As we move into 2021, it is clear the way we produce, buy, cook, and eat food has changed greatly due to the pandemic and the ongoing experience of COVID-19 lockdowns. With an understanding the virus is here to stay and the ongoing uncertainty, the pandemic has accelerated market trends and shifted consumer demands – on a scale not seen in recent history. 2021 is shaping up to be an exciting year, as we think these trends will not only deliver innovation in the food supply but have a positive impact on health and wellbeing.
Local and small business heroes
As we look back to March 2020, the initial phase of the pandemic saw supply chain disruptions as factories slowed down worldwide and Australians suddenly started to question why we needed to rely on imported goods like bottled pasta sauce produced in Italy. With labour shortages and grounded planes, Australians started to focus on the need to support locally grown and processed food. On an even more micro-scale, many Australians started to think about how they could support local and small businesses in their communities as the effects of lockdowns became clear. Cafes turned into takeaways and bakeries- offering fresh pasta and pizza dough for cooking at home, to pantry staples like olive oil and granola – and bars turned into liquor stores – just to stay afloat. We think we’ll see even more of this, with cafes, pubs and restaurants shifting their offer to allow customers to support their beloved local and small businesses in many ways.
Sustainability was a strong trend leading into 2020, however some thought that the pandemic may shift the focus away. While eco-warriors were shuddering at all the pandemic-related waste like disposable masks and gloves, consumers were waking up to the reality of a changing climate, especially off the back of the Black Summer. These uncertain conditions highlighted to businesses and consumers the importance of efficient and sustainable food production. As a result, we’re likely to see more alternative protein innovation, as well as innovation in established sectors like meat and dairy to be carbon neutral in the future through initiatives like a focus on improving productivity and vegetation management practices and the use of sustainable feed additives. Sustainability in 2021 will no longer be an option but simply the cost of doing business.
2020 seemed to be the year Australian native foods made their way into the mainstream. While Indigenous communities have long known how to cultivate and use native ingredients, and their nutrition and wellbeing powers, the food industry is starting to take notice. We saw some great innovation in 2020 with large brands taking up native ingredients, like the two new Weis bar flavours with Davidson plum and lemon myrtle and Woolworths’ native Christmas collection including pear and riberry fruit mince tarts. The problem for the foreseeable future will not be demand but supply as production can be slow to scale up, pushing prices high for some time. The good news is many native foods are easy to grow in the backyard or can be found in your local community – allowing us all to begin experimenting with our native foods and ingredients like Warrigal greens and lemon myrtle.
Home cooking revival
Another pandemic trend has been the revival of home cooking – while Australians were happy to have cafes and restaurants reopen, they’ve gained skills and pleasure in staying home and cooking and baking. This has paved the way for more innovation in the home cooking category – with meal kits like Marley Spoon reporting great results, and supermarkets widening their offerings to include more creative pre-prepared offerings like exciting salad mixes and fresh pizza dough balls with gourmet pizza toppings sold alongside. Likewise appliances and homewares like air-fryers and fry pans saw a boom, with household spending rising by 30% in May 2020 compared to the previous year.
Sleep on the menu
While immunity was a key concern at the height of the pandemic, an ongoing concern for consumers is poor sleep because of stress and disruption caused by the pandemic. Almost half of Australians in this study experienced poor sleep during the pandemic, believed to be caused by uncertainty around job losses and redundancies, border closures, cancelled weddings and the like. Likewise, the merge of work life and home life is believed to be contributing too, as some workers may be using their bedroom as their home office. As a result, we predict products crafted to improve sleep will continue to gain popularity this year, like this Rest chocolate or these chocolate protein clusters formulated with sleep in mind. We already saw great innovation last year as we discussed in this post and anticipate another year of great innovation in this space.