The close of 2021 is nearing and consumers are gearing up for a fresh start to 2022, hoping for a more positive, healthy year ahead. Every year, Americans start the new year off with the best intentions, and sometimes these good habits stick, but oftentimes people are back to their usual ways as the year progresses. But the last two years have been anything but ‘usual’ and consumers are becoming more and more focused on making positive changes that stick. Post-pandemic consumer behaviors have changed, and those changes will impact every commercial industry, with those keeping up with trends positioning themselves for growth and those that are not falling behind.
Changes in the way people eat will most certainly impact the food manufacturing industry in 2022 and beyond. The good news is that people will always need food, so the demand will always be there. It’s understanding consumer buying trends and why your customers choose you (or your competitors) that will set you apart in this saturated industry. These top trends in behavior, along with the agile customer research that drives real, actionable insights as Vennli provides, can help food and beverage manufacturers to develop the products their customers want to buy in 2022.
1) Focus on the full picture.
Choosing to eat better is not necessarily a ‘new’ trend as Americans had been gravitating towards healthier options for years before the pandemic, but if the past 18 months have shown us anything, it’s that it is imperative to maintain not only a healthy body but a healthy mind. Foods that support good health and nutrition continue to be important to consumers, but there is a new focus on connecting overall mind-body wellness, and products that are perceived to enhance mood and cognitive performance are becoming more desirable.
2) Cleaner culinary conveniences.
As consumers strive towards a healthier lifestyle and have become more accustomed to being active outdoors in the wake of the pandemic, they are looking for convenient, yet functional, products that support their active, on-the-go lifestyle. Consumers have also become accustomed to having more access to dine-in meals at home, with most restaurants providing takeout and delivery services in order to stay in business. Some food manufacturers are bringing these dine-in tastes to the home kitchen to address the desire for people to prepare and experience restaurant-quality meals and flavors in the safety of their own homes. And with many Americans experiencing job loss and food insecurity, it’s more important than ever to provide healthier, convenient solutions for in-home meal preparation.
3) A growing preference for plants.
Plant-based products continue to grow in popularity as people turn to cleaner food options - and this growth has only been accelerated as a response to the pandemic. Another important influence on this expanding market is the increased concern for the well-being of the planet and the demand for products that are produced in a more sustainable and ethically responsible way. The reasons for choosing plant-based vary by demographic with older consumers tending to be more influenced by health and Millennials and Gen Z motivated by animal welfare and environmental impact, according to the Plant-Based Foods Association.
4) The importance of immunity.
You are probably starting to see an overall theme here… health is motivating many of the current food and beverage buying behaviors, and proactively boosting one’s immunity to stay in good health has gained traction with consumers as they gravitate towards ingredients that support the immune system. In a study done by the International Food Information Council (March 2021), two-thirds of those surveyed were interested in learning more about the role of food and nutrients in immune health. Products with probiotics, vitamin C and D are sure to grab consumer attention.
5) Indulgences with intent.
Snacking and comfort food consumption increased during the early months of the outbreak, with many people citing their indulgences as a form of emotional self-care. But with the renewed motivation towards good health, more consumers are looking to splurge on snacks that are purposeful with ingredients that sustain their overall wellness. People are starting to gravitate more towards foods and beverages with ingredients that increase energy and enhance mood, like proteins and antioxidants, and trying to avoid snacks and drinks that can exacerbate stress like sugar and caffeine. Coupling great flavors with purposeful ingredients provides consumers with the ultimate comforting treat.
Overall, there is a clear trend towards cumulative wellness that will likely become a longstanding behavioral change in consumer behavior thanks to COVID -19 and the necessary focus on staying healthy, both physically and mentally. But as in every industry, there are additional implications that impact consumer behavior – such as price, availability (hello supply chain), and cultural preferences. When looking to develop new products and marketing plans, it would be wise to first dive into what is your customers want and how they perceive your brand versus the competition. These are the insights that will guide your 2022 plans towards success.