Our lives have changed due to the current crisis. Like everything else, the mindset of consumers and their food consumption are set to undergo changes as well. As food becomes an integral part of stay-at-home life, health and wellness will take centre stage in eating habits. A look at some clear trends.
Good Food, Good Habit
Even before, we were witnessing a change in how consumers perceive the value of food. There was a steady evolution in terms of different dietary patterns emerging. Innovation centred around nutrition, health and wellness was gaining prominence. This trend is likely to accelerate with people now rethinking even more how they eat, what they eat and socialise over food experiences. Not only that, offering affordable nutrition for consumers would be very important in the 'new normal'. In times like these, people tend to try and cling to familiar spots that one has experienced. Clearly, companies that can offer trustworthy, healthy and nutritious products in today's time without compromising on the taste are better placed and will be preferred more by consumers. With one mega food consumption trend being the interest in 'total wellbeing' and 'holistic health', the biggest opportunity for companies is to be innovative on the platform of nutrition, better quality, greater trustworthiness and greater safety, as these continue to become important vectors of consumer choice. Companies will have to launch products with innovation and renovation, which should not just be single-season products, but ones that can sustain themselves with the changing scenario. In today's time, it has become imperative to understand who your target audience is and what their needs are. 'Innovation and renovation' will only be successful now when brands know what consumers want and why.
The future of food consumption will rely heavily on ensuring that 'nutrition' and 'taste' go hand in hand, with ingredients that are most likely to succeed are those that have well-established connections with immunity. In order to ensure that products satisfy consumers' needs, companies need to respond to the new demand, reset their defining relationships with users and reconsider their product portfolio in the post-Covid era to make products healthier, while also allowing consumers to make a pleasurable indulgent choice.
Another important trend that the industry has witnessed is the clear shift in favour of in-home consumption. As the pandemic made us homebound, we began buying, cooking and eating very differently. Consumers are now cooking from scratch using local produce, with a focus on healthy nutrition. Different platforms of engagements are being explored, whether it is the convenience of getting brands that they would have otherwise not consumed, or experimenting with new forms of cuisine and cooking. In-home consumption has shown us a lot of trends, including the Dalgona coffee trend, which inspired many consumers in creating different coffees. In-home consumption is directly related to seeking small pleasures and essential products on the tables. With 'out of home' eating experience getting redefined, there will be a natural spurt towards 'in-home consumption moments'. In times like these, consumers are also returning to recipes of the past - 'grandmother's recipes' that are believed to boost immunity along with comfort and nostalgia.
Pre- pandemic, the ever-increasing growth in social media was dynamically changing the way in which food is marketed. There was a strong focus and the need to innovate for novel and diverse offerings. Food bloggers and influencers who constantly share images of food products were gaining more prominence, with the architecture and colour of food playing a crucial role in the absence of the ability to taste or smell it. Consumers going forward are expected to be digitally far more active than they were earlier, and food companies with a strong digital-first capability, in terms of engagement, creation and sustainability are the ones that are going to hold the consumer's interest for a long time.
Digital engagement will continue to be three pronged - first, recipe and information dissemination; second, good nutrition since that's a hunger spot for consumers, and third, a lot of the earlier in-store activations that would now become digital activations. While good-old kirana stores will continue to be relevant due to the convenience in localities, consumers are expected to be much more active digitally compared to earlier times.
The Way Forward
To summarise, organisations will need to ensure that branding of products reflect quality, hygiene and safety. Consumer focus on product value chain will go up, and organisations that are more transparent will have an edge. Further, there will be an increasing interest towards products that offer value. Changes in 'out of home' consumption, may also lead to rise in demand for 'single portions' instead of 'sharing portions', lower instance of large gatherings around food and an increasing focus on takeaways/deliveries. All these would be changes companies should brace for.
These last few months have also been an acid test for brands as far as brand loyalty is concerned. Consumers at large have shown low interest in experimenting, especially with food. It would be a cardinal rule for brands to invest in building trust among consumers.
In a post-Covid world, the space for brands who do not command much trust from their consumers, will shrink. With Covid-19 being a health and economic crisis that has a significant impact on consumer consumption, food companies now need to leverage their in-depth knowledge of food habits, nutrition and public health challenges in order to innovate and renovate.