How COVID has disrupted consumer food trend predictions for 2020

Every year analysts and industry experts make predictions on the consumer food trends for the coming year. But with the advent of COVID, are these trends still valid and if not, how have they changed?

1. From Feel Good Food to Comfort Food

At the beginning of 2020, the number one food trend prediction was “Feel Good Food”. This trend is based on the increasing use of products that promote personal health and physical appearance or are good for hair, skin, or body. In other words, products that are not only good for you, but they make you feel good to consume them too.

With the advent of COVID, health and well-being are still front of mind for consumers but the economic and social impacts of COVID have led to a resurgence in demand for more traditional products that provide a sense of comfort and familiarity at a low cost.

Sales of comfort foods like hot dogs, burgers, pizza, ice cream and cookies have increased substantially during the pandemic. While some experts have tied the rising sales to nostalgia, the products’ long shelf lives and relatively inexpensive price tags also play a role in consumers decision-making.

The push to reduce spending by households has also resulted in a higher take-up of discount store label brands, while issues around shelf life has seen an increase in demand for frozen fruit and vegetables.


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2. The Plant-based Diet

Plant-based or ‘faux’ meat is one trend predicted for 2020 which has stayed consistent despite the challenges imposed by the pandemic. Consumers are continuing to seek alternatives to meat and dairy, and food producers are listening with a 68% average annual growth rate in food and beverage launches with a plant-based claim in the past five years.

Contrary to what some may think, it is not only vegan or vegetarian consumers who are solely interested in plant-based options. Many other types of consumers, including meat-eaters, are making conscious decisions to cut down on the amount of meat they are consuming.

Blended options, which is plant-based and animal meat mixed together, have experienced the highest growth within the faux meat category with food producers expanding on the main ingredient in the production of faux meat, soy, to other sources such as mushrooms, peas and jackfruit.

The CSIRO has estimated Australia’s plant-based meat market to be worth more than $6 billion by 2030. Local start-ups such as Fable Food Co. and v2Food have recently launched their plant-based meat products in grocery stores, retail outlets and food delivery services around the country; while Impossible Foods, one of the U.S. companies at the centre of the faux meat tend, this year announced its intention to launch products in Australia and New Zealand.

Faux meat

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3. Food Safety and Supply Chain Surety

Customer expectations on the ability to consistently source food, and trust its quality and safety, have increased dramatically since the pandemic. Food and beverage companies are expected to not only provide increased product surety within their supply chains but to also improve upon the mechanisms for how and when their goods are sold.

This represents a shift away from the typical contract risk controls for non-fulfilled supply, and instead towards more customer driven outcomes through holistic and multi-product risk management strategies that better consider the nuances of specific category, supplier, regional and industry risks.

The key to better risk management controls in food safety and supply chain surety lies in the adoption of new technologies such as intelligent automation, advanced track and trace, IoT devices, predictive supply chain tools and blockchain platforms. These solutions are able to provide improved food safety and supply chain surety by leveraging data processing and AI to better predict possible product supply and food safety incidents; giving food and beverage manufacturers, retailers and service providers the tools to be proactive rather than reactive in response and mitigation of risks in order to better meet customer expectations, implement real-time solutions and facilitate the shift towards a cashless and contactless payments system.


Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

4. From the Restaurant to the Home Chef

Before the pandemic the concept of food as entertainment was predicted to be a major trend for 2020 as companies and restaurateurs looked to develop more products and experiences that connect with the emotional needs of consumers. Restrictions and lockdowns however have seen this trend move from restaurants to the home front, albeit out of necessity as restaurants close or out of boredom as consumers look for alternative sources of entertainment. Consumers are improving upon their cooking skills and experimenting with ethnic flavours as a way to relieve boredom or to reconnect with friends and family. However, it’s not just boredom and an alternative way to socialise that has led to increase in home cooking. Financial strain and economic uncertainty have also made home cooking more attractive to many consumers as it offers a more cost-effective way to feed a family.

Home chef

Photo by Jason Briscoe on Unsplash

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