food trends

Since much of the previous year in business and elsewhere was defined by a global pandemic, we are left asking what will 2021 look like for food and beverage shippers.

Food trends had an interesting 12 months as things changed quite a bit throughout the course of COVID-19. Right now, we are seeing a shift away from the big box brand purchasing that defined the spring of 2020 to food trends more in line with what we have seen over the past several years.

Emerging food and beverage product categories will likely continue to be reliable growth segments as purchasing power shifts to younger generations who largely command different goods than their predecessors.

Gen Z will emerge as the largest consumer group, commanding “$29 to $143 billion” in direct spending, according to an article in Forbes.

These buyers want to continue food and beverage trends in a similar direction that we saw in the latter 2010s. Here are some things to look out for in 2021.

Plant Products Continue Food Trend Prevalence 

Plant-based protein will continue to be a popular choice for consumers in 2021. Its popularity has surged over the past few years and shows no signs of slowing. According to a piece published in Food Dive, “Investors have also poured more than $16 billion into U.S. plant-based and cell-based meat companies in the past 10 years — $13 billion of it in 2017 and 2018.”

Plant-based proteins are occupying large swaths of grocery stores throughout the country. Brands like Upton’s NaturalsMorning Star, and Good Catch have established themselves as permanent meat-substitute fixtures on the store shelf.

Beyond just an occasional vegetarian substitute for an animal product in their burger, some consumers have begun following a mostly plant-based diet for health reasons.

This diet typically includes large amounts of vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and fruits.

Consumers around the country are incorporating more of the diet’s staples into their lives, even those not committed to being plant-based full-time. The term “flexitarian” has risen in popularity.

According to a report from food consultants Baum and Whiteman, 83 percent of adult Americans are making a concerted effort to add more plant-based foods to their diet.

Plant-based products are entering the market at record speed. Brands like IWon OrganicsBeanfieldsPeaTosHarvest Snaps, and Plant Snacks provide consumers with protein-packed plant-based snacking alternatives.

Immune Health Prioritized

The COVID-19 outbreak, and the anxiety that has accompanied it, put immunity into the minds of many consumers this year and will continue to do into next.

According to the Innova Consumer Survey 2020, “six out of ten global consumers are increasingly looking for food and beverage products that support their immune health, with one in three saying that concerns about immune health increased in 2020 over 2019.”

Products focused on boosting their consumers’ immune systems will continue to be popular for consumers in 2021. Look for products that strengthen the microbiome to become more widely available in the coming year.

Personalized Diet Food Trends

Personalized nutrition is an interesting trend emerging in the food and beverage industry.

With the advent and use of new technology like publicly available DNA testing, smartphones, and wearable devices, consumers have more information about their bodies than ever before. Those cutting-edge technologies are enabling companies to create personalized nutrition plans for users based on biological metrics.

Companies like GenoPalate offer personalized nutrition plans centered around users’ DNA. How brands can incorporate this food trend remains to be seen, but the movement is gaining popularity and something we will watch in 2021.

Increased Sourcing Transparency 

Consumers have shifted purchasing trends to favor products that use more sustainably sourced food ingredients.

According to data published by New Hope Network, “26% of global consumers look for the country of origin on food and drink labels.”

To achieve a greater sense of product transparency for customers, some manufacturers have looked to digital means. Food blockchain projects, like the IBM Food Trust, are providing users with information about a product’s lifecycle from farm to table.

Brands like Nestle, Kroger, Tyson Foods, and Walmart are all Food Trust participants. The reason—increased visibility into their products and efficiency in their supply chains. This digital transparency trend will continue to gain momentum in the coming year.

COVID-19 Purchasing Patterns Here to Stay 

The recent global pandemic has affected almost every sector of business in one way or another. Most notably for food and beverage manufacturers, COVID-19 has changed the way producers get products in the hands of their customers.

Retailers have changed ordering patterns as a response to channel purchasing shifts, and forward-thinking brands have taken note.

According to a report from McKinsey & Company about COVID-19 influenced consumer spending, “Most categories (of consumer products) have seen a 10 percent growth in their online customer base during the pandemic and many consumers say they plan to continue shopping online even when brick-and-mortar stores reopen.”

This retreat in foot traffic started before the COVID-19 outbreak, but it would appear that this event has kicked the retail trend into another gear.

Despite a widely publicized e-commerce “boom,” only 3 percent of grocery transactions occurred online before the pandemic. Other areas have long reported robust online sales, but grocery transactions were some of the last in the country to go mostly digital.

That is no longer the case as total online sales have reached $73.2 billion in June, according to Digital Commerce 360, an increase of 76.2 percent from the year prior. Rolled into that accumulation is a healthy portion of grocery spending.

“Online grocery sales increased as much as fivefold to between 10 percent to 15 percent of total grocery sales,” said Steve Caine, a retail expert and partner for Bain & Company in an interview with CNBC.

Caine continued by saying that he expects this trend to continue even as the pandemic wanes. That possibly permanent trend will impact food and beverage brands as they look for new ways to retain their consumer base

How to Stay Ahead of Food Trends’ Impact on Logistics

Consumer trends can have an impact on transportation supply and demand, which can affect your logistics spend directly.

It is crucial to work with a valued logistics partner with a nationwide carrier network for both dry and refrigerated shipping. Seek a 3PL that can help you navigate the ebbs and flows.

The experts at Zipline Logistics can work with you to build scalable transportation solutions for your food and beverage orders.

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