle. This is also helping drive the demand for locally sourced products as consumers seek greater clarity on where the ingredients in food and beverages come from. The pursuit for cleaner ingredients extends to flavours and colours, with many seeking natural alternatives. Other aspects to meet consumer demands include human and animal welfare, supply chain transparency, plant-powered nutrition and sustainable sourcing.
Increasing transparency to meet evolving ethical, environmental and clean label consumer needs is therefore key for suppliers and retailers.
The pandemic has created an increased focus on overall health and immunity, with consumers seeking foods and ingredients that support personal health.
The desire to influence health and wellness through food and drink is creating new opportunities for nutrient-dense products with functional health benefits aimed at supporting immune systems, enhancing mood and sustaining energy.
The pandemic has also accelerated consumer interest in a more holistic approach to health, which includes a greater understanding of the foundational role of the gut microbiome on health. Ongoing anxiety stemming from COVID-19 will encourage consumers to prioritise their immune health into 2021 therefore immunity-boosting ingredients and healthy gut enhancers will play a significant role in the coming year.
Opportunities exist in phytonutrients to improve metabolism, prebiotics and probiotics, dairy and fermented products, meat/dairy alternatives and on-the-go nutrition such as heathy snacks.
Premium and super-premium food brands have become increasingly popular during the pandemic. Categories that have especially benefited include alcohol, speciality coffee, meal kits, frozen meals and spices.
With more people than ever working from home, it’s evident why indulging at home has been and will continue to be a key trend and the reality of at home meal preparation and consumption will continue in 2021.
Whilst economic uncertainty is impacting many households, there is still a demand for super premium in-home offerings. In 2021 it is expected to continue to see an increase in high end gift packages delivered over holiday periods as well as outdoor entertaining such as premium picnics and BBQs which are an easy way to cater for groups and avoid restaurant restrictions.
Consumers are also looking to replicate restaurant experiences in the home kitchen so it is expected to see more restaurant-quality condiments, cooking sauces and cocktail mixes as well as ready meals, meal kits and other convenience foods. There will also be a continued trend towards recreating traditional recipes and products as well as satisfying comfort food cravings with baking and hearty savoury dishes.
As supply chain issues became increasingly common during the COVID-19 pandemic, many retailers had to rely on local producers to fill shelves. In addition, with a renewed focus on health and wellness, fresh and local food has become more important than ever to consumers.
Buying local is nothing new, but with many countries facing recession and many people facing job insecurity, consumers have become open to paying a little more if it means they’ll get a quality product and are able to support local industry.
There is also a growing recognition that locally manufactured or sourced products deliver on taste, quality and trustworthiness and offer better value for money than imported products.
The plant-based category is no longer niche and demand for plant-based protein products is rapidly expanding beyond just burger analogues to new and innovative products such as alternative seafoods, plant-based cheeses and ready-to-eat protein snacks. Alternative meat products continue to evolve, with new technologies like 3D printing and protein fermentation playing a role in driving innovation. New plant-based meats on the horizon include whole-muscle products like steak and chicken breast, lunch meat, bacon and more.
The dairy alternative category, an early leader in the plant-based nutrition space, is growing to encompass other formats such as yoghurt, ice cream, butter and spreads. To stand out in the dairy aisle, products must deliver more protein than traditional dairy, and feature a nutritional label fortified with vitamins and minerals or functional ingredients like probiotics.
Low or no ABV drinks have been trending for a number of years but are now gaining momentum in the mainstream with people looking to reduce their alcohol or carb intake or wishing to socialise without the effects of alcohol. Generation Z, is currently consuming the least amount of alcohol for their age in history.
Zero-proof beers are more commonplace and the hard seltzer revolution has led to hard coffees, teas and kombucha. Low or zero-alcohol cocktails are growing as well as alcohol free craft spirit brands. It is expected to see a lot more newcomers in the low/no alcohol wine and beer categories as well as alcohol free RTDs.