How did COVID-19 change the rules on food innovation?
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from Frozen & Refrigerated Buyer magazine.
In normal times, sales data from the past year would identify new opportunities for innovation. What happens when almost every supermarket product saw record growth simply for being in stock?
What consumers want during the pandemic and what they’re likely to want after also is probably very different. Many broad pre-COVID trends will rebound but may manifest themselves differently, thanks to shifts in consumer values.
“You can’t build the future looking at the last 52 weeks,” confirms Mike Urness, founder and managing partner of the Seurat Group. “Product developers need an understanding of the whys, not the whats [of the data] to predict where categories are heading.”
Here are some trends expected to drive product development in the coming year:
- Togetherness: After a year of social distancing, virtual celebrations and canceled events, consumers are likely to put a high value even on everyday get-togethers with friends and loved ones, according to the Seurat Group’s report “2021: Planning for Post-Pandemic Growth.”
- Health and wellness: “Immunity boosting” and “fortified with vitamins and minerals” have been two of the most popular health claims, appearing on products like smoothies, berries, salmon, mushrooms and broccoli, according to Andrew Moberly, director of category solutions at Daymon. Given the ongoing threat from coronavirus, “I believe they’ll remain vital to consumers as they look for ways to proactively maintain their health.”
- Societal care: The pandemic, combined with a steady stream of disasters linked to climate change, is only raising consumers’ apprehension about the health of the planet.
- Convenient home cooking: Sixty percent of consumers expect to still eat at home more in 2021 and beyond, says Mr. Moberly. “So, shoppers will continue to look for quick and convenient solutions … that cut down on meal prep while providing flavorful health-driven options that alleviate meal boredom.”
- Global flavors: “As the world becomes more connected, we expect to see continued growth in global flavors,” says Tricia White, VP of product development at Schwan’s Co.
- Indulgence: Post-pandemic indulgence probably won’t look the same as it did early in the crisis when consumers allowed themselves to pig out on comfort foods. More “permissible indulgence,” especially in support of dietary restrictions and lifestyle diets, is what consumers are after nowadays, reports IRI.
- Snacking: With parents and kids homebound, the shift to all-day snacking accelerated during the pandemic.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: In what ways did the pandemic muddle the traditional product development process? Which pre-pandemic trends remain strong; which have been altered for the long term?