First in a series
Don’t we all wish we had a crystal ball for 2021? Next best thing, we think, is a recent article posted at forbes.com, with food expert Phil Lempert, a Forbes contributor, sharing his educated guesses as to what lies ahead this year.
Lempert has covered the food, retail and ag sectors for decades and also has his own website, https://www.supermarketguru.com, where he addresses the full spectrum of food production, marketing and consumption
In “Food Trends Forecast 2021: Being Healthy in A Post Covid-19 World” at https://www.forbes.com/sites/phillempert/2020/10/19/food-trends-2021-staying-healthy-in-a-post-covid-19-world/?sh=64f74265485b, he looks at the “frailties of the food world and its supply chain” as brought to light by the pandemic, noting that for a big swath of the population, 2020 was “the first time in their lives they went into our supermarkets and couldn’t buy toilet paper or flour or cow’s milk or their favorite brands.” The effect, he said, was shoppers feeling “scared and shocked about the possibilities of having no food to feed their families.”
Looking at a cross-section of the country and its multiple food chain challenges in 2020, which weren’t limited to COVID and included wildfires that affected farmlands and crop production.
Lempert said because there’s no way to predict how long the pandemic will last and if/when successive waves of the virus hit, it is “imperative that the food industry – from farm to fork – prepare strategies for the new future; and understand the concerns, needs and emotions of shoppers.” He cited a survey that said if public lockdowns are reinstated, a plurality of Americans say they’ll stockpile. At 53 percent, the number of potential stockpilers is up 15 percent over those who were ready to stockpile at the onset of the pandemic in 2020.
The first wave of the virus saw supermarkets responding quickly, with “enhanced sanitation procedures, signage, minimizing in-store traffic and especially expanding fledgling e-commerce efforts; all the while focused on building trust and confidence from their customers who remain deeply concerned about food availability amid rising prices coupled with a high unemployment rate.”
Retailers have hustled to meet the needs of their adult customers, and the customers in turn are “are faced with working at home, while tending to the needs of their school aged children – who may be attending classes on line, or have limited school days, or wondering if their schools will even open – all the while trying to balance good eating habits with satisfying their families emotional needs.” The upshot has been the adoption of new business models by supermarkets.
Forcing a new business model on supermarkets.
Remotely consulting via Zoom with another expert, Markus Stripf of Spoon Guru in the UK, Lempert crafted an analysis of shifting priorities with consumers regarding groceries.
His conclusions are significant, and he wrote, “There is little doubt that Covid-19 has woken up Americans in many ways. The first is a new understanding of what and how they eat and how these foods and beverages have a significant effect on their stamina, strength and immunity to fight off viruses and other health abnormalities. Shoppers have changed how they are choosing their foods with a new yearning for reading labels, understanding what ingredients are in their foods, where their foods come from and which foods they should avoid.”
Lempert also said that the International Food Information Council’s 2020 Food & Health Survey echoes Markus Stripf’s “COVID-era analysis and prediction that the industry must build trust and help stressed households achieve their wellness goals.”
Among the FIC’s findings are that “54 percent of all consumers, and 63 percent of those 50+, care more about the healthfulness of their food and beverage choices in 2020 than did in 2010; healthfulness is the biggest mover, more so than taste and price.”
Moreover, “Active dieting has grown this year as they look at their scales and find their jeans a little too snug as they work from home, snack more often and indulge to feel emotionally more stable – to 43 percent of Americans, up from 38 percent in 2019 and 36 percent in 2018.” And, the study said, “18 percent of Americans use an app or health monitoring device to track their physical activity, food consumption or overall health; 45percent of users say it helps greatly; 66 percent say it led to healthy changes they otherwise wouldn’t have made.”
Also, “26 percent of U.S. consumers snack multiple times a day, and another third snack at least once daily; 38 percent say they replace meals with snacks (usually lunch) at least occasionally, and “28 percent of Americans eat more proteins from plant sources vs. 2019, 24 percent eat more plant-based dairy, and 17 percent eat more plant-based meat alternatives.”
The survey also found that “74 percent of Americans try to limit sugar intake in 2020, down from 80 percent in 2019.”
Part II will look at more trends and goals consumers say have been adopted in response to COVID-19.