Since the global pandemic lifestyles have changed dramatically. Most noticeably with remote working patterns and the shift of workforce to home offices, with many cutting back on eating out. Datassential state that in February 2023, one third of employees worked from home either part-time or fulltime, which is impacting the number of meals sourced from home – in January this was accurate for 91% snacks, 87% of breakfasts, 80% of dinners and 77% of lunches (IRI data). And as more restaurants cut back on late-night hours, favourite late-night delivery snacks will also be sourced from home.
The pandemic has also accentuated consumers’ desire to optimise physical and mental performance. Nearly half of U.S. consumers are taking a proactive approach to their health and wellness. And globally there is demand for more functional foods and drinks to improve anything from energy levels, to immunity, to ensuring healthier bones. There are myriad sought-after health benefits from foods.
Alongside this is strong consumer interest in sustainability proving it as a motivator despite inflation effects. IRI reports that nine in 10 shoppers either maintained or increased their sustainable purchase habits in 2022.
Ethical product benefits are also perceived by consumers as more healthful. Two thirds of younger adults feel they have eaten healthier if they have consumed ethically produced food. According to NielsenIQ, the most desired ethical claims for grocery products are ‘grown or raised in a sustainable way’, certified humane, free range, sourced from companies who pay a fair wage, and hormone-free. Animal rights also made the top 10 list of social causes that Gen Z and millennials are sold on. This opens the way for food manufacturers to present some new and exciting options.
With more people eating from home there is a shift in the restaurant – retail gap. Soups, entrees, chili, and combo ready-made meals resulted in impressive unit sales for the year ending 29th January 2023 (210 Analytics and the International Diary Deli Bakery Association). The Specialty Food Association reports that refrigerated entrees are now the sixth largest specialty food category, up 32% in sales over the last two years.
According to a report from the Food Industry Association, two thirds of consumers want more prepared options that are healthy, as well as more globally inspired choices. T. Hasegawa points to consideration of Japanese, Greek, Thai and Latin favourites, the most favoured after Italian, Mexican and Chinese cuisine.
Food and Beverage Flavour Trends Report 2022 by T.Hasegawa suggests that soup products that provide cooking and flavour shortcuts eg dry soups or refrigerated broths, will appeal to consumers who are sold on cooking at home but are time poor. Soup and broth brands can blend comfort appeal with health needs. The Natural Products Expo West highlighted potato chip alternatives with popular protein snacks at the fore – Wilde Protein Chips featured chicken breast, egg whites and bone broth.
There is a demand for special convenient food ingredients and products that provide a culinary upgrade for foods prepared at home. According to the Specialty Food Association, three quarters of consumers overall and 79% of millennials are specialty food consumers. Sophisticated and internationally inspired sauces designed for specific recipes simplify meal preparation.
Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) points out that with the drop in restaurant sales expected as a result of consumer inflation concerns, foods and beverages that provide an “entertaining culinary experience or a special treat” will be positioned well for market success. Products from celebrities and chefs, restaurant-branded retail foods and drinks like Marco Canoro’s Brodo broth that were pre-packaged and sold frozen nationwide, continue to create consumer interest.
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