Even before COVID-19 hit, the holistic topic of food and everything related to its production and consumption had already been hot on the front burner for many consumers, companies, and the media.
There are so many different diets that it can be a challenge to stay current. To name a popular few: ketogenic, intermittent fasting, low-carb, paleo, raw foodism, the full spectrum of behaviours around the consumption of animals (vegetarian, pescatarian, flexitarian, vegan… and then there’s the Whole Foods Plant Based (WFPB) diet, a term that is a mouthful on its own).
There is also the myriad of nutrition messages and certification logos from different organizations on labels of consumer packaged foods. These include but are not limited to: organic, different sustainability claims (e.g. fair trade, UTZ certified), superfood, “absence-of-negatives” claims (non-GMO, no soy products, no sugar alcohols, no preservatives, gluten-free, no dairy) and which can also encompass dietary descriptors such as keto, vegan, or vegetarian.
Amidst all of this talk, curiosity, experimentation, and not surprisingly, confusion abound.
As an essential need, the food industry is recession and pandemic proof though consumers may choose to cut back on some categories of food that are more indulgent or decide to consume less overall to manage budgets. Or it’s possible that some indulgent categories could even be growing as it can be a relatively inexpensive way to treat oneself and find a little comfort during tough times.
In September 2020, element54 will be launching a new podcast called “Bright Lights: In Conversation with element54”. Given the importance of food and its even faster changing dynamics as a result of COVID-19, we will be speaking with consumer insight leads and marketers across a range of food industries including grocers, manufacturers/caterers, and restaurants in the first series of podcast episodes, Food Futures. The goal of this series is to provide the public and companies with their valuable perspective on food trends and their implications.
Leading up to the roll-out of the Food Futures episodes, we ran an omnibus study in partnership with MARU/Blue among 1500 nationally representative Canadian adults to understand a few fundamentals around animal protein consumption.
The study revealed that 30% of Canadians had already reduced meat consumption on at least an occasional basis prior to COVID-19. Women (34%) are more likely than men (25%) to have already cut back on animal protein, with no differences by age. British Columbians (33%) and Quebecers (35%) led the way in eating less meat.
Beyond the reduction of meat, 11% of Canadians were already adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet before COVID-19, with British Columbians (15%), 18-34 year olds (17%), and those with university+ education (16%) most likely to favour this diet.
Along with a surge in using food delivery services such as UberEats, DoorDash or SkiptheDishes during COVID-19, 7% of Canadians who had not yet already done so pre-COVID-19, tried reducing meat consumption for the first time and plan to keep it up with another 3% adopting vegetarian or vegan diets indefinitely.
Whether influenced by COVID-19 or not is unknown but there is also an openness among Canadians to reduce meat consumption overall. 13% claim they would consider reducing meat consumption and another 8% would consider becoming vegetarian or vegan.
What does this mean for marketers in food related industries?
(1) Keep a pulse on top of food trends including any COVID-19 impact to attitudes and consumption. This also means understanding the latest consumer perceptions of different food claims, ingredients and the drivers behind these perceptions to help differentiate between fads and what’s here to stay. This will help with strategic planning of new products and services (portfolio management and forecasting) as well as optimizing packaging and other marketing messages.
(2) It’s possible to set new trends as Canadians appear to be open to experimenting and what better time than during or coming out of a pandemic when consumers are re-evaluating their habits?
(3) Watch for our upcoming Food Futures episodes and hear what the experts have to say!
For any questions related to the data referenced in this post or the upcoming podcasts or if you just want to connect, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow me on LinkedIn to stay up to date on any new Insight Alerts, blogposts and podcasts.