KANSAS CITY — Once COVID-19 releases its grip on how consumers around the globe live, at least three trends that accelerated during the pandemic could remain for years. They include e-commerce shopping, a focus on food safety and local items, and searches for food and beverages with health and wellness benefits, said Tom Rees, industry manager, food and nutrition for Euromonitor International.
E-commerce sales of food experienced a compound annual growth rate of 25% from 2015-20, according to Euromonitor. From 2015-19, the CAGR was about 19%.
“So it’s really been a massive bump from 2020, but this was already accelerating,” Mr. Rees said Feb. 17 during BakingTech 2021, a virtual event run by the American Society of Baking. “Producers, suppliers, retailers really invested in this throughout the last year with the increased demand — a lot of investment there.”
Now that consumers have experienced the convenience of buying groceries online, they are less likely to return to how they purchased items before the pandemic, he said.
Euromonitor data found 15.9% of food and beverage industry professionals said one of the most likely effects of the COVID-19 pandemic is their company will shift to a localized supply chain.
“We had a very strong demonstration of the vulnerability of the food supply at the start of the pandemic when shelves ran empty in lots of different markets,” Mr. Rees said. “So buying local food is not just a way of supporting the local economy, but it’s also a way of ensuring food supply.”
Older adults appear to be the most interested in health.
“If you get the virus when you’re older, you’re more likely to have a bad experience than a younger person,” Mr. Rees said.
When asked what health factors or ingredients they looked for on food or drink labels in a 2020 survey, consumers age 60 and over made up over 40% of those who said limited sugar or no added sugar, over 35% of those who said limited salt or no added salt, and nearly 30% of those who said contains fiber.
“Across the board, they are the ones most likely to look at this, and they are the ones who are appreciating what they eat more than ever,” Mr. Rees said of older adults.
Interest in immunity and mental health has accelerated during the pandemic. When a 2020 Euromonitor survey asked consumers to give their perceptions and definitions of health, the top answer was mental well-being at over 60%. Other categories coming in over 50% were drinking enough water, maintaining a healthy weight, longevity/living long, fitness and endurance, feeling “good,” and physical strength.
“More and more people have experienced the fact and realized the fact that purchasing food for health is increasingly important,” Mr. Rees said.
He added consumers cooking at home and lower demand in foodservice as two medium- to long-term effects of COVID-19 and the struggling economy since the unemployed will eat at home to save money. While global retail volume of food sold at retail increased by nearly 5% in 2020, global retail volume in foodservice fell by about 25%, according to Euromonitor.
“Consumers will remain wary for some time about putting themselves in situations where they feel at risk of infection or cross contamination,” Mr. Rees said.