Consumers’ food preferences have changed in the last year, with new lifestyles and habits influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the most important questions in the food industry is whether these changes will persist as the world begins a gradual return to normalcy.
Here are three ways we see consumer preferences and food innovation evolving in a post-pandemic world:
1. Functional nutrition meets holistic wellness
For many consumers, COVID-19 led to a renewed focus on healthy eating. According to market research firm IRI, food and beverage products with “self-care” messaging, such as immune support, saw a 12% sales increase in the U.S. in 2020. Products featuring plant-based protein saw a 9% retail sales increase. Looking ahead, we expect to see more products making claims about holistic health benefits, such as high fiber to promote gut health, protein to boost energy, or superfoods to enhance mental focus and improve one’s mood.
2. Authenticity and transparency take center stage
Brands that can weave a story around their products, from a purpose-driven mission to the quality of ingredients, will succeed at connecting with consumers in a post-pandemic world. According to the latest Innova Consumer Survey, six in ten global consumers are interested in learning more about where foods come from. Products that feature natural, recognizable ingredients – such as fruits, vegetables and other plant-based ingredients – are in demand because they align with consumer values around ethical and environmentally sustainable food production.
3. Premiumization continues to grow
Despite the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, many consumers are continuing to trade up on food and beverage purchases, seeking out more premium options that can make snacking or cooking at home feel more special. Alcohol, meal solutions and confectionery are three categories benefitting from this shift, according to IRI. In addition to standout taste, texture and natural ingredients, nutritional claims focused on immunity are becoming another premium quality that consumers look for in new food and beverage products.