There’s little that has remained untouched by the coronavirus pandemic. As a driver, the pandemic created major shifts in food occasions as people’s lives moved firmly into the home amid social distancing measures and restrictions shutting down restaurants, bars and cafes. Over the past year, these elements have created incredible growth in the acceleration of ecommerce and the movement of third-party retailers into the business of selling and delivering food.

Tom Rees, industry manager, food and nutrition at Euromonitor outlined some of the most important strategic themes in food and nutrition as a result of coronavirus during the Feb. 17 breakout session from the American Society of Baking BakingTECH conference.

During the session, he looked at the strategic themes from the perspective of accelerated, maintained/supported, no acceleration, no impact, deceleration or pause.


Consumer Segmentation in the era of eating occasions — Because of the widespread shutdown in restaurants, there was less opportunity to partake in sensory experiences. Restriction of mobility also significantly decreased the availability of on-the-go food options. Instead, consumers had to shift into pre-planned indulgence, which was tempered by the desire to keep healthy, particularly among older consumers who have a growing appreciation for the connection between food and health.

Plant-based eating and alternative proteins — Greater awareness of animal welfare is coming to the forefront, prompting an appreciation for dairy and meat alternatives. Viewed as healthier options, dairy alternatives are sold on the basis of their health attributes, while meat analogues have benefitted from shortages of meat. With many of these alternatives embracing direct-to-consumer models, these products speak to elements of sustainability while also possessing a sense of novelty.

Sustainable eating and the environmental cost of food — Sustainability, long on consumers’ radar, found a reimagining during the pandemic as the topic of food waste came to the forefront as a result of supply chain issues and decreased trips to the store. In part a desire to know where food comes from, sustainability also encompasses an aspiration for traceability as well as social elements such as the support of local communities and groups hit hard by the pandemic. Plastic packaging has also experienced a rebound as consumers now view plastic as a way to protect food products.

Sustainability, long on consumers’ radar, found a reimagining during the pandemic as the topic of food waste came to the forefront as a result of supply chain issues and decreased trips to the store.


Mindful eating and new food beliefs — The influence of minimal ingredients and clean labels may find itself in limbo as consumers become more willing to accept fortification in food. Shopping habits during the pandemic proved just how willing consumers are to shop the center store for foods with prolonged shelf life and feel-good elements of nostalgia.

Food tech and the digital economy — Increased use of technology and digital elements in day-to-day engagement are prioritizing data-driven health as consumers must turn inward to maintain their wellbeing. With more personal responsibility placed on consumers, they will require additional assurance regarding where their food comes from. Digital traceability and apps will lead the demand for innovative technology and with consumers seeing less packaging on the shelf, it will be important to appeal to consumers in different contexts.

Food provenance and the country-of-origin effect — Travel restrictions and restaurant closures have lessened the ability to experience international foods. As a result, consumers are rediscovering what’s good locally. This is coupled with a desire for comfort and nostalgia close to home. The economic realities of hard-hit consumers and local businesses have also increased consumer desire for buying local while food shortages have brought to light the importance of having a localized supply chain to prevent supply issues and to improve food safety.


Functional food and the regulatory environment — Food as medicine has never been more important as consumers seek to build health and immunity through the foods they eat. Reports of obesity and prior health conditions as an impact to hospitalization or a negative COVID outcome have been a catalyst for consumers to place more consideration on consuming food containing functional ingredients and possessing functional claims.

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