Amidst the chaos of 2020, we’ve also experienced extraordinary resilience, ingenuity and creativity to address numerous challenges. SRG is fortunate to work with companies that are investing more in consumer research and “futures” work across the globe. Many have a renewed and aggressive focus on new product innovation in both CPG and foodservice and are rethinking design from packaging to environmental concerns, and more.
From the explosion of agri-tech for a more sustainable food system, the push for culinary representation of all cultures, design and service models to sustain the industry through a changed landscape, and the proliferation of foods that unabashedly satisfy all of us who are hungry for comfort—these are some of the leading the trends that we believe will shape the coming year to help us reset, rebalance and carve the path forward.
1. Food With Agency: Social and cultural injustice affects every aspect of society, and food is no exception. As historically underserved cultures and communities receive much needed amplified platforms in food media, we will see a reclamation of un-altered representations of authentic cultural eats, as well as creative and modern interpretations that are grounded in story, understanding and respect.
2. Renewing Local Love: As some of the challenges of global technology platforms and federal services were revealed during these trying times, there was a return to locality and supporting smaller businesses and purveyors. As trust and satisfaction in small is renewed, we’ll see the continued importance of micro-communities that support independent, hyper-local, and underrepresented or challenged businesses.
Although meat-based alternatives forged the path, look for cell-based aquaculture LIKE BLUE NALU, as the next “big thing.”
photo courtesy of: BLUENALU INC (WWW.BLUENALU.COM)
3. Cell-based Expansion: The effects of a changing climate and a global food crisis continue to mount, so conscious diners are looking for more than choices that just do less harm, but to those that actively contribute towards a lasting solution. Cellular agriculture will increase its presence on plates and shelves with fully lab-grown proteins appealing to climatarians, flexitarians and carnivores alike. Although meat-based alternatives forged the path, look for cell-based aquaculture as the next “big thing.”
4. Empathetic Design: We have seen a dramatic shift in how we look at architecture and design. Ornate furniture and heavy curtains gave way to natural light, access to fresh air, and simplified decor. Brands have to balance new standards of safety and cleanliness with our desire for comfort and community. Social distancing measures such as barriers between tables, QR codes in place of menus, and mandates for reduced occupancy were just the beginning. Car culture has created more opportunities for innovative drive-through experiences. Apps and automation help reduce our reliance on service. Ghost kitchens enable restaurants to do more with less, and we predict a convergence of food, entertainment and retail as customers look for one-stop solutions.
5. Creative Casualization: As economic uncertainty continues, fine dining establishments are pivoting by democratizing their offerings to make them more approachable in the current climate. Exceptional, chef-driven food need not be reserved for the food elite. Look for more high-end establishments to bring culinary finesse to casual, fast casual (and even quick-service) cuisine. Leading Chefs will move the needle for the future of casual dining, raising the quality bar and elevating diners’ taste expectations at a variety of price points.
6. Packaging is the New Plating: With delivery and in-home eating sustaining the current foodservice industry, packaging, meal assembly, and dishes optimized for transport have become more important than ever to keep customers satisfied. As more menus become tailored for off-premise perfection, fresh new packaging solutions will become increasingly integral to ensure that in-home dining is a restaurant-like treat. Branding and messaging is more important than ever to maintain a connection with the customer. From a hand-written note stapled onto the bag, to beautiful graphics that surprise and delight, personal connections are key.
While consumers remain hunkered at home, expect to see even more globally inspired yet approachable dishes.
photo courtesy of: US Highbush Blueberry Council (WWW.BLUEBERRYCOUNCIL.ORG/FOODSERVICE)
7. Traveling Through the Aisles: Passports may be passé for the time being, but that doesn’t mean our desire to travel has subsided. Food has always been an easy way to explore the globe, so while we remain hunkered at home, expect to see even more globally-inspired yet approachable dishes with exotic sauces, spices, or creative global spins on familiar favorites to feed our appetites for exploration.
8. Next-Gen Nostalgia: While we crave a taste of simplicity when the present overwhelms, the current era of shock-value and cutting-edge modernity still reigns supreme. So as we continue crave comfort with nostalgic food choices, we’ll see the rise of bold, over-the-top and no-holds barred flavor mashups and format twists to marry today’s need for thrill with the past’s beloved tastes.
9. Imbibing for Immunity: The Vitamin-C spiked Quarantini was just the beginning! More than ever, health-conscious consumers look for functional food and beverage choices to help manage both body and spirit. From stiff cocktails to holistic mocktails, look for more beverage offerings that pull double duty by taking the stress off and putting the immunity armor on.
10. On-the-No-Go Innovations: On the-go innovation and supreme portability has long been the name of the convenience food game, but as extreme mobility becomes less of a daily truth, with advance planning supplanting spontaneity, look for more “food hacks,” speed scratch solutions, and convenience preparations that lean more into supporting an intentional cooking lifestyle.