Hartman Group Reveals Five Key Insights That Influenced Food Culture In 2021

Bellevue, WA — Looking back on what it describes as another year of dynamic change and disruption in the food and beverage industry, The Hartman Group, Inc. offers five insights from its 2021 research studies.

Snacking & the COVID-19 Experience: Consumers Eating Healthier Snacks

The COVID-19 experience has brought about a new emphasis on health and wellness for many mainstream consumers, which is likely to continue as COVID infections persist and variant-related cases are feared to surge early into 2022.

Hartman reports manufacturers should anticipate sustained consumer interest in snacks that are supportive of generalized wellness, as well as specific health needs. While health and wellness is a long-term food culture trend in the U.S., the pandemic has underscored its importance to many and brought new consumers into the mindset of more intentional snacking choices. Snacks will be called on to deliver more for consumers in this regard.

Innovating in an Increasingly Holistic Health & Wellness Landscape

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown long-term trends and tensions in American health and wellness culture into greater relief, prompting consumers to reexamine and reconfigure daily life in light of the new challenges they confront. U.S. consumers have held critical views of American health and wellness for years, but the pandemic exposed fundamental vulnerabilities and inequalities affecting Americans’ health that are likely to influence consumer attitudes around collective health and wellness in the long term. Brands’ focus on personal needs is not misplaced but will have to adapt to rising expectations for companies to make positive contributions to community and societal well-being, according to the research group.

Reimagining the Role of Brands: The Trend Towards More Informed Consumers Making More Discerning Choices in Food and Beverage Is Unlikely to Reverse

This means that these consumers will make more of their decisions based on their understanding of the attributes and composition of the food and beverage products they choose to buy. Continuous trends monitoring and research into the attributes that consumers care about are necessary, Hartman reports, because the pace of consumer knowledge development is increasingly commensurate with their desires for deeper health and wellness benefits, culinary experiences and conscious consumption.

Demand for Plant-Based Food and Beverage Products Is a Reflection of Modern Wellness Culture

Either as an eating approach or as a product attribute, “plant-based” appeals to modern health and wellness goals in three significant ways:

  • As consumers reduce their consumption of animal products, plant-based alternatives are increasingly easy swap-ins for dairy and meat.
  • Consumers looking to increase their intake of fruits and vegetables turn to plant-based food and beverage for positive nutrition.
  • Plant-based reflects ideals around a balanced approach to eating that incorporates variety but also leaves room for play and discovery.

Sustainability Considerations Enter Into Decisions About Where to Shop and What to Buy

Social and environmental concerns increasingly factor into retailer selection, particularly driven by millennials. Consumer values about social and environmental issues affect how consumers select where and how to shop. When it comes to shopping online, sustainability factors related to packaging and shipping represent important considerations. At the same time, more practical considerations like prices, convenience and selection tend to take precedence over environmental and social responsibility in retailer selection.