In any major sector, changes in consumer preferences and behavior are inevitable. Nowhere these days is that more true than in the food industry. If you’re in the food business, you probably already know how hard it is to keep up with rapidly changing consumer trends. Throw in social upheavals, technological innovations, and worldwide pandemics, and you may start to think that the only way to assess the food industry is to take up astrology or crystal-gazing.
You don’t need to hire a psychic, though. There’s a better way to get consumer insights in a rapidly changing industry. It’s called agile market research, and it’s the best way to quickly and efficiently identify trends and vital data on your target market so that you can be the first to meet your customers’ needs and preferences. In a market that changes as rapidly as the food industry, agile market research is essential. So let’s take a look at some of the most critical consumer trends for 2022.
Ethical food choices
Over the last few years, research has clearly demonstrated an uptick in conscientiousness among consumers in the food industry. People are no longer just interested in whether the food tastes good or not, but are concerned about sustainability, animal wellbeing, and fair trade. Many consumers are starting to let ethics make more of an impact on their product choices.
Due to its adverse impacts on the environment, reducing plastic packaging is something many consumers have expressed interest in. Ensuring that farmers are not taken advantage of is another concern among consumers. Overall, more and more buying decisions are being impacted by factors such as whether or not the product was responsibly sourced. Finding ways to communicate that your food product fits in with these concerns is essential if you want to continue appealing to the modern consumer.
Transparency in food
Are you aware that there has been a significant rise in consumers reading ingredients labels? There is a clear increase in demand for food transparency. People want to know what’s in their food and where it comes from. Having this information readily available and on product packaging is essential.
Specifically, consumers are looking for a clear and complete list of ingredients, certifications, information on product sourcing, and valuable nutritional information. Some of the causal factors for this trend could include the rise in the number of people going on specialized diets and the increased concern consumers have over food allergies. In keeping with ethics, consumers also want to see evidence of sustainability and waste reduction on the packaging.
It’s undeniable that the recent pandemic has significantly boosted interest in this sector. Customers have a strong desire to live healthier lifestyles, and this is impacting their food purchase choices. They want food that supports things like weight management and immune support. And as consumers age, there's also a growing interest in foods that promote healthy aging.
Many consumers are also looking at how food can help manage their moods. This does not mean that more indulgent food products and brands are losing out, however. Still, even indulgent brands would do well to focus on the nutritional benefits of their product. In a rapidly changing industry like food, it’s vital that you're always crafting your brand to meet the needs of consumers in the here and now.
Currently, plant-based foods make up a relatively small segment of the overall food market. However, the data shows that consumers are becoming more interested in it. The Hartman Group recently ran a survey that showed that 48% of consumers actively seek out foods and drinks that possess the label “plant-based.” Furthermore, Beyond Meat’s Beyond Sausage (a plant-based meat product) was in the top 10 best-selling new food/beverages of 2020. There are several reasons for this—one is the ethics we have already discussed—but, there is a growing concern among many consumers over the sustainability of traditional meat products. This is another segment to watch as all signs are predicting significant growth in 2022.
Upcycled and sustainable food
Did you know that 6 billion pounds of produce go unharvested or unsold for purely aesthetic reasons? That’s in the U.S. alone! As a result, there's been renewed interest lately to find ways of reducing this enormous amount of waste. Several products have been launched that use upcycled food ingredients in recent years, and the trend is expected to grow as we continue through 2022. These ideas have also found support among large companies, with produce giants like Dole investing significant money to develop ways of repurposing unwanted fruit to make snacks and packaging, which also helps reduce plastic, one of the other trends we’ve already seen.
The experience of food
Research from one of the largest professional services firms in the world, Deloitte, suggests that consumers are also interested in the experience food brands deliver alongside their products. This experience is more than just the taste — it consists of everything from the packaging to the marketing and even the placement within the store or website.
Consumers want more personal engagement, and they want to see authenticity. Most will be more likely to buy a product when the company behind it clearly communicates its unique personality. Furthermore, finding ways to improve the overall experience of the consumer’s interaction with your brand from pre-purchase to post-purchase can increase customer loyalty and satisfaction. We strongly expect this trend to continue to be an important force in the food industry in 2022.
The pandemic spurred more workers than ever to start working from home. This has eliminated the commute that took up so much time and has left many consumers with more options for breakfast. Reports have indicated that many consumers are trying out more experimental forms of breakfast that are not as mainstream. For example, the dish shakshuka (a North-African dish of eggs and tomato sauce) and Mexican breakfast burritos have seen increased levels of consumer interest. This is another shift in the food industry that you should be aware of.
Similar to the breakfast trends, research also shows that eating at home is also on the rise. Although this trend was growing stronger prior to the pandemic, it was certainly reinforced by the fact that many people were confined to their homes for some time. This change has led to the rise of many different meal kit options for consumers, which are now expected to be their own segment of the food industry worth several billion dollars.
Research is key
In the end, it’s impossible to truly predict every trend that can pop up in a fast-moving space like food. However, agile market research can give you the upper hand by providing unprecedented access to your target markets.
Rather than finding out about trends after they’ve become established, you can be in a position to release products to meet those trends as consumers are looking for them. This grows your business and builds trust and loyalty in your customers, who will begin to bond with a company that listens to them. Learn more today.