By Lydia Baines, Digital and Communications Manager, Puratos UK
I have worked in the food industry for over 15 years and one area I am really passionate about is food trends and consumer insights.
I would like to share with you some the changes of I’ve noticed happening since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The whole world has changed around us, influences have shifted, opportunities have morphed, and life experiences have become digital as we move into the ‘New Normal’. Trend predictions from the beginning of the year have been adapted to meet new consumer needs.
After the initial panic buying, food has been one of the “saving graces” of lockdown. The nation has relied on their food choices.
When everything else is out of their control they can still choose what they eat, even embracing home baking and cooking as family entertainment.
Consumer research shows that the no.1 reason we bake at home in the UK is simply because we love it. Taste and freshness remain key factors when buying baked goods and patisserie and there has been a rise in awareness of price and healthiness amongst consumers since the Covid-19 pandemic began.
With increased periods of loneliness and with routines upturned, mental health issues are on the rise. Consumers have been seeking out products such as CBD that can help manage their anxiety. CBD has been gaining popularity since 2019 but will now move from niche to more mainstream.
Nostalgic products are being sought out as a source of comfort, as reminders of ‘the good times’ and bakers are adapting by selling more traditional lines and delivering experience boxes such as afternoon tea – which are not only being sold as treat for the purchaser but also as gifts to be delivered to loved ones.
A new area of interest is eating for immunity. An abundance of publicity and advice in the media focusing on simple steps including eat more vegetables, get better sleep and eat wholegrains has led to a surge in products making immunity claims.
Consumers are trying to improve their health through food and drink, physically people are exercising more than ever. With free online access to an abundance of exercise classes that cater for all tastes and abilities there is a heightened desire for healthy foods to complement the fitness regimes.
There has also been an accelerated interest in well known ‘healthier’ products and ingredients such as fermented products, wholegrains, fibre and seeds for gut health as well as fruits, vegetables and plant based alternatives for healthier options . More shelf-space is being created in retail as people plan to continue to implement the changes they have made. The increase in online shopping will create a new platform to monitor these trends more closely.
From food shopping to parties and business meetings, a whole new world of ‘online’ has opened up, from seasoned users of the internet to those that were previously sceptical all have embraced the digital era.
Lack of bread in retailers led consumers to look elsewhere to purchase it, in turn creating a resurgence in high-street bakery and craft style breads. As we come out of lockdown it’s vital that bakers use the new routes to market online and continue to deliver; 49% agree that all stores & restaurants should be able to deliver to the home.
Online meeting rooms have gained huge popularity both for personal and business reasons and this is set to continue. People have realised they can do everything they need without having to leave the house. Online events will grow in popularity over the next few years as people will have less disposable income to attend these events in person. All these factors combined, have created a new exciting food occasion that businesses are already beginning to cater for - the ‘at home event’.
Many people have been working from home and have found it beneficial, 43% of people plan to incorporate working from home into their working weeks going forward. This has created a real shift in the breakfast market. For years the breakfast-at-home market has been in decline with people opting for on-the-go options, snacking mid-morning or even skipping breakfasts entirely. During lockdown consumers have been embracing the lack of commute time to sit down with the family and enjoy breakfast as an occasion again.
Although there is a lot of focus on health it is important not to forget that indulgence is still a very high priority consumer, 40% consumers are still looking for indulgent products however with money being a bit tighter they might be smaller, less often but more indulgent– it is all about making the product stand out.
There is a clear desire to get back out in the world, with many UK consumers looking forward to going back to life as normal, but there is an underlying nervousness about staying healthy. We already have high hygiene expectations in the UK but 81% consumers are looking for increased hygiene measures including; more packaged and individually wrapped products - 59% agree packed baked goods are better guarantee for hygiene. Handmade claims will become less appealing and should be removed (a stark contrast in the claims being made at the start of 2020). Social distancing will continue, and consumers will actively look for more hygienically produced and stored food - focusing on staff cleanliness and training in handling potential risk.
Value for money is also going to be critical and will influence purchase decisions in retail and foodservice. 41% of families expect financial losses and 48% will pay more attention to the amount spent on food than before crisis.
The world has changed and so have many consumer priorities and concerns, but one thing has remained the same – we’re still a nation of food lovers. Consumers may be feeling cautious about spending and concerned for their health, but food can play a key role in our happiness and wellbeing as we all adapt to the ‘New Normal’.
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Sources: Puratos consumer survey July 2020 N:500, The New Normal Trend Report Puratos UK June 2020. Images: unsplash.com