Mystic Meg for the market: Top 10 Trends for 2021

By Nikki Hancocks

- Last updated on GMT

Getty | hakinmhan
Getty | hakinmhan

Related tags Trends market analysis Sustainability Health

FMCG Gurus has revealed its predictions for the top 10 consumer trends that will impact food and drink brands in 2021.

In the company's final market insights presentation involving the collected results of surveys involving 50,000 consumers globally, Mike Hughes, Head of Research and Insights at FMCG Gurus, says: "I'm sure everyone can agree it's been one of the most uncertain, chaotic and turbulent years in recent memory. Brands have had to adapt and be reactive to constant evolving consumer needs in the face of constant uncertainty."

But as the globe gratefully leaves 2020 behind, he outlines new and emerging trends for 2021. 

Proactive Living

One trend that will be of highest interest for the health and nutrition market, is 'proactive living', with 80% of consumers across the globe surveyed by FMCG saying they are planning to eat and drink more healthily in 2021, with 57% of European consumers saying they regularly research different ways to improve their health.

Hughes explains a key element of this trend is consumers’ focus on preventative health strategies, as they look to stay fitter for longer.

He says the focus on health was magnified by the pandemic, although lockdown may have led to some unhealthy habits at first. 

“Many consumers recognise their dietary habits may have slipped in the first half of 2020 due to the change of lifestyle and comfort eating that came with the first lockdown.

“This has led them to look into how they can improve their diet to improve their physical and cognitive health.”

Hughes says psychological health has been a focus for many consumers during 2020, what with the stress of COVID-19.

What’s more, the data reveals that 20% of consumers admit to spending over 40 hours a week on their smartphones and 27% of consumers day they use them when they’re in bed.

But they recognise this is a bad habit and Hughes says consumers are looking for ingredients that help with the cognitive disruption this causes, namely on mood and sleep. This feeds into the 'power of plants' trend discussed later.

Rediscovering Health

The 2020 trend for immune supporting ingredients is well known. FMCG's data even shows that 43% of global consumers say they are actively looking to seek out ingredients that better their immunity through every day food and drink.

And, according to the data, the top five ingredients that consumers are most likely to seek out within every day food and drink are: omega-3 (52%), vitamin c (50%), calcium (49%), protein (48%), and probiotics (46%).

The power of plants

With consumers more likely to research ingredients with health benefits, there has also been a trend for plant-based products and botanical ingredients – especially those with evidence to show they offer a cognitive benefit.

The global data shows 66% of consumers are interested in products that improve sleep quality, 58% are interested in products that can alleviate stress levels, and 63% are interested in products offering a natural energy boost.

And the most popular botanicals for improving sleep are: chamomile (67%), dandelion (67%), lavender (66%), jasmine (66%), and ginseng (57%).

Safe and Secure

A key trend for 2020 is the avoidance of risk, whether it be financial or health related, which will clearly be impacting consumers’ food and drink.

This risk avoidance has largely been driven by the global recession caused by the pandemic and it shows quite clearly in consumer responses to FMCG as 53% said they had looked to reduce their spend on food and drink in the last 12 months.

The Earth is Clear

But this avoidance of risk doesn't mean consumers are looking to cut costs in every area. Rather, it has caused consumers to look for better value. As such, 52% of global consumers say they have become less brand conscious this year and 32% of global consumers say they have purchased more private label products.

“Consumers have adopted a ‘high-low’ approach to their finances, meaning they are spending less in certain areas in order to allow them to spend more elsewhere.”

This desire for excellent value will often manifest itself in a search for brands offering ultimate trust and transparency. 

Natural Blue Print

FMCG’s data shows 25% of global consumers say their trust in food brands has deteriorated in the last two years and 26% of European consumers do not trust the health claims made on food and drink packaging. What’s more, 44% of European shoppers believe that brands can make misleading claims about the ingredients in their products.

Hughes suggests brands can help improve consumers’ trust in them by displaying compassion through their ethos and CRS activity.

This trust issue also feeds into the trend for ‘natural’ products with short ingredients lists. FMCG has found that 63% of European consumers think that fewer ingredients in a food or drink product makes the product healthier, with 66% of consumers saying they will search for products with less ingredients listed that they don’t recognise.

What’s more, 67% of European consumers say they think it’s important that the food and drink they consumer is 100% natural.

Hughes explains: "This interest in ‘natural’ products and short ingredients lists stems from concerns around the trust-worthiness of food and drink. They don't want to consume something they haven't heard of before." 

Menu for Me

Of course, the personalised nutrition trend has been huge this year as consumers search for food and drink ideally suited to their own health needs.

FMCG’s data suggests this trend might particularly have legs in Europe, where the highest percentage of consumers (35%) think there is a lack of products on the market which meet their specific nutritional requirements.

However, when it comes to genetic testing, European shoppers show more hesitancy than some other global populations – just 10% of European consumers find the idea appealing, compared with 57% in the US, and 66% in Asia Pacific.  

Better for you, not Best for you

The data also reveals that while health is front of mind for many consumers, convenience is still a key concern so they ideally want to gain additional health benefits through the same sorts of food and drink products they would normally purchase.

Hughes adds: "With all aspects of health-related trends, the easier consumers are able to incorporate products into daily diets, the more likely they will continue to purchase in the longer term."

Taste First, Think Second

Although health, risk aversion and value will be dominant traits governing consumer attitudes and behaviours over the next twelve months, consumers will continue to seek out new and premium food, drinks, and flavors.

"With 71% of global consumers saying they like to try new and novel flavours, and 53% of consumers saying they find new textures appealing, consumers are showing they want their sensory perceptions to be tested with new and exotic products from around the world,"​ Hughes explains.

Eating Out, Dining In

Moments of indulgence will also be driven by the need for comfort and escapism from the pressures of everyday life, and this will involve consumers wanting to replicate foodservice experiences in the comfort of their own home.

"The reality is that the uncertainty that has surrounded the previous year will continue in 2021 and beyond,"​ says Hughes. "This means that it is crucial that brands are seen to be reactive and understanding of consumers and their need states, and to be responding to these accordingly."



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