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food trends 2020: what to expect in a lockdown year

A version of this article was first published in Retail World Magazine.

With the rapid pace of change that this new decade promises, consumer food preferences are evolving to fit the model of personal development expert ‘Coach Mike’ Bayer. That is: be you, only better.

2020 welcomes similar themes from 2019 around sustainability, conscious consumerism, plant-based alternatives and data-driven nutrition.

With the impact of local business lockdowns due to COVID-19, we also expect to see a growing movement towards supporting local food venues, likely impacting the way Australians shop and eat in the coming year.

Here, we present this year’s global and Australian food trends and suggest how to apply them within your business.

consumers supporting local businesses

Key insights and emerging trends. 

1. Sustainability on steroids.

Concerns over climate change and supporting the local economy will go beyond buzzwords as consumers become increasingly educated, demanding and willing to change their eating habits for the greater good. Closer to home, small-batch and local-made are most certainly on the (takeaway) menu.

2. Out-of-stock alternatives.

Brand loyalty is far from top of mind with local supermarkets introducing item limits in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In PLAY MR’s independent weekly study of 500 Australian consumers, we’re seeing a shift towards trialling available products over product preference. Further research will be needed to understand pandemic-induced changes to consumer behaviour and how it will impact brand and consumer relationships in the future.

consumers trying new brands because of purchase limits

3. Innovative alternatives.

From creative plant-based butters and spreads through to flours made from fruit and vegetables, consumers are looking for ways to optimise their diet and achieve greater variety through new textures, ingredients and innovative forms. In data-driven nutrition, Nestlé China’s XiaoAI smart speaker serves as an Alexa for your appetite by using personal data to deliver customised meal kits and supplements to help families easily achieve optimal nutrition.

4. Mood-enhancing foods go mainstream.

Consumers want access to more data about their individual needs as well as convenient recommendations on how to optimise brain health and mood. As consumers start to focus more on emotional wellbeing, mental health and mood-enhancing foods like CBD (cannabidiol) have become a big part of this conversation.

5. Storytelling and hyper-regional cuisine.

Foodie hubs such as London and California are going beyond referring to “Mexican” or “Italian” food to deliver region-specific cuisine from places like the Baja Peninsula, Mexico and Venice, Italy. Consumers are eager to learn and experience more about the story behind their food, so the focus is shifting to ingredient provenance, taste, cultural and traditional backgrounds, and geographical origin.

traditional italian food trend from Venice


Take a bite of these trends today.

Unsure how to add these to your offering? We’ve got a few ideas.

1. Lead the way.

Consumers are looking for brands to demonstrate positive change and contribution to environmental, societal and ethical food issues. And their bullsh*t filters are hard to get by! They are seeking guidance on how to make their diets more sustainable, both from an environmental perspective and an economic perspective. How can your business become a thought leader in this space?

2. Choose healthy over hardly-believable.

Although “Instagrammable” food was once the star of the show, 2020’s key food trends have a backdrop of health and conscious consumerism, so it might be time to ditch the unicorn food.

3. Make data-driven decisions.

As the pace of innovation, consumer preferences and market competition ramp up, making decisions using data-driven insights will become more critical than ever before. Analyse your customer’s journey, purchase habits, communication strategy and product offering to ensure each element is working towards a common goal. Leave following your gut to probiotics. 

conscious consumer eating local honey

Hungry for more?

If you’re looking to better understand consumer behaviour today, evaluate your product or even test your brand’s communications strategy, the PLAY team is here to help.

Kickstart the process of getting closer to your consumers in 2020. Give us a buzz on 03 9081 6820 or email (brainstorming snacks are on us!).

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