3 consumer food trends to watch in 2021

23 Apr 2021

Trend Updates

Key trends that are shaping the post-Covid bakery, patisserie and chocolate world

    The pandemic has turned the world upside down. It has changed how people live, what they eat and how they consume. How can the bakery, patisserie and chocolate industry adapt to meet these evolved consumer needs? In the run-up to our virtual Global Taste Tomorrow Event on September 28 and 29 2021, we share insights into three major food trends and consumption habits that will define the ‘new normal’.

    Consumers are looking for food solutions that go beyond nutrition, the ongoing Taste Tomorrow consumer research has revealed. Food is being used for all sorts of purposes: to reflect identity, to improve health and well-being and as a fun and creative activity.

    These three food trends give insights into the consumer behavior in the post-Covid world:

1. Food for health: good nutrition for the purposes of mental and physical well-being

The health food trend set in long before anyone had heard of Covid-19, but the pandemic has caused some interesting shifts in the health expectations of consumers. Research by Puratos among over 7500 consumers in 15 countries shows that 60% of consumers now turn to food to strengthen their health. The specific health issues they wish to improve are their immune system and mental health. Consumers were also asked what they consider to be healthy food. Opinions differed widely on this matter: two-thirds of global consumers think healthy food is about removing ingredients, whereas one-third believe it is about adding ingredients.

Boosting the immune system

The Covid crisis has increased awareness of the importance of good health and consumers are hoping that certain foods can help them avoid getting ill. The Taste Tomorrow Trend Radar which explores social media and search behavior, shows that online searches for immune-boosting foods skyrocketed in April-May 2020 and continue to be significantly higher than before Covid.

People hope that a strong immune system can protect them from health threats, and therefore they seek immune boosters: natural, food-based solutions to optimize their body’s defense against viruses and infections. Online, foods such as ginger, citrus, turmeric, yoghurt and sprouts are tipped as immune boosters. Unfortunately, there is no such miracle cure—the best option is to maintain the immune system with a healthy lifestyle.

Improving gut health

Where food can make a big impact is the gut. There is a growing awareness that what we put in our gut impacts our physical health, a notion that is already well established within the dairy industry. With 42% of people around the world saying that they are adopting a long term approach to health maintenance, being conscious of gut-friendly diets is becoming more and more interesting for other food industries as well. The bakery sector can for instance focus on the prebiotics contained in fibre-rich bread and sourdough.

Feel good food

The uncertainty created by the pandemic is affecting consumers' state of mind. 73% of consumers declare that depression and mental health have a moderate to severe impact on their everyday life. Everyone could use a little pick-me-up, and responsible sweets proved to be the perfect remedy for feeling down. Digital influencers cleared the way for permissible indulgence, making consumers comfortable embracing treats and comfort food as a part of a balanced diet. Plant-based sweets even became the second most discussed patisserie topic online. Consumers opted for treats such as plant-based chocolate, vegan cakes with extra fruit or low-sugar cookies made with oats.

2. Food as a form of self-expression: a plant-based diet to reflect a healthy and responsible lifestyle

    Many people used the past year to rethink their lifestyle and concluded that they wanted a more balanced life and diet. For a growing number of consumers who want to eat guilt-free, skipping animal products is the way forward; they opt for a plant-based diet. The rise of vegan, organic and vegetarian eating is part of a bigger trend, in which the food we choose to eat is used as a way to express our personal values. Consumers increasingly want to behave ethically and responsibly, so they are mindful of animal welfare, fair trade and sustainable choices in packaging and sourcing. Taste Tomorrow research shows that 50% of consumers claim to try and buy sustainable foods products and 45% of consumers believe that plant-based food has a positive environmental impact.

Healthy conscience, healthy body

Choosing a plant-based diet fulfils consumers’ desire to contribute to a better world and reduce environmental footprint. But this trend isn’t just about cultivating a healthy conscience: plant-based consumers hope to achieve a healthy body as well. In North America, about one third of consumers believe that plant-based food has a positive impact on both the environment and their personal health. No wonder this diet is gaining more and more traction: it allows consumers to feel like they are doing something good for themselves and for the Planet.

Plant-based hits the sweet spot

Plant-based eating hits the sweet spot between wanting to be healthy, responsible and “hip”. Both veganism and plant-based recipes rank high on the list of most discussed topics on social media in 2020, indicating that plant-based eating is very trendy at the moment. Consumers are increasingly looking for plant-based substitutes in supermarkets and other food outlets. In bakeries and pastry shops they want to find guilt-free indulgences in the shape of plant-based sweets and chocolates. These treats contain no butter, cream or eggs. Instead, substitutes like oil, dairy alternatives and fruit or flaxseed are used to achieve the right texture.

3. Food for fun: sourdough as the new home baking hit

    On social media platforms, it seemed as if everyone started baking during the first lockdown of 2020. Photos and how-to videos of banana bread, focaccia, chocolate chip cookies, nutrition bars and sourdough bread showed up in timelines everywhere. Consumers found a creative outlet in this new hobby and exchange tips, tricks and recipes in online communities. While the trend of home baking soared in popularity during the pandemic, it is still going strong, which creates an opportunity for bakeries to capitalize on the momentum.

Joy of baking

As the coronavirus pandemic caused lockdowns and a number of office workers relocated to working from home, many consumers began to spend most of their time at home, which made a kitchen a place to have some much needed fun. Home baking proved itself to be an accessible activity that brought joy, in terms of both the process and the outcome. When asked about their motivation for home baking, consumers stated the control over the ingredients and hygiene, saving money, the quality family time or just the love of baking.

Experimenting with sourdough

Sourdough bread in particular gained tremendous popularity. This challenging bread type offered a long-term project that home bakers could embark on, with new techniques to learn and enough room for creativity. The hype around sourdough bread caused an increased awareness and understanding of the process that will likely affect the demand for sourdough in the out-of-home market as well—especially given that sourdough also taps into the gut health trend.

Bread and baking mixes

Another opportunity for the pastry and chocolate industry to take advantage of this trend can be found in baking mixes. 55% to 82% of consumers tried home baking during the lockdowns and most of them say they will continue to bake post-Covid. While most consumers prefer baking from scratch, mixes prove to be very popular as well, especially in the United States, China, Malaysia and Germany. More than half of consumers in Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Poland and Malaysia are hoping to find bread and baking mixes in artisan stores and bakery chains.

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