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COVID-10 has changed the way the world works and in particular, brought forth a seismic change in consumer habits and preferences. This, says Puratos, has implications for all players in the bakery, patisserie and chocolate sectors.
Drawing on insights from the company’s Taste Tomorrow platform – which monitors advanced digital technologies and semantic artificial intelligence techniques, online surveys in 44 countries and conversations with foodies across the globe – the ingredients specialist has revealed the key trends that will help stakeholders navigate the ‘new’ consumer landscape.
“Unsurprisingly, the pandemic has had significant consequences on our industry, but it’s not the only factor that’s shaping conversations and behaviours,” said Nanno Palte, group marketing intelligence manager at Puratos.
“Coronavirus becoming a thing of the past, as it will do, doesn’t mean the trends we’re sharing this week will also be consigned quickly to history.”
The trends that are impacting the way the bakery sector operates:
Consumers’ pursuit towards healthier eating will continue into the foreseeable future.
According to Puratos, ‘power ingredients’ – those that not only impact health, but enhance taste, too – are on the rise, as is familiarity with dietary fibre and its impact on digestion. Today, nearly four in five consumers understand the all-encompassing role gut health has on their immunity, with 75% agreeing it also has a positive effect on mental wellbeing. As many as 87% of consumers in Asia Pacific nod to fibre as the most sought after ingredient.
This understanding is pushing consumers to increasingly demand hyper-personalised offerings, with 63% saying they specifically look for products that are tailored to their individual lifestyle.Bread provides the perfect vehicle for this purpose, easily enhanced with added fibre, superfoods or nutrients without complicating the process or meaning consumers have to compromise on taste and texture. In fact, Puratos’ Taste Tomorrow found that nearly thirds of respondents appreciate a bread adapted to their personal nutritional needs.
A rising number of consumers are also recognising cocoa’s role in reducing anxiety, along with its wealth of nutrients. With a greater focus on mental wellbeing, this provides a “clear opportunity to write a new chapter in the role of bread, patisserie and chocolate in society,” said Sophie Blum, Puratos’ chief marketing office.
Today, consumers are more mindful of what they consume and how it affects their own health and that of the planet, with the majority wanting to know where their food comes from and how it is made.
Changing priorities, thanks to the pandemic, alongside a wider access to information and thus educated choices, are driving these habits and no baker can afford to not take notice.
The world’s biggest food trend, according to the Ipsos data, is the plant-based movement, with more than 50% of consumers now adopting a vegan, vegetarian or flexitarian lifestyle.
For the first time, environmental and health concerns are equally weighted in consumers’ eyes, with 56% of respondents agreeing plant-based food is healthier than animal-based – and increase of 47% since 2018. Six in 10 also agree it has a positive impact on the environment – a rise of one third since 2018.
Again, the bakery space is well position to capitalise on these trends.
Taste remains the top priority for today’s consumers, but appearance is rapidly gaining in the stakes, initially spurred on by the pandemic, but expected to last. Lockdown and social distancing prompted the virtual experience and there are very few consumers around the globe – particularly younger generations – who haven’t upped their face time on social media. Now, almost 60% of consumers say they ‘eat with their eyes’ – a great motivator when it comes to a purchase.
The pandemic also triggered a need for comfort and nostalgia, with three in four consumers opting for tastes from their childhood or the classics. However, with at home baking trending to such an extent that supermarket shelves were often left deprived of key baking ingredients, consumers were forced to experiment with different ingredients and try new foods. This has peaked their interest and 60% say they will continue to explore flavours from other parts of the world, which “presents another exciting opportunity for agile and creative bakers,” said Nanno.
What began as an evolution, has become a revolution when it comes to convenience. After years of steady – but pedantic – growth, online shopping has exploded and everyone is clicking away. In fact, Taste Tomorrow reports weekly online grocery shopping has doubled in just three years, and 17% of consumers now order take-out meals online at least once a week.
Initially forced to ‘step-ball-change’ during lockdown and adapt their once F2F (face to face) business model to an online, at-home delivery system, players of all sizes in the bakery space are having to maintain their digital presence to be successful. Consumers also expect better communication both instore and online to stay well informed and be confident in their purchasing decisions.
That said, the physical act of pushing a trolley around a brick-and-motar structure still remains a priority for the majority of consumers, and 77% abhor the thought of shopping morphing entirely into a virtual experience.
As such, Taste Tomorrow experts have identified the need for a ‘phygital’ experience, which combines the advantages of both on- and offline channels.
The world is certainly ready for the next level in consumer convenience and has the necessary tech to seamlessly introduce it – artificial intelligence and smart technology, for example, are geared for more personalised recommendations, helping consumers to make better food choices in-store and online.