The pandemic has swung the pendulum back to familiar food territory, with a focus on being better – in all aspects of life.
Pre-pandemic the future of food was accelerating into uncharted new territories – crickets, lab-grown meat, functional nutrition and cannabis-infused foods were just a few new categories positioned to take flight. And while we’re still seeing interesting new entrants in the market (hello mushroom everything!), the shock of the pandemic has brought consumer palates back to down-to-earth, leaning into two key segments focused on “better”:
Better For You: Food & drink providing health, immunity fortification, plant-based goodness and mental ease;
Better Indulgence: Sugar-reduced treats, sugar alternatives, smaller portion sizes and single-serve options.
While consumers are seeking comfort in these crazy, uncertain times, they’re making better food choices for both their health, as well as that of the greater good. Now more than ever, they want to buy from brands with ethical values. They expect transparency, fair practices, equality and a commitment to sustainability. This isn’t new, but following #MeToo, Black Lives Matter and other social justice movements, they’re voting with their wallets, and are firmly demanding more to create true social change. Brands that can deliver authentically on the above are gaining, and retaining loyalty faster than ever, as complicit consumerism becomes taboo.
COVID’s Impact on the Future of Food
As we look ahead to the next 6-12 months while the vaccine rolls out, the impact of COVID will still linger in grocery aisles and beyond. Shoppers will continue looking for food and drink safety, gravitating to items requiring low-handling (i.e. sealed baguette bags in bakery) or that can be shared safely at a distance (i.e. cupcakes replacing birthday cakes).
But there’s hope!
According to the Guardian, a rapturous post-pandemic roaring-20s awaits us. The focus will be on connection(!), celebration(!), and feeding (and hugging!) people you love. Expect mass socialization in and out of the home, over-indulgence, and the return of shared meals of all kinds. To win, brands should plan future portfolios to address these needs (e.g. party pack meals-to-go, larger sharing formats, recipes/items themed around belated-celebrations missed during lockdown, food focused on exploration & experience, etc).
Like all of you, the Pigeon team can’t wait for that future to become our reality.
We will hug, we will feast and who knows, crickets might even be on the menu.