It seems like a lifetime ago since eating in a sit-down restaurant was a commonplace occurrence and sourdough was not yet on our radar. COVID-19, undoubtedly, was the single most influential catalyst for change in the food industry – ever. In spring 2020, in a matter of days, dining rooms closed, contactless delivery became essential, and food companies stepped up to keep grocery store shelves stocked. Consumers adjusted to a new normal, leaving even the experts wondering if the food industry would be forever changed. Now, 18 months into the pandemic, it’s becoming clearer that some pandemic trends are here to stay. Keep reading to get our consumer trend experts’ takes on three COVID-19 food trends that will have a lasting impact on the food industry.
Healthy, Healthy, Healthy
The pandemic catapulted health and wellness into the spotlight, pushing even the most resistant consumers to try to make improvements to their diets. As concerns over COVID-19 continued to grow, products offering an immunity boost witnessed major increases. Fresh fruits and vegetables, better-for-you snacks, and plant-based proteins all experienced substantial rises in demand during the pandemic too. Even after the pandemic is in our rearview, consumers will continue to seek ways to prioritize health and well-being – and support their immune systems. It will take a long time for consumers to forget the panic and sense of vulnerability they experienced during the pandemic. While some factors are out of their control, they’ll view eating healthy as a means of avoiding future health concerns. Food manufacturers should expand their healthy and better-for-you food options to meet this demand.
Convenience is Still Key – But Not Like Before
For a long time, convenience was important because consumers were always on-the-go. But the pandemic changed that, as events were cancelled, schools closed, and consumers shifted to working from home offices. Life remained chaotic, but in a different way than anyone had ever experienced before. Food delivery from restaurants and grocery stores became a lifeline – and a major time saver. Consumers were also cooking from home more, which filled time, but also added stress to an already stressful time.
After schedules begin to resemble those of pre-pandemic times, consumers will still place a great deal of value on convenience. The demand for delivery won’t go away anytime soon, as consumers have become accustomed to being able to experience their favorite restaurants from the comfort and convenience of their own homes. Cooking from home, too, will remain popular, but consumers will seek out options that make it faster and more efficient. Although lockdowns may be long behind us, consumers will continue to value the ways the food industry stepped in to make their lives a little easier during the pandemic.
Boredom ran rampant during the pandemic, with consumers seeking fun and exciting ways to shake up otherwise monotonous days. Food became a key way to add some excitement to life. As a result, consumers looked to food brands and restaurant chains to offer something new for them to experience, expecting food companies to innovate at accelerated rates. These expectations aren’t changing anytime soon, even after the pandemic ends. Consumers are coming to expect finding new and different food options that spice things up and make their lives more interesting – each and every time they step foot in a grocery store or look at a restaurant menu.
More of the same was already becoming boring, but the pandemic made consumers more invested in finding fun and trendy food options. Long after the pandemic is over, food companies will need to pull out all the stops, coming up with and introducing unique products and menu items faster than ever before, to appeal to restless consumers.
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