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Shifts in Trends: What the New Normal Looks Like During a Pandemic

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In our continuing series of posts about how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted food ingredient companies, we’ve discussed the importance of communicating with your customers, and even some creative ways you can do that without ever leaving your office, wherever that may be these days. As we all shift into the new normal during this pandemic, we wanted to take a step back to bring you some insights on how it is reshuffling consumers’ eating priorities and changing their food and grocery purchasing habits.

Convenience

With many people working from home and simultaneously helping their kids with schoolwork, space and time for many consumers is at an even greater premium. The kitchen table is no longer just for eating — it may be pulling double duty as an office or school desk. But with so many restaurants closed down, consumers are cooking at home and taking the time to enjoy meals as a family. However, balancing the time constraints of work, parenting, teaching and cooking means convenient meal solutions are in greater demand than ever before. Consumers want products that can help them quickly pull dinner together, so it’s likely we’ll see a rise in solutions – things like ready-to-eat foods, pre-marinated meats and meal kits – that can help save time in the kitchen.

Packaging

Though a focus on sustainability has resulted in the reduction of single-use packaging in recent years, the pandemic has shifted public opinion in favor of individually wrapped items, which consumers perceive as safer and more hygienic. Consumers want the peace of mind that the products they buy are safe from perceived contamination, and the apparent reduced physical handling of single-pack items provide them with this. We also expect to see an increase in the available range of product sizes as consumers purchase larger sizes of items in order to stock up.

Freshness and Shelf Life

Freshness has always been key for consumers. This is more important now than ever, as they purchase items that they feel can last in their pantries, fridges and freezers. Data shows that consumers are making fewer trips to the store, and buying more per trip when they do. Shelf life is key for these consumers, who want food that will last until their next shopping trip. Frozen foods are an ideal way for consumers to achieve this. And it shows — sales in this category are up 5% compared to 2019. Finally, we expect to see more products with safety and freshness features like tamper seals and resealable containers, which offer peace of mind to safety-minded shoppers.

Premiumization

Many consumers are focusing on purchasing food essentials like meat, bread, eggs and milk. Accordingly, we expect to see a downturn in premiumization as consumers become choosier about how they spend their food dollars. It’s worth noting, however, that despite skipping more premium items, consumers are spending more money on groceries as they move away from eating out.

Clean Label

The COVID-19 pandemic has altered consumer shopping priorities, especially when it comes to ingredients. We expect that purchases of clean-label goods will be put on the back burner to those that are more economically priced. Consumers know that although traditional preservatives may not qualify as clean label, they help keep food fresh, a quality they’re seeking out as they try to stock up on supplies for long-term storage. Foods in the better-for-you category (i.e., items low in salt and sugar or with added fiber or vitamins) may not fare as poorly, as they appeal to health-conscious consumers who find themselves unable to get to the gym.

In Closing

The pandemic has presented unique challenges to nearly every industry, requiring B2B companies to adapt and respond quickly to this changing landscape. As businesses work through navigating these difficult times, it’s important to keep an eye on shifts in the food industry. We’ll do our best to keep you updated with knowledge and insights throughout the coming days.

What other impacts do you think the COVID-19 pandemic will have on the way consumers approach their food and grocery purchases? Leave us a comment below!

Back to the Future: A Look at 2019 Trends and their 2020 Counterparts

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Great Scott! We’ve entered a new decade full of new and exciting changes. But before we head into the future, we wanted to take a look back at the not-too-distant past, with a review of the 2019 food trends and how they helped influence what’s in vogue for 2020.

Exploring Flavor and Texture

Hyper-connected consumers, more aware of other cultures and cuisines, began seeking out more exciting flavors and ingredients to add to their plates in 2019. This year, food manufacturers will continue to try out new, innovative flavor combinations that focus on provenance to help them stand out. Building off this demand, hybrid products are likely the next frontier, where brands are putting new twists on established products. Dawn Foods trends list says these “Mashup Adventures” give consumers a way to try out flavor combinations in an easy way. Textures may also see some gains, because, according to Innova Market Insights, younger consumers care more about texture than even ingredients.

Flexitarians and Plant-based Everything

Brands were just beginning to greenify their product offerings to appeal to more mainstream consumers in early 2019. Anderson Partners identified this as a growing trend in foodservice, and in June of 2019, Dataessential, a food industry market research firm, confirmed that the term “plant-based” had grown by 2,462% on U.S. menus in the last four years. As plant-based sets the food world aflame, Innova Market Insights’ expects this trend to continue through 2020, as these products move from vegan/vegetarian niche items into the public consciousness and mindful consumers look for food that makes them feel good.

Alternative Ingredients

At the start of 2019, fueled by the plant-based movement and a big push toward healthier ingredients, alternatives to ingredients like dairy milk and wheat flour were poised to take off. These trends moved manufacturers to start creating more nutrient-rich versions of their products, especially those with higher levels of protein and fiber. As an alternative to flour in breads and pastas, Oklahoma State University even predicted that insect ingredients were the next big trend to watch. We’re not sure this one panned out, but in 2020, consumers will likely pay more attention to ingredients than ever before, turning to flours made from coconuts, milk made from oats and meat made from plants. These moves come on the heels of heightened consumer awareness around the environmental impacts of livestock farming and the health effects of items on the ingredient panel.

Sustainability and Transparency

Sustainability continues to be on the minds of consumers in both 2019 and 2020. They want to know where their food comes from, how it got to them and what brands are doing to reduce their environmental impact. Consumers are reviewing product packaging to glean this information and keeping an eye out for ethical claims about fair-trade practices and the treatment of animals. We expect to see more brands moving toward causes like fighting food waste with upcycled ingredients, using edible or compostable packaging and reducing plastic use.

Thinking Small

We wrote about this trend at the end of 2019 in a blog post about speed to market, where we identified how larger companies are partnering up with smaller start-up brands in order to get items to the market more quickly. Smaller, more nimble companies will continue to shake up the food and beverage industries in 2020. Consumers love the speed and innovation of these newer brands, who often heavily feature social and ethical claims and utilize locally or sustainably sourced ingredients.

Reaching Consumers

Brands have turned to technology and storytelling in order to draw in more customers and give them unique experiences. Nabisco, for example, invited consumers to guess their “mystery flavor” in 2019, and brewers launched new products like beer cans with QR codes on them, which when scanned, allowed consumers to learn more about the brew’s ingredients and origin. Opportunities for food manufacturers, especially larger ones, to explain why their brand is unique, will be effective in reaching consumers in 2020, says Bizwomen.

What unexpected trends do you think will be big in 2020? Leave us a comment below to let us know your thoughts.

If you’re interested in partnering with a food ingredient marketing team that understands the trends and can help tell your story to B2B target customers, contact us and we’ll be in touch soon!

Tips for B2B Marketing on Social Media

 

Tips for B2B Marketing for Social Media

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