Feed Your Marketing Brain With These 10 Food & Beverage Trends of 2021
Dinner that night was another attempt by me to eat cheaply, but healthily, and so my chicken caesar salad and pesto pasta was going to involve the usual garden variety fare: bottle of olive oil, anchovies, pine nuts, basil, romaine lettuce, raw chicken breast, parmesan cheese, and so on. However, what was different about this night - as opposed to any other evening prior to mid-March - was that my shopping list consisted of an iphone screen, and my usual grocery shopping experience was going to be replaced by a grocery delivery service instead. This was the new world of food and beverages, and it was about to get a whole lot more different for the remainder of 2020, as well as going into 2021.
2021 has delivered (pun very much intended) us more of the same from the previous anxiety-ridden year when it comes to consumers, trends, and the food and beverage industry overall. From the national to the global stage, businesses and marketing professionals have tackled the spicy challenges brought about by this pandemic. What’s come from all of these innovations, challenges, and trends have been an important list of interesting changes in the food and beverage industry, shifts that should be closely understood and analyzed in order to better position marketing and insights professionals that utilize consumer insights within the food industry. With the use of social listening platforms, like Digimind, we were able to collect valuable consumer insights via data market research, through both social media and various online sources.
So sit back, relax, and break out your favorite ordering app, and let’s snack on some of these amazing food and beverage industry trends…
1. Vegan Products Take A Victory Lap In 2021
Health was a serious concern for a lot of consumers, what with the ongoing viral pandemic all around us (stoked by serious fears of obesity, diabetes, and underlying health conditions exacerbating and making people more at risk for the coronavirus), and so the increase in vegetarian and vegan foods skyrocketed in both popularity and sales.
2. Environmental Concerns Amid Covid-19
One of the trends that stood out in 2020 was the seeming heavy importance among customers for products within the food and beverage industry to be ethically and sustainably sourced. With everyone caught up in news stories like Wales country towns and Thai tourist traps being overrun by animals like rams and monkeys respectively, you might’ve overlooked the growing surge in popularity for “organic” and “natural” foods and drinks.
This occurrence was a global phenomenon among different companies in the food industry, and consumers were almost certainly influenced by years of news reports and studies that support the idea that all-natural foods and organic products are just better for customers and the planet, and the trend continues to grow in 2021.
3. The “See Now, Buy Now” Economy Of 2021
As mentioned at the beginning of this piece, food ordering and food delivery applications that supply consumers instant ordering services to easily access the food and beverage industry, went even more viral last year due to the stay-at-home lifestyle that swept the global market. Marketing research showed how customers were frequently ordering in/take out, or taking advantage of grocery delivery services.
This “See Now, Buy Now” paradigm saw a shift from personal ordering to digital ordering, and businesses that were already offering those services saw a huge spike in orders during the pandemic. With the pandemic still ongoing now, it’s no wonder that this trend continues to grow as 2021 rolls along.
4. Meme-Worthy Marketing Targets Consumers
The global fast food chain, Popeyes, took an opportunity amidst the suffering that people were enduring during 2020, to bring a little Kentucky fried fun to social media with the launch of their “Popeyes Ugly Sweater”, a real life product that was released in December of last year. Consumers had their fair share of brand-consumer engagement during the pandemic, and many brands decided it would be best to try all sorts of interesting, meme-worthy marketing strategies to capitalize on/add levity to the gloom and doom for hungry homebodies everywhere.
Image courtesy of www.CNN.com
From Oreo continuing its fun food photography in support of LGBTQ+, to Burger King’s “Social Distance” Whopper that contained 3x’s the onions as regular Whoppers did, utilizing online humor and meme-culture to emphasize consumer empathy and consumer preferences became a more prevalent facet of marketing in 2021.
5. Supply Chain Transparency Transfixes Consumers
More attention than ever before in global news reporting surrounded the controversy of President Donald Trump’s executive order to prevent the collapse of the meatpacking industry. After consumers started paying attention to the less-than-ideal working conditions and sanitary health practices utilized in sustaining the meatpacking industry, the food and beverage industry saw itself heavily scrutinized and compelled to improve its overall image in light of the very real problems that were highlighted in our collective zeitgeist.
Image courtesy of www.theconversation.com
Clearly - although social listening-derived consumer insights certainly helped - it was quite obvious how the visceral topic of the nation’s loosely regulated meat industry (which is part of the food and beverage market) hit most consumers in the stomach at a time when sanitation and viral infections were at an all-time high. Though definitely connected to the trends of vegan-conscious and environmentally friendly importance, supply chain transparency definitely took on a life of its own in 2020, and even more so in 2021.
6. Snack Attack Habits Take A Bite Out Of Consumers in 2021
Anxiety breeds opportunity, and last year there was a spike in snack food sales/consumption in response to a more sedentary lifestyle, as well as a majority of white collar workers on the national and global scale returning to their homes full-time for work. For instance, microwaveable popcorn exploded in purchase rates in 2020, most likely to accompany the increase in streaming services (brands like Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ and more) dominating the leisure market for people quarantined inside 24/7.
Stress and overeating have been linked together through multiple studies and scientific findings, something that users on social media were found to vigorously admit to through various social listening and consumer insights findings. Simply put, when you’re stuck inside for long stretches, cut off from friends and family, and put on high alert due to a mysterious and deadly virus, you’ll binge snack to placate your anxiety. It's a consumer insight that many snack brands definitely took notice of and exploited during the pandemic - something that continues to take place today with the pandemic still taking place in much of the world. And speaking of unhealthy consumption habits...
7. A Tipsy Trend With Alcohol & Spirits Purchases Skyrocketing Last Year
The global market for the average consumer saw a huge increase in alcohol and spirits sales during the pandemic, a not-too-surprising development considering the circumstances involved. So long as you weren’t Corona brand beer, your business was expected to grow by 80% (a total industry average), a trend that most liquor executives could clink their glasses to in celebration if they weren’t (hopefully) honoring social distancing practices.
Consumer insights regarding the branch of the food and beverage industry that is the alcohol and spirits market picked up on a few specific findings beyond the increased success of the global beer barons; online purchases made up the bulk of the drink purchases, spirits made up 40.8% of the overall sales - followed by wine at 38.2% and beer at 18.7% respectively - and these trends to continue to grow in 2021.
8. Pizza Sales Explode During The Pandemic
Freshly baked, frozen from the freezer, and made from scratch from ingredients purchased from your local grocery store, pizzas are dominating the food and beverage industry, a trend that has really started to rise once the pandemic kicked into high gear. Like the junk food and consumption behavior trends discussed earlier, comfort food like pizza was a surefire commodity that just couldn’t lose in the market that arose from the 2020 coronavirus outbreak.
Brand’s like Domino’s, Pizza Hut, and Papa John’s saw record pizza sales during the lockdown, with the average consumer too cautious to make in-person orders. Ordering apps also saw a massive spike in downloads, thus shifting the old model of phone call pizza ordering to the new age of smartphone button pressing. Overall, these increased pizza orders translated into lots of extra dough for the food and beverage industry businesses that sold pizzas in 2020, and this trend continues to grow in 2021. And since we’re on the topic of dough...
9. Flour Shortages Highlight The Impulsive Shopping Nature of The Average Consumer
It was all the rage on social media: people making their own bread. Much to the chagrin of many baker business owners and restaurants that relied on both commercial and bulk orders of flour, this sudden trend of flour purchasing left a lot of bread makers - reliant on that essential ingredient to make their dough (second “dough” pun in one piece!) - furious at the average consumer who wouldn’t otherwise be hogging such a seemingly mundane, but suddenly rare food commodity.
Flour became the new toilet paper during the pandemic, leading to various market shortages and “flour panics”. Whole grain, sour dough, or gluten free news like this underscored the need by many distributors to better shore up their supply chain in order to meet the surprise demand of specific food/beverage products in 2021.
10. Candy Sales Skyrocket During Coronavirus
Sweet tooth shoppers have been satiating their sugar habits in increasing numbers during the pandemic. Candy sales have jumped 3.8% since the beginning of the outbreak, with chocolate sales bumping up a hearty 5.5% since the start of the coronavirus. Sugar, like snacking or comfort food, fill a certain hole in our souls (and bellies) and reflects a reaction in consumer behavior that has been affected by stress, anxiety, and the need for that feel-good rush.
2021 is looking to continue this trend of sweet sales increases, especially considering the fact that most US citizens are looking to be fully vaccinated (hopefully) by end of July, and a potentially safer shopping season for Halloween - the year’s biggest time for candy and chocolate sales across the country - will contribute to this trend.
Written by Micah Levin
With a background in creative writing, advertising, and psychology, Micah is a copywriter in name and a Digiminder at heart. When he's not developing content for agencies, you can find him crafting novels, cooking and running around in Brooklyn, NY.