The following is a guest post from Louise Pollock, president of Pollock Communications, an independent food, health and wellness public relations agency based in New York City.
The global pandemic has changed all aspects of normal living and ushered in an era where health and wellness are paramount decision drivers, especially when it comes to food and beverage choices.
For the ninth annual "What’s Trending in Nutrition" survey, Pollock Communications and Today's Dietitian gauged how 1,165 registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) believe consumers' diets have changed due to COVID-19 for the near future and possibly for the long-term.
The health revolution has exploded because of COVID-19, with the top findings for 2021 revealing a focus on foods that support immunity, are affordable and provide comfort, as well as a major shift in snacking habits. Based on the survey, here are the top six nutrition trends that will affect food and beverage manufacturers and marketers in the coming year and potentially beyond.
The health revolution is moving forward at lightning speed. Consumers are now keenly aware of how food and good nutrition can impact their overall health and longevity – and they are taking action to improve their bodies’ natural defenses. A year of staying home and cooking more has also influenced consumers to reevaluate their food and nutrition choices, and that behavior is not likely to change when they begin to eat out again. We saw demand grow in 2020 for anti-inflammatory beverages like green tea and vitamin C-rich beverages like cranberry and orange juice, as well as gut-boosting fermented foods like yogurt and kefir. The popularity of these products will likely continue in 2021, as consumers’ knowledge increases about the role of gut health and the link to immunity.
Healthy nutrition has a cost limit. With the reality of widespread financial hardship caused by the pandemic, consumers are rethinking every purchase. Their decisions have been impacted by fears of illness and economic uncertainty. While health is paramount as a purchase driver, the challenging economy is also a significant concern. For this reason, 60% of RDNs predict greater demand for foods and beverages that are affordable and value-based.
Comfort is key to mental health and wellness. With the unprecedented events of 2020, it is not surprising that the food and beverage industry saw a renewed interest in comforting, tried and true foods like dairy milk and cereals. With anxiety about health, wellness and the challenging economy looming in consumers’ minds into 2021, 51% of RDNs predict the foods and beverages that promote comfort and emotional well-being to continue to be a big purchase driver.
Snacks are the new meals. According to our survey, 78% of RDNs believe that consumer eating habits are shifting away from the traditional three meals a day to more frequent snacking because of the pandemic. About two-thirds of Americans are still working remotely, according to data from Upwork, and that is expected to continue, helping to fuel the snacking trend. Even when consumers begin to get out of the house more, the trend will likely get stronger due to the ease and convenience of snacking at home or on the go.
Intermittent fasting is the No. 1 diet. COVID-19 has made consumers more aware than ever of how food affects their ability to help fight and prevent disease. With this knowledge, they are seeking out diets that will help promote a healthy immune system and help them live longer, healthier lives. Intermittent fasting, an eating pattern where you cycle between periods of eating and fasting which is said to enhance cellular renewal, has pushed out the ketogenic diet as the nation’s top diet trend for 2021, according to the survey. It’s clear that consumers are being more mindful of their eating habits and realize that what they eat — or don’t eat — affects how they feel and how long they live.
Consumers are turning to social media for information. As the world struggles with how to best manage health, enhance well-being, fight disease and promote longevity, consumers are turning to digital platforms for nutrition information. According to our survey of RDNs, the top three sources where consumers search for nutrition information are: Facebook, blogs/vlogs and Instagram. Our survey also revealed that, when searching for nutrition information, consumers trust medical doctors, other health experts and people with similar experiences and success stories. This provides an opportunity for the food and beverage industry to use social platforms and credible targeted influencers health care professionals to help consumers navigate their shifting needs.
It is important to understand that consumer mindsets and habits have been permanently changed due to the pandemic. Food and beverage manufacturers and marketers must continue to evolve to meet these emerging trends and demands.