Trend report points to dramatic changes to food industry landscape

The global COVID-19 pandemic caused 10 years of change in 10 months, according to the authors of a newly released study, the 2021 Nourish Network Annual Trend Report for Food, Beverage, and Agriculture, which cites data from CCFI, Neilsen, Acosta, Ipsos, McKinsey Canada and a number of other resources.

“Our fifth annual report dives into a dozen key trends that will shape the food industry landscape in 2021 and beyond,” says Jo-Ann McArthur, president of Nourish Food Marketing.

According to the report, slightly more than half (51 percent) of Canadians, primarily in the hospitality, retail and construction industries – which saw heavy job losses – say they have less money to spend on food than they did before COVID-19.

Family mealtime also has made a comeback, with more people cooking at home during the pandemic. Cooking fatigue is emerging, however, as is the craving for new experiences. This has fuelled greater interest in meal kits and restaurant-branded products, as a convenient way to get the restaurant experience at home.

Awareness of social justice in Canada’s food supply – like wages, workers’ rights and living conditions for migrant workers – have taken centre stage in the media, helping drive consumer behaviour toward values-based eating.

Related to food social justice, consumers want to know how their groceries were produced, such as the treatment of farm workers, and if animal and environmental welfare were considered.

Interest in food with a reduced environmental impact has led companies to take a serious look at “regenerative agriculture,” which embraces soil health, above-ground diversity and economic resilience for farmers.

There’s a rise in food nationalism, with a recent study showing that four in five Canadians are willing to pay extra for locally grown produce, and six in 10 Canadians say they trust food produced here more than from elsewhere. The report also suggests that a growing number of consumers want food and beverages that support physical, mental and emotional health.

The COVID-19 lockdown kicked off an unplanned and unprecedented trial for online grocery; half of all Canadian households with internet access used it during the first six months of the pandemic. While online grocery purchases remain high, they are growing less frequent.

According to the report, the agricultural industry has become more receptive to government, especially in support of employment opportunities and in response to global challenges like the pandemic and trade wars with China and the U.S. Other trends suggest greater investment in soil health and accelerated integration of digital technology.

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