As we enter 2021, the world is a dramatically different place than it was just 12 months ago. Our working routines, our travel habits and our leisure pursuits have changed considerably. We’ve also had to adapt what and how we eat.
As lockdown restrictions have kept us largely housebound, dining out has been replaced by cooking at home, snacking has become an even greater part of recreation and long-life larder staples have allowed us to make fewer journeys to the supermarket.
For food and drink producers, meeting these new consumer demands while navigating new channels through which to promote, sell and distribute your product has resulted in a swift and steep learning curve for most.
Understanding the new behaviours consumers are exhibiting as a result of the pandemic is important to help inform decisions about whether your product or service will continue to be a success in the year ahead.
Based on several market reports here are five key trends for 2021:
n The haven of home.
While our dining out options are limited, the range of food and drink on offer through our local restaurants remains varied with consumers moving to purchasing more online, using contactless payments, click and collect options as well as home delivery being made more widely available.
The Food People (2021) predict an increased dependence on the home delivery of foods with the concept of ghost kitchens (delivery-only restaurants) rising.
It is anticipated that producers will also continue to capitalise on direct to your door delivery with innovations around the ‘box’ concept from local grown goods to grazing boxes, breakfast boxes, meal kits and more.
n Elevating the everyday.
Living in lockdown has meant that food and drink are among the few pleasures consumers have to help enhance our mood and provide comfort.
With most working from home, our daily routines have been turned upside down where consumers are having to become at-home baristas, grinding, frothing and pressing their way to something approximating their usual takeaway treat.
With IGD reporting that shoppers spent an additional £24 million on tea and coffee during lockdown (from June to July 2020), it is predicted that demand for ‘posh’ coffee at home, including machines and coffee beans, will continue.
It’s also expected that small premium treats will be increasingly viewed as affordable luxuries, providing both a sense of mini-indulgence and fun (BiFood, 2021).
Think bitesize desserts, crisps flavoured with prosecco, rum soaked pineapple and ham pizza and truffle fries.
n Cooking not commuting.
Waitrose (2021) highlighted that consumers are replacing their commuting time with cooking time.
Linked to the haven of home trend, consumers are becoming more interested in trying out new recipes and improving their cooking skills.
Recent research from Lavelle et al (2021) found that as we change our food practices by taking more time to plan and prepare our meals from scratch, we have increased our intake of saturated fat.
According to Google trends, within the past 30 days Northern Ireland’s top searches for food and drink recipes have included cheesecake, pancakes, shortbread and French toast.
Emphasis on healthier recipes and having fun with the family trailing healthier family meals are likely to form the basis for searching recipe ideas.
Also, as more members of the household participate in the cooking process, the use of different outdoor cooking techniques (eg, barbecuing, smoking and fire grilling) inspired by Korean and Thai cuisines may become apparent.
n Sustainable sustenance.
With campaigns like ‘Love Food, Hate Waste’ and media attention on larger societal issues such as food poverty, animal welfare and climate, change consumers are becoming more aware of the consequences of
their food choices, appreciating the value of food.
Consumers will demand greater transparency across supply chains and in the production methods used by producers and retailers.
The Knowledge Transfer Network Agrifood team reported that such drivers will lead to “an expectation of corporate activism from businesses”.
With the United Nations calling on companies to play a key role in delivering on their 17 Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, companies should consider how their business can make a valuable impact to the UK food system.
Emphasis on innovations around new types of biodegradable packaging concepts or front-of pack messaging on carbon emissions, the continued development of plant-based and vegan foods as well as the integration of wasted food or imperfect food into products are some ideas shaping this trend.
n Honing in on health.
The global pandemic, an ageing population and rising obesity rates are some of the key drivers influencing consumers’ continued interest in healthy options.
The Food People (2021) predict that consumers will be looking for food and drink products that place emphasis on mental health, including how to reduce anxiety and aid sleep with the inclusion of ingredients like magnesium, zinc.
Waitrose (2021) also reported an “increased interest in immunity-boosting food, in gut health, and in foods with high nutritional density”.
Consumers want businesses to help them in their quest to be healthy, whether this be through the development of new healthy products, the reformulation of existing products or the use of practical tools for personalised diets (eg, calorie tracking apps and portion control scales).
Whether you choose to apply some of these trends to your business or not, it is important to note that having a deep understanding of your customer can not only help you to connect with them but can also help you keep hold of them during uncertain times.