Consumer Food Trends Shift With Coronavirus

That means new opportunities for retailers.

December 15, 2020

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—The pandemic has placed a spotlight on the link between poor health conditions and COVID-19. According to a new white paper from the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA), an organization devoted to transforming the nation’s food landscape, trends in food consumption are changing with a focus on better health and stronger immunity. And that means there are new opportunities for food retailers. The PHA paper highlights four key trends.

Consumers are reducing their sugar intake.

Today, shoppers are more aware of the effects of sugar on their health and are making sugar-conscious, healthy food and beverage choices. The 2015-20 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting calories from added sugars to no more than 10% each day, or 200 calories for a 2,000-calorie diet.

Perceptions regarding sustainably marketed products are changing.

Almost 60% of consumers say it is important that the products they purchase or consume be good for health and also good for the planet. According to Nielsen Insights, almost half (48%) of consumers said they would definitely or probably change their food consumption habits to reduce their negative impact on the environment.

Consumers are more interested in plant-based products.

Hungry customers want to add more fruits and vegetables—as well as plant-based products—to their diets. According to a DuPont Nutrition & Health study conducted with HealthFocus International, 52% of U.S. consumers are eating more plant-based foods and believe it makes them feel healthier. Roughly 60% said switching to plant-based foods would be permanent.

Shoppers want food that provides immune support.

Research found that two-thirds of millennials and a third of baby boomers are consuming more functional (or “health-enhancing”) food and beverage products, and recent launches of food and drink products with immune health benefits were up more than 10% through April 30, 2020. Mintel reports that global food and drink launches with immune health mentions grew by 13%, vitamin and dietary supplement launches increased 28% and snack launches were up 73%.

Individuals are seeking out more vitamin C-rich foods like citrus and berries, as well as probiotics, to help improve immune health, and recent launches of food and drink products with immune health benefits were up more than 10% through April 30, 2020.

As a result, supermarkets and manufacturers should be prepared to capitalize on these long-term consumer trends. While consumers want to eat healthier, they don’t always make healthy choices. Retailers and CPG companies have an opportunity to invest marketing dollars to encourage family meals and real foods. By using behavioral economics to give better-for-you products favorable placement on shelves and incentivizing teams to sell better-for-you products, retailers can increase profits.

Consumers want foods and beverages that contribute to good health and a strong immune system. Their interest in these offerings will not recede even after a vaccine becomes available. Grocers and food manufacturers must market and sell more products with health benefits, or they’ll lose out to those who do, the white paper concluded.