Published in Jul-Aug 2021
Covid-19 has upended the way we live, play and work. It’s also on the verge of driving changes in what we eat and how we feed our families. If you are a food retailer, foodpreneur or food developer – or even a gourmand with a taste for food trends – here are eight, exciting ways to think about the changes you can make now to account for what people want next.
1 Treat for Treatment
Increasingly, Rx Food is making its presence felt. Rx is from the Latin word for recipe or recipere which means ‘to take’ – and it is what doctors write on prescriptions ‘to take’ the medicine. Foods and beverages that can help manage or treat ailments are in high demand. So offer health benefits, added nutrients, mood enhancements, sought-after fortifications, antioxidants, probiotics, immunity boosters and rare botanicals to compete more meaningfully.
2 Alternate the Formula
Ride the lifestyle bandwagon when you offer new formulas to consumers who want to avoid unwanted ingredients or (perceived or assumed) allergens to meet their nutritional or ethical goals. Are you a free-range or flexitarian brand? Vegan or pescatarian? GMO-free, perhaps? Against bio-engineering? Or plain lactose and gluten-free? I get it, you are paleo-friendly.
3 Start Kidding Yourself
With kids and young adults parked in the house for longer because of the pandemic, parents are taking special care to be extra special. Stock their pantries with smoothies, shakes, noodles, savouries, snack-able edibles, spreads and dips. And because time matters, freeze these goodies to create a range of frozen meals and desserts, pumped with nutrients, to make good times healthy times too.
4 Wonders of the World
Bring the world to the dining table with new flavours and ethnic fusions. Tired of desi? Try top-trending Japanese, Greek, Thai, Latin, Mexican, Middle Eastern, Korean or Italian varieties. Try regional twists with Island Caribbean, Tuscan, Sicilian, Szechuan or Oaxacan fare. Make stews, ragus or sauces to add a taste of the exotic to traditional meals. Or rename traditional fare with that of their international counterparts to add variety and interest.
5 Maintain and Sustain
Planetary transparency, societal care and environmental responsibility are buzzwords for today’s consumer. Use real ingredients, be eco-friendly, and believe in fair trade. Treat animals humanely and ethically. Invest in hydroponic production or regenerative agriculture to reduce your carbon footprint. Pre-cycle, recycle or up-cycle to mitigate food waste. And then print these initiatives on your label as a concerned cause marketer.
6 Plant New Categories
It’s taking root. Multi-outlet, specialty and natural channels are at the frontlines of a new crop of plant-based foods. Plant-based meat and poultry are in demand. Plant-based dairy, from milk to creamers, from yoghurt to cheese, are already taking up shelf space. Look out for meat/vegetable blends and more plant-based carb/starch alternatives including plant-based supplements for the wellness sector.
7 Help Out in the Kitchen
More time spent at home means added pressure and cooking fatigue for homemakers. To tackle kitchen burnout, find ways to minimise cooking prep time. Whether it’s ready-to-cook, ready-to-use or ready-to-eat, offer pre-seasoned and pre-prepped varieties along with infused meats, sous vide technology, take-and-bake side-dishes, pop-in-and-pop-out snacks like frozen sandwiches, thaw-and-serve desserts, and meal kits with time-saving as their most important ingredient.
8 Make It Special
Lastly, the demand for entertainment-worthy foods is growing as special occasions and celebrations are now necessarily centred around the home. Either ‘premiumise’ the usual party favourites (cheese, crackers, dips, energy mocktails, sauces, candy, canapés, etc.), or curate more premium or specialty foods to create resonance with restaurant-style meals and upscale coffee shop experiences with pre-sliced deli cheese and dried meat, grab-and-go party snacks, or interesting flavour combinations for appetizers.
These are exciting times for the food industry. But to win in a chosen food category, we need to go beyond the price of entry and build innovation into the new macro trends of self-care, disease prevention, home-centred living and all the ways we can make special occasions more celebration-worthy. Of course, by ensuring compliance with planetary and societal care, we play a responsible role whether we are marketing indulgence, convenience, plant-based eating, and/or health and wellness initiatives.
Faraz Maqsood Hamidi is CE & CD, The D’Hamidi Partnership.