Changing tastes

Post Covid-19 consumer trends and the effects on the bakery industry. By Lydia Baines

The whole world has changed around us, influences have shifted, opportunities have morphed, and life experiences have become digital as we move into the ‘New normal’. Trend predictions from the beginning of the year have adapted to meet new consumer needs.

After the initial ‘panic buying’, food has been one of the ‘saving graces’ of lockdown. The nation has relied on their food choices. When everything else is out of their control they can still choose what they eat, even embracing home baking and cooking as family entertainment. Consumer research shows that the no.1 reason we bake at home in the UK is because we love it.*

Taste and freshness remain key factors when buying baked goods and patisserie. There has been a rise in consciousness of price and healthiness by the consumers since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

There are three key standout areas that need to be considered as the next phases begin: Health every day, the digital era and the ‘New world’.

Health everyday
With increased periods of loneliness and with routines upturned, mental health issues are on the rise. Consumers have been seeking out products that can help boost their mood such as CBD – a product that had previously seen some interest throughout 2019 will now move from niche to more mainstream.

Nostalgic products are being sought out as a source of comfort, as reminder of ‘the good times’ and bakers are adapting by selling more traditional lines and delivering experience boxes such as afternoon tea – which are not only being sold as treat for the purchaser but also as gifts to be delivered to loved ones to show people care.

A new area of interest is eating for immunity; an abundance of publicity and advice in the media focusing on simple advice including eat more vegetables, get better sleep, eat your wholegrains etc has led to a surge in products making immunity claims.

Apart from the obvious desire, in the times of a pandemic, for consumers to try to improve their health through food and drink, physically people are exercising more than ever. With free online access to an abundance of exercise classes that cater for all tastes there is a heightened desire for healthy foods to complement their fitness regimes.

There has been an accelerated interest in well know ‘healthier’ products and ingredients such as reduced sugar, salt and fat, fermented products, gut health, plant based, fibre, wholegrains, seeds, fruit and vegetables in their diets. More shelf-space is being created in retail as people plan to continue to implement the changes they have made and the increase in online shopping will create a new platform to monitor these trends.

The digital era
From food shopping to parties and business meetings, a whole new world of ‘online’ has opened up, from seasoned users of the internet and those that were previously sceptical all have embraced the digital era.

Lack of bread in retailers led consumers to look elsewhere to purchase their bread, in turn creating a resurgence in high-street bakery and craft style breads. As we come out of lockdown it is vital that bakers use the new routes to market online and continue to deliver; 49 per cent agree that all stores and restaurants should be able to deliver to the home.

Online meeting rooms have gained huge popularity both for personal and business reasons and this is set to continue. People have realised they can do everything they need without having to leave the house. Online events will grow in popularity over the next few years as people will have less disposable income to attend these events in person. All these factors combined, have created a new exciting food occasion that businesses are already beginning to cater for ‘at home event catering’.

The New world
Many people have been working from home and have found it beneficial, 43 per cent of people plan to incorporate working from home into their working weeks going forwards. This has created a real shift in the breakfast market. For years the breakfast-at-home market has been in decline with people opting for on-the-go options, increased snacking or even skipping breakfasts entirely. During lockdown people have been embracing the lack of commute time to sit down with the family and enjoy breakfast as an occasion again.

Although there is a lot of talk of health it is important not to forget that indulgence is very a high priority for the consumer; 40 per cent consumers are still looking for indulgent products, however with money being a bit tighter they might be smaller or less often – it is all about making the product stand out.

There is a clear desire to get back out in the world, with many UK consumers looking to go back to life as normal but there is an underlying nervousness about staying healthy. We already have high expectation in the UK but these must get even better with 81 per cent of consumers looking for increased hygiene measures including; more packaged and individually wrapped products – 59 per cent agree packed baked goods are a better guarantee for hygiene (but it does give a great space for storytelling). Handmade claims will become less appealing and should be removed (a stark contrast in the claims being made at the start of 2020). Social distancing will continue, and consumers will actively look for more hygienically produced and stored food – focusing on staff cleanliness and how they handle all potentially risky situations.

Value for money is going to be critical, prices are causing a lot of concern, with 41 per cent of families expecting financial losses, resulting in 48 per cent paying more attention to the amount spent on food than before crisis.

Fundamentally there will be a lot of changes as we all adapt to the New Normal, our consumer research shows us that more than any other country surveyed in Europe the UK is the keenest to get back to normal as soon as possible. And that the changes we require will be far less impactful in terms of new practices, however people will be more cautious than before. As we go into the recovery period money will be a big concern for many consumers, meaning that a majority of spend will be planned out and less spur of the moment, impulse purchasing.

*Source: Puratos online survey, 8-12 June 2020, 500 consumers nationally representative for gender, age and region. Puratos The New Normal trend report, June 2020

Lydia Baines is Digital and Communications Manager, Puratos UK. Puratos UK is part of an international baking, patisserie and chocolate ingredients business with 100 years of rich and varied knowledge. Servicing artisan bakers, food industry, retailers (private label) and foodservice businesses both in the UK and internationally, the business works with partners across 68 countries. Puratos UK offers a full range of innovative products and application expertise in the bakery, patisserie and chocolate sectors.