During the past 18 months, food and beverage companies have faced tremendous strain due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Companies were forced to re-evaluate their supply chains. Stay-at-home orders influenced shopping patterns, and dining restrictions meant more cooking at home and less eating out.
With this in mind, let’s look at 7 new trends in the food and beverage industry for 2021.
COVID-19 has made people more interested in ever than boosting their health. Whether you realized that eating the right foods is key in your immune system’s performance, or you simply gained the quarantine 15, everyone’s prioritizing the healthier foods in their life. Plus, as fast food was the only food you could eat “out” for the last 18 months, wouldn’t you want to transition to something fresh, delicious, and healthy too?
Home cooking is back in thanks to the pandemic. During the lockdown, many people took on more extended food preparation habits and took more of an interest in cooking than they ever had. Call it more time, or call it boredom, one thing is true; artisan home cooking is now here to stay. For some, this means finding their own recipes, making homemade bread, and spending hours on each meal they consume. For others, it means re-creating the restaurant experience they can’t otherwise have and using pre-packaged meal kits or branded products to achieve the tastes and flavors they’ve been missing over the past few months. Simply put, some people are in it for the practice of cooking while others are in it for the experience of eating.
How many people in the last year have you heard rave about their air fryer? How about their Instant Pot?
Well, these people are nothing if not trendy. These in-home appliances are part of the “home-made” convenience trend, and they’re showing double-digit dollar sales growth over the last year as people order these appliances in droves.
Because these devices are so popular, you can also expect to see specific recipes or products made for these appliances. You may see detailed cooking instructions for multicookers or air fryers on the back of food packaging in addition to instructions for ovens and microwaves.
Have you noticed that more and more fast-food restaurants are launching beyond burger replacements? Plant-based food is surging as veganism goes mainstream. In fact, in 2020, it seemed everyone was discovering plant-based for the first time. The ultimate win for plant-based eaters everywhere was the launch of the McPlant menu by McDonald’s. Core drivers of this trend include general health and well-being as well as customers reassessing what they eat and the impact they have on the planet.
Innova Market Insights lists transparency as one of the top trends for the food and beverage industry this year. Approximately 60 percent of global consumers are interested in learning more about where their foods come from. This is a part of the broader sustainability trend (see #7 for more), and we’ll begin to see brands increase their transparency as a way to meet customer demands in this area.
In the past 2 years, consumers have only become less trusting of brands, and the pandemic has intensified this distrust. Last year, companies every experienced supply chain issues as people rushed to grocery stores to stock up on food. Yet, this opened the door for consumers to wonder where their food was coming from. What was the country of origin? Was their food being handled safely? Where was it being store? What was the distribution of products along the supply chain?
Today, consumers want more information than ever on the products they purchase because everyone wants their food and drink to comply with the highest standard. A shift in transparency will ultimately result in an increased focus on health and sustainability, other trends on this list. Brands and retailers will need to meet evolving ethical, environmental, and clean label consumer demands before they can be entirely transparent about their process.
No surprise, this food and beverage trend is also bought to you by the pandemic. At one point, you may have wiped down your groceries with Clorox wipes shortly after bringing them home from the grocery store. While today the CDC has largely deemed that unnecessary, we know that food safety is still of the utmost importance.
In fact, food producers are increasingly using blockchain and other IoT technologies to track the handling of food ingredients and finished products and their environmental conditions during shipment. Furthermore, blockchain has improved the traceability of a product in the event of a recall or other safety issue. Using technology to elevate this area of the food and beverage industry ultimately allows focus and innovation to move elsewhere.
Initially, food and beverage producers (and their consumers) struggled at merely living during the pandemic. Think back to March 2020. Do you remember the empty grocery store shelves and the constant sense of impending doom?
For a while, sustainability took a back seat, even though our unconscious actions (i.e., not commuting in and out of the office) were incredibly environmentally friendly. That said, now that life has settled a bit, our focus can shift back toward sustainability and how we can actively play a part in it. ADM, a food technology company, states that nearly two-thirds of consumers want their food choices to have a positive impact on the environment. Companies that are able to increase their sustainability ultimately increase their brand awareness and market share as well. Additionally, as sustainability is closely tied to multiple other trends on this list as well — healthier foods, plant-based foods, and transparency — it’s safe to say that this “trend” is here to stay.
Although the county is now in year 2 of COVID-19, no one should underestimate the continued impact of the pandemic. COVID-19 will continue to impact our shopping and eating trends and thus the food and beverage industry. Keeping these trends in mind can help any food and beverage company remain competitive.