When we wrote our 2020 Nourish Trend Report last November, it was during a very different time. No one saw this one coming (except maybe Bill Gates and Hollywood). COVID has been described as a once-in-a-century event. We hope that’s the case.
What we know from past seismic events is that some existing trends get amplified, and others die off. What do we think will be the case for our seven consumer trends?
Unpackage Me: Solutions Beyond Recycling
No question, in the short-term, this one has taken a hit as personal health has rightly trumped planet health. Single-Use Plastics are back, taking over from the reusable cloth bags, coffee cups, and food containers we’d replaced them with. And, we’ve all seen the sudden appearance of plastic gloves and masks littering roadsides and parking lots.
Once we get past the current crisis, we expect this trend to leave the pause mode and return as disinfecting protocols are put in place for workers to safely handle reusable items. Perhaps it will result in a more cooperative model where there is one industry standard bag, container, or cup that’s used and then dropped off for sanitizing and recirculation by Industry. We’ve shown that a collective effort can make effective change. Will we refocus that effort on planet health?
Sober Me: Rethinking Alcohol for a New Generation of Drinkers
It certainly looks like alcohol sales are growing, as the quarantini becomes the ritual to signal the end of the workday. Alcohol consumption usually goes up during stressful conditions, even though it can disrupt your immune system. Even beer sales are up for the first time in years. As consumers bar-load at home, they, of course, end up drinking more. The same goes for those comfort potato chips we allow ourselves!
We anticipate a collective refocus on wellness and alcohol reduction post-COVID, with a renewed focus on immunity boosters and anxiety busters in our beverages as the new way to relax and be healthy. It will be hard to quit some of our new at-home drinking routines, so we expect lower-alcohol drinks to regain prominence as we emerge from the crisis.
Know Me: AI and Hyperpersonalizing Foodservice
Expect Grocers to invest even more than planned in the customization of the shopping experience, especially as more shopping moves and stays online. Large foodservice providers will do the same, as contactless ordering and payment technology has proven to be the safer way.
Over the course of the COVID pandemic, Boomers have become more comfortable with apps and technology by necessity, and often with help from younger generations. Most consumers have also accepted the tradeoff of their data privacy and security for their personal security, so that genie may never go back into the bottle.
One area that may suffer is algorithms that predict future behaviour. With this kind of seismic event, past behaviour may not be the best way to forecast the future.
Save Me: Environmental Impact-Based Eating
Most of us have regressed to our familiar comfort foods - food that made us feel safe and loved when we were younger. Meat sales are up. But so are pulse and legume sales, and there has been more discussion around our protein sources. Remember, this thing reportedly started because of wild animal consumption in China. Plant-based eating has surged in Asia as consumers rethink their diets and sources of protein.
Disruption in the meat supply chain because of slowdowns in processing plants has raised discussion about the centralized industrial system. We expect even more conversations around how we raise and slaughter our livestock. What are the trade-offs consumers are willing to make? Might they switch to less meat but choose higher quality products, like certified humane or sustainable, as a way to balance their environmental impact with their squeezed grocery budget? Will they start ordering directly from smaller local producers?
Will plant-based proteins, which have mainstreamed largely due to their introduction in quick service restaurants, grow even faster at grocery stores with the pandemic as a catalytic event?
Science Me: Redefining “Real Food” in the High-Tech Era
While plant-based meat alternatives are on the increase, will there be the predicted reckoning around what constitutes “real” versus “processed” foods? Consumers have a new appreciation for science right now. It may be the thing that gets us out of this collective mess. Both Beyond Meat and Impossible Burger are cleaning up their ingredient list. Consequently, we think this trend may be falling off the table.
Entertain Me: Evolving Grocery Shopping from Chore to Experience
It’s hard to predict when “experiential” will return to the supermarket. In-store sampling, if it comes back, will have strict new protocols. There has been an accelerated move to online shopping. Post-COVID online shopping rates will decline, but they won’t go back to their legacy level of around 3%.
Still, consumers love to shop, and will miss the discovery and inspiration process in-store. So while more centre-of-the-store staple items will stay online, shoppers will return with a new appreciation of our food supply. Just as the local trend kickstarted after the 2008 recession as a way of supporting our neighbours, this event connected us more to our food system and the people who produce our food. Telling producer stories, whether in-store, on-pack or digitally, will be more important than ever.
Keto Me: The Evolution of Lifestyle Eating From No-Carb to Slow-Carb
Was there ever anything as comforting as carbs? A huge “hats off” to those who’ve managed to stay on the keto wagon over the past few months! Post-COVID, though, we anticipate a refocusing on our collective waistlines, and we still expect that to be in a slower, lower carb way, rather than the hardcore no-carb way. Keto products will hold their appeal but as part of a more balanced diet and lifestyle.
We’ll soon see how the immediate effects of the COVID-19 pandemic alter or redirect food trends. But, the long-term impacts will continue to reveal themselves for months and even years to come. One thing we can say with certainty is, the 2021 Nourish Trend Report will be like nothing we could have predicted just weeks ago. Stay tuned, folks!