At the beginning of 2020 Kalsec predicted five food industry trends that we expected to grow over the year: savory snacking, connecting with consumers, plant-based proteins, classic flavors and authentic global flavors. A lot has changed throughout the globe since January 2020 as people and companies adjusted to the effects of an ongoing global pandemic. However, we believe it is vital more than ever to analyze how trends have changed, and why, continuing to improve the adapting food system. We reviewed each of the trends we predicted, and provide some data and insights.
PREDICTION: We have seen high-protein snacks rise to meet the convenience factor of replacing meals, but what is next in the snack category? We will continue to see the trend for more savory snacks with global flavors proliferate as consumer interest in healthier, more convenient options persists. Consumers are looking for products that offer satiety and fullness, which is often associated with full, savory foods. A major category for renovation in this way is snack, protein, and energy bars as they have historically been sweet.
ANALYSIS: Snack food consumption has increased more than 8% since the beginning of the pandemic in March 20201, as consumers look to indulge themselves in ways that do not disrupt their diets. From mini-meals offering lower price points to permissible indulgence and comfort snacks, savory snacking has definitely been on a steady rise in 2020. Snacks with a savory callout saw a 3% increase from the previous year, according to Mintel. Spicy snacks and localized flavors were key areas for growth in the savory snacking category.
Connecting with Consumers
PREDICTION: Consumers are increasingly looking to connect on a personal level. They want to understand where their food came from, how it was grown or raised, whether the product and company are sustainable, and believe that there is a good story behind it. For food companies this means they must connect to the consumer and not just tell the story, but tell the story well and to the right audience. To achieve this, many brands are using events, big data and technology to connect in addition to traditional ad campaigns, store signage, and pack claims to catch consumers’ attention.
ANALYSIS: With the onset of COVID-19 globally, we are seeing this trend change as ‘connecting’ takes on a new meaning for consumers. Even as restaurants and stores begin to open in some regions, consumer behavior has shifted regarding buying habits. Many have changed the way they purchase groceries, eat out and the overall dining experience. We can expect that there will be ongoing changes as a result of these new behaviors.
Brands have looked to humanize themselves even further to mend the gap with consumers. Company messaging has primarily focused on getting through this unprecedented time together. Customer experience has been challenged in ways that were not imagined and brands invested heavily in empathizing with their end-consumers.
PREDICTION: Alternative proteins are not a new trend, but we will see this trend develop as hybrids that feature both plant and animal proteins, and plant-based proteins which replace chicken, seafood, sausage and deli meats are introduced into new markets. Consumer interest is now looking to cleaner labels, less processed products and ‘free-from’ options, such as products based on oat protein.
ANALYSIS: Plant-based proteins saw even more continued growth throughout the pandemic with an emphasis on the “better-for-you” component, even with supply chain slow-downs. In fact, 30% of American consumers said they were eating more protein from plant sources, according to Food Business News. Additionally, the global market was able to cut into the price gap between meat and meat alternatives, and the industry prepares to see more mainstream expansion into the quick-service restaurant (QSR) arena, with examples such as McDonald’s “McPlant” launch planned for 2021. We also observed an increase of plant-based “fish” coming towards the end of the year, specifically highlighting tuna. This area is still a niche market that will expand more into the future.
PREDICTION: As consumers face an abundance of options and choices, we are seeing a resurgence of interest in flavors that are familiar. This means a renewed interest in classic flavors for each region of the world like garlic, onion, satay, szechuan and instant noodles with new upscale options. These flavors are now coming in premium formats with organic, natural, or preferred cooking methods specified on pack.
ANALYSIS: The trend for classic flavors was already gaining traction in 2020, but global shut downs, supply chain disruptions and the stress of global challenges accelerated the growth of the trend. Brands are incorporating familiar flavors alongside more adventurous options as a result. An example from Europe is a Japanese range of sauces featuring the familiar (teriyaki and katsu) alongside the more unusual (nanbanzuke and tonakatsu). For classic flavors such as garlic, onion, salt & pepper, buffalo, cheddar cheese, ranch, and barbecue, we saw relatively similar retail launch numbers compared to the previous year in the U.S. There may not have been a significant increase in new products launched with classic flavors (because we already have products with these flavors – making them classic), but seeing shortages and demand for basics indicate growth in this trend.
Authentic Global Flavors
PREDICTION: As flavors from around the world are becoming familiar in different regions, consumers want authentic versions of these global flavors. This means they want to understand the story behind the food and/or flavor, which relates back to our prediction for storytelling. Consumers expect more from global cuisines at restaurants and in packaged products, meaning manufacturers have pushed for transparency and authenticity with more specific regional flavors in well-known cuisines.
ANALYSIS: Mexican and Moroccan flavors saw a significant increase in the U.S., with Moroccan launches growing by 16% in grocery retail. Consumer tastes still focused on creating a diverse palate inside the home and creating a taste adventure outside of it. In 2020 we saw this trend mature in ready meals and meal kits. It has also taken a new twist, with chefs, restaurants and street food exploring what authentic really means. Chefs are creating dishes without being restricted to a particular cuisine, ingredients or cooking processes.
2021 Trend Predictions
No one has a crystal ball that will tell us exactly what trends to expect. Predictions are exactly that, predictions. As our experts continue to closely monitor the industry and consumer habits, we will continue to share our findings with our customers and make fair predictions.
Shifts in 2020 are creating new habits that we have not fully realized the effects of. Nevertheless, stay tuned for our 2021 top food trend predictions. For more global food trends visit our collection of food trend content.
You can view our Top Food Trend Predictions for 2020 here.
1. US Consumers Turn to Indulgent Treats As A COVID Cope. (2020, June 30). Retrieved from https://www.npd.com/wps/portal/npd/us/news/press-releases/2020/u-s–consumers-turn-to-more-indulgent-treats-for-comfort-during-covid-19-and-make-sure-they-have-plenty-on-hand/