The 2021 food and beverage industry trends reflect both the significant impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the industry as well as the ever evolving tastes and preferences of consumers. In 2020, consumers left the stores and turned to safer online alternatives while spending more time at home than ever before. As businesses look ahead to 2021, organizations must be ready to quickly change and adapt to meet the developing needs of the consumer.
2021 Food and Beverage Trends
TREND #1: Consumers are Prioritizing Clean Labels More Than Ever
Clean labeling has been a top trend in the food and beverage industry for years but the global coronavirus pandemic has reinforced the value consumers place on clean food. As a strategy, clean labeling has food and beverage makers marketing items with shorter ingredient lists and taking out chemical-sounding words that may give consumers pause. Reading the label is becoming an essential part of the food buying experience.
The words fresh, natural, 100% organic are just some examples of key phrases most evident in the clean food revolution. This year, the common term ‘organic’ is to be replaced by ‘regenerative’ with the new Regenerative Organic Certified Program launched in August. Consumers like to see that their products are ethically sourced and produced before adding them to their shopping cart. The term specifically identifies food grown and raised using methods that improve the soil, capture carbon, and encourage biodiversity.
The clean labeling movement has gained momentum in 2020 and is expected to bring about extreme competition between healthier brands. Consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable products, but some attributes may carry more weight. Consumers are more willing to pay a premium for items that are organic, pasture-raised, and cruelty-free.
91% of consumers believe that a recognizable ingredient list signifies healthier food.
TREND #2: Belief-Driven Buyers Lead the Move Towards Sustainability
Sustainability will continue to be a differentiator for food and beverage products in 2021. As 2019-2020 was already a transformative time for sustainable consumption, COVID-19 added a unique layer of consumer awareness into the mix.
Many consumers are finding themselves looking at the social and environmental impact of the foods and brands they are buying from nowadays. This transition only accelerated with the outbreak of COVID-19 as well as social upheaval via racial injustice protests and national movements. People are gaining a new awareness of the communities around them and would like to see their consumption patterns reflect their dedication and commitment to social and environmental causes.
As a result, it is also expected that ethical employment practices will evolve and become a larger priority in restaurant chains and large manufacturers.
Sustainable packaging, socially and environmentally conscious policies, sustainable certifications, and transparency into the supply chain will help brands win consumer trust, and ultimately their dollars. When deciding on sustainability initiatives, brands need to understand what resonates with their consumers (and other stakeholders), communicate their efforts in an effective way, and share progress on their goals to earn consumer’s trust, and ultimately their commitment.
Consumers will spend up to $150B on sustainable products by 2021.
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Contributions by Alexandra Hatsios