How are global crises shaping food trends?

From Shopper Marketing Report: How generational divides, sustainability and purchase habits will shape the year ahead.

pexels-matheus-cenali-2733918The Nourish Network has released its 2022 Trend Report, and for the second straight year, COVID-19 has played a significant role in shaping its findings.

The global pandemic – as well as mounting concerns about climate change and the impacts it will have on the agricultural and food sectors – are prominent themes in this year’s iteration of the trend report.

So much so that Jo-Ann McArthur, president of Nourish Food Marketing – which publishes the report – suggests “we are at an inflection point,” both in the way consumers view and make decisions about their food and producers identify and address challenges that arise.

Here are some of the key trends identified in the agency’s 2022 report, which was released today.

The generational divide – and a Boom or bust opportunity

Among the most interesting findings in the report is that there are increasingly polarizing attitudes toward food and production between the Boomers and Gen Z.

While seniors are more focused on healthy eating and personal wellness than planet health, Gen Z consumers are increasingly concerned about the environment; according to Wunderman Thompson data cited by the report, 72% of them expressing anxiety about how climate change will affect them personally.

The oldest Boomers are turning 76 in 2022, and the report finds that while the senior segment accounts for nearly 7 million Canadians, such groups are under-targeted by marketers. The report identifies this as “a massive marketing opportunity” — and suggests that accommodating their desire for “more functional foods to support healthy aging” may be key to winning this demographic.

The report also finds that the pandemic has changed the way this cohort accesses food, with many of them shifting to e-commerce and delivery services to get what they need. Continued support for seniors in those areas – including streamlined processes and greater accessibility – are strongly urged, while the use of relatable influencers in the same age bracket can also help bridge the gap.

“Boomers have most of the wealth in our society, and they will fight aging in a way that no previous generation has,” the report concludes. “Ignore that at your bottom line’s peril.”

Gen Z consumers, meanwhile, are increasingly focused on “options that support ‘the social good,’” the report finds.

“These digital natives now have access to technology on their smartphones to choose between two brands at price parity and select the one with the lowest planet impact, putting brands under unprecedented scrutiny,” the report states. “If you want to be part of this emerging generation’s choice set, you must offer a way to a better future, aligning with their values on environmental and social issues.”

Better for you or better for the planet?

An interesting tension is evolving in the fledgling plant-based space as the “better for you” messaging associated with plant-based foods is starting to lose value, echoing what had previously happened with food marketers’ “all-natural” claims.

“A quarter of plant-based product consumers don’t believe processed meat alternatives are healthier than the meat they are replacing,” according to the report – a concern that is especially pressing for producers looking to win older demographics, who “want products they perceive as nutritionally better for them than their meat counterparts.”

Meanwhile, younger consumers are more likely to embrace food science, the report finds.

“Technology will always win with younger generations,” it states. “Consumers say they are more willing to embrace changes such as new food technologies or share data if they are beneficial to personal and global health.”

The report, citing YouGov profiles, also claims Gen Z consumers are also more likely to embrace GMOs than previous generations, with 47% agreeing to the statement “I don’t think GMOs or additives are really unhealthy” when compared to 33% of all grocery shoppers.

A changing path to purchase

As consumers have increasingly embraced ecommerce during the pandemic – and retailers have accommodated them with more omnichannel offerings – the way that shoppers are buying their groceries is changing.

Recipes remain the primary driver of new product trial, with 83% of consumers using them to build their grocery list. And digital recipe use is up in 2021 over the previous year, the report finds, driven by Gen X (36%), Millennial (25%) and Gen Z (23%) consumers.

items-organized-on-shelves-3687999While the majority (80%) of consumers don’t want brick-and-mortar stores to disappear, ecommerce spaces including Sobey’s Voila! and Instacart offer customers greater convenience because they can shop by recipe – and place ingredients for that recipe directly in their carts. That, along with restaurant partnerships, ready-to-eat meals, and even meal kit services, is changing the game for brick-and-mortar grocers, because “while this [model] works well online, it falls apart in-store.”

One way grocers can address this is through improving the user experience, the report finds – whether that be bundling meal solutions together in-store, or showcasing protein options alongside their accompanying side dishes. Frozen foods, in particular, returned to the forefront during quarantine – and the report singles out M&M Food Markets in particular for its innovations in that space, many of which predate the pandemic.

These were just a few of the trends identified in the 2022 Trend Report. You can find more information – as well as the complete report – on Nourish Food Marketing’s website.