Taste Tomorrow: a foodstep into the future
10 years ago, Puratos created Taste Tomorrow. Today, it is the largest multi-country consumer research program in the bakery, patisserie and chocolate industry, available in more than 40 countries. This powerful tool exists to help all players from the bakery, patisserie and chocolate sectors stay up-to-date with the latest consumer needs and behaviours, innovate their operations and develop their own new products for consumers worldwide.
2021 in review
Ethics, environment and well-being were the most significant drivers of 2021 trends. For example, the belief that plant-based food is good for the planet and health has doubled compared to 2018, making plant-based eating the biggest trend within the food industry. Plant-based hits the sweet spot in the minds of consumers: while 52% believe plant-based food is good for the environment, 47% claim it is better in terms of health. 60% of consumers bought plant-based food in 2021, compared to 36% in 2018, 1 in 3 consumers did it weekly.
2021 saw an increased focus on health, more specifically holistic health and well-being. Consumers demanded more nutritious, gut-balancing foods. That is because 78% of consumers agreed that improving gut health helps build a strong immune system. Chocolate and sweets had a role to play in coping with stress and anxiety providing a short-term emotional boost for consumers. What’s interesting is that the perception of “Chocolate is healthy” has increased from 46% in 2018 to 53% in 2021.
Something else we saw gaining more traction because of the health focus of shoppers is sweet patisserie made predominantly with vegetables. Vegetable-based sweet patisserie allows consumers to feel healthy while still experimenting with tastes, flavours, and formats. Furthermore, 2021 saw the acceleration of e-commerce, with weekly online grocery shopping doubling in the past three years, with COVID-19 undoubtedly having a hand in this.
What trends will prevail in 2022? These are the 5 key consumer trends and drivers that will shape the bakery, patisserie and chocolate industry this year:
1. Persistence of the pandemic
The pandemic posed challenges on the global, industrial and personal levels. Together we have learnt to be more innovative than ever: to deal with unforeseen threats, and new opportunities, under rapidly changing circumstances. The legacy of Covid-19 will prevail and our adaptability will be continually challenged. As new variants appear, we will likely be moving back and forth between a range of measures. When it comes to consumer behaviour, we will see the effects hereof in the demand for online purchases and home delivery services. The adoption of online shopping has risen exponentially in part due to lockdowns, with weekly online grocery shopping in Europe for instance doubling in the past three years, according to our data.
This move to online ordering will persist, but there is a reticence that exists in buying bread online. Especially among North-American and European consumers we see a hesitance, 55% of our European respondents and 48% of our North-American respondents show no interest in purchasing bread online. Freshness, price, and delivery times were identified as main barriers, with shoppers also preferring the personal contact and quality of shop-bought bakery products. In order to successfully cater to demand and capitalise on e-commerce opportunities, better freshness, quality reassurance and faster delivery speeds need to be realised. This calls for time and effort being put into prolonged shelf-life, enhanced texture, and effective customer communication. Putting convenience and quality at the core of operations will make sure the industry will remain relevant and reap the monetary benefits in the long term.
2. Healthy choices for people and the planet
With dairy alternatives taking over supermarket refrigerators and plant-based alternatives even popping up at large fast-food chains, plant-based eating is fast on its way to shed its status as a trend and become fully established. In 2022 the demand for plant-based products is expected to persist and grow, because they meet the contemporary consumer’s desire for both health benefits and ethical choice-making.
The growing awareness of the human impact on the planet has shaped a new generation of Conscious Consumers making an effort to make informed choices about what they buy, from fashion to food. Our survey indicated that 66% of consumers now want to know where their food comes from and how it is made. Products and companies which make an effort to preserve the environment are highly sought after, and consumers show particular interest in sustainable packaging (70%), organic products (64%), production with care for the environment (60%) and the use of local ingredients (60%).
Food companies will not just have to take a closer look at their ingredients and production, but also engage consumers directly on sustainability. Transparency on contents, processes and the origins of ingredients is necessary to win over Conscious Consumers, for instance through offering from Field to Fork traceability. Inform and educate customers on your sustainability credentials at every stage of the production process, from steps taken to reduce the CO2 output to product sourcing, upcycling and efforts to reduce packaging waste.
3. Power ingredients that boost health and flavour
The trend towards healthier eating is well-established but has accelerated in recent years, as consumers are increasingly seeking more holistic lifestyles. In our consumer survey, we found that more than six in ten consumers appreciate bread, cakes and fine patisserie that help with their specific nutritional needs, such as gut health or extra protein or vitamins. We expect to see an increase in the incorporation of ‘power ingredients’ into baked goods and chocolate. Fiber, grains, fruits and nuts are perceived as having a double advantage: they offer health benefits as well as their appealing tastes.
While consumers believe removing fat (67%) and sugar (66%) is important for better health, in 2022 added ingredients with health benefits will be the main focus. Gut health and sourdough fall into play here too. The growing knowledge on gut health, digestion and the immune system is changing dietary attitudes. Three in four consumers are interested in gut health as a mechanism to improve their immunity and/or mental wellbeing. For the bakery industry, that offers a lot of opportunities for fiber-rich products, as well as fermented sourdough products.
4. The fusing of the physical and digital experience
E-commerce and bricks and mortar can co-exist in harmony, achieving a ‘next level experience’ which seamlessly integrates and combines the benefits of both. This omnichannel approach is the ‘phygital’ shopping experience, which seamlessly integrates the physical and digital. We’ve seen food producers, retailers and bakers adopt this hybrid business model when the pandemic hit. Suddenly, click-and-collect or home delivery options were available. And in order to stay in touch with consumers, patissiers and chocolatiers did Instagram live streams or shared behind-the-scenes shots on their Facebook page.
This hybrid business model – combining the advantages of both on- and offline channels – is the key for any food producer in order to stay relevant for demanding consumers. While 77% of consumers say they would not like to see the end of stores in the street, they wish to benefit from the convenience of digital shopping. For any chocolate, pastry or bread brand, an online presence is indispensable nowadays. Almost half of the people in our survey said they like to get inspiration on the product offering of local shops on social media, so an online presence is an easy way to boost sales.
5. Shopping experience augmented by technology
Consumers are all about convenience and in their quest for the easiest and most seamless shopping experience, they are happy to embrace new technologies. Food deliveries by drones or self-driving cars? Bring it on, says 37% of global consumers who would like to see more automated delivery options without human intervention. In the Asia-Pacific region, that number is even as high as 58%. In the future, we will likely see more online ordering and delivery processes that are fully automated. 4 out of 10 consumers believe that they will no longer have to personally interfere in their shopping, as AI assistants or smart fridges take over all the work. Even robots stacking supermarket shelves or taking orders in a restaurant are welcomed by 37% of people.
Artificial intelligence and smart technology are embraced as well as they promise better, more personalised recommendations to consumers in-store and online. Micro-expression recognition technology helps to uncover consumer preferences. Eye-tracking for instance informs sales teams about which bakery products consumers are looking at, whereas facial recognition gives more info on the emotions (positive or negative) people experience when looking at the different bakery products. Data collection, machine learning and other analytic tools offer incredible market insights and the companies that thrive and survive will be the ones able to transform fast and to leverage the power of technologies.
Take a deep dive into some major trends shaping our industry and get inspired for your 2022 plans: power ingredients to elevate your bakes, vegetable-based patisserie or permissible indulgence.