Covid’s lasting impacts on the food industry

Consumer concerns and behaviours have shifted since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, but what trends are set to stay in the longer term?

The global retail value of packaged food reached $2.5 trillion in 2020, up 4.6% from the previous year, Euromonitor reported in a recent webinar. All sectors saw a big surge in sales – except for snacks as on-the-go and impulse sales were curtailed. At the other extreme, staple foods were up 6.1% and made up 37% of all packaged food sales in 2020.

Although traditional grocery stores, such as supermarkets and convenience stores, still account for the vast majority of retail food and beverage sales, e-commerce grew by about 25% a year from 2015-2020, according to Euromonitor data, with annual growth already at around 20% pre-pandemic.

“As consumers increasingly looked at their diets to guard against disease, it is often those consumers who are most keenly aware that what they eat is more important than ever,” said Tom Rees, Industry Manager, Food and Nutrition at Euromonitor International.

Immune health positionings have been among the most obvious growth areas, but Euromonitor found that all trends around functional foods and nutrient claims have accelerated, especially for foods intended to improve gut health such as pro- and prebiotics, fibre and fermented foods.

Trends around plant-based eating and alternative proteins also have grown, and meat shortages in some regions helped encourage some traditional meat eaters to try alternatives for the first time.