The COVID-19 pandemic will change society for years to come, with new patterns emerging in areas ranging from how we work to what we eat.

While it’s still too early to know the extent of these changes, the food and beverage industry, including consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies and retailers, have a prime opportunity to meet consumers’ evolving needs. Even with the added stress and uncertainty from the virus, food and drinks not only serve as essentials but also can provide comfort, luxury experiences, a sense of wellness among other benefits.

Symrise Flavor North America has conducted extensive research into the current market landscape and shifts in consumer behaviors and values to anticipate COVID-19’s lasting impact on the food and beverage industry. As we explored in-depth in our recent COVID-19 related webinar, CPG companies and retailers should capitalize on the following 10 trends to meet consumer demand and experience growth in this new normal.

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1. Permissible Indulgence
Prolonged periods of staying home can start to take an emotional toll on people. That means that consumers will increasingly treat themselves to indulgences like premium ice cream, cannabis/alcohol products and comfort food to lift their spirits.

These indulgences might be a bit more expensive than ordinary treats, but they don’t have to break the bank. And because of the irregularity of these times, consumers will give themselves a pass to feel less “guilt” about consuming these indulgences.

2. Relax to the Max
Alongside the urge for indulgence, is the need for relaxation. Relax to the Max is the trend toward products that aid relaxation during these difficult times. As a University of Tennessee survey finds, people “are eating more than before, are more sedentary, and feel increasingly stressed and lonely.”

For CPG companies and retailers, that means that there’s a need for relaxing foods, such as those that incorporate botanicals and herbs considered to have calming effects. Similarly, the growing category of CBD and THC in products, where legal, will likely strongly appeal to consumers looking to relax.

3. Lost in Meditation
With stress, anxiety and other mental health issues stemming from COVID-19, many consumers are turning to new online tools for activities like yoga and meditation to improve their well-being. For example, a McKinsey study finds that wellness apps have seen 30% user growth in the U.S. during the pandemic, with 75% intending to continue using these apps going forward.

This trend can also extend to the food and beverage industry, with companies finding ways to create and promote products that promote mental clarity, mindfulness and overall well-being.

4. Feel Good Food
While many consumers are now turning to comfort food, a sizable market is doubling down on food that makes them feel good mentally and physically. In fact, 50% of consumers across 15 countries say they’re shopping more health-consciously and likely will keep this habit going in the future, finds Accenture.

In particular, consumers are looking for ways to boost their immune systems, meaning CPG companies and retailers have an opportunity to promote healthy foods and habits, such as hydration, fermentation, plant-based foods and healthier fats.

5. Center of the Store Is Back
The center aisles of grocery stores tend to be stocked with pantry items and other shelf-stable categories that have experienced a revival due to consumers looking to stock up during stay-at-home orders. As consumers get reintroduced to these categories, CPG companies and retailers need to make the most of this opportunity.

One way to do so is to offer more recipes and cooking demonstrations on how to leverage pantry items, particularly if they can be used in unexpected ways. For example, packaged cookie companies could offer recipes for incorporating their products into cakes and pastries, rather than just eating these items on their own.

RELATED: COVID-19: A New Normal for the Food and Beverage Industry

6. Scratch Cooking
The opportunity to offer recipes and cooking demonstrations centered around pantry items also relates to the trend toward more at home cooking. Whether it’s reusing leftovers or figuring out how to use pantry ingredients, people are getting creative with what they have on hand in order to stretch their meals or have fun baking.

In fact, 60% of consumers are looking for recipes on how to use what they have in their pantry/refrigerator, according to a survey by PR firm Hunter.

As such, CPG companies and retailers need to cater to this demand such as by offering flexible recipes that note substitutions for some ingredients that consumers might not have on hand.

7. Cook Like a Chef
With most restaurant dining rooms closed and unlikely to operate at full-capacity anytime soon, CPG companies and retailers can help consumers get a taste of the restaurant foods they love at home.

Brands can partner with chefs, bakers, mixologists and others to offer signature recipes that help consumers get a taste of a restaurant or bar without leaving their house. To go a step further, brands can offer live events on social media to showcase these creations and foster community.

8. Remote Work, Life Balance
Even after the crisis subsides, remote work will likely remain prevalent as companies realize the cost savings and employees appreciate the flexibility. If consumers travel less to work, that could make a significant difference on consumption patterns.

For example, working at home more could mean an increase in preparing lunch at home, so brands can offer new products and recipes that cater to efficient, nutritious lunches. Retailers may also need to experiment with different store operating hours if consumption patterns change due to remote work, and CPG brands might find new success with direct-to-consumer models.

9. Connect With Intent
Even though people are isolating at home, they’re craving connection with others online, such as through video conference meetings and virtual game nights.

Brands can help foster this connection both now and in the future, such as through limited time offers (LTOs) that spark online conversations among fans, and creating social media events to unveil new products or discuss recipes.

10. Convenient and Sustainable Delivery
While many businesses are starting to re-open, physical distancing looks like it will remain in place in many areas for the foreseeable future, meaning consumers might consume more delivery and convenient pick-up options, rather than dining out. As such, CPG companies and retailers should think about how they can bring convenience to consumers through new models, such as an increase in delivery and direct-to-consumer services.

At the same time, companies should be mindful of sustainability, with nearly half of consumers saying they’re making more sustainable shopping choices during this period and will likely keep doing so going forward, finds Accenture. So brands should think about how they can package and deliver orders sustainably while promoting environmentally friendly ingredients.

Although the pandemic has been devastating in so many ways, there are still opportunities for brands to better serve the changing consumer in this new normal. Doing so requires flexibility, creativity and mindfulness of evolving consumer habits, values and behaviors.

Want to learn more about how food and beverage companies can succeed in this environment? Continue reading the latest on COVID-19 and the food and beverage industry:
Sweet and Confectionery Trends on the Rise During COVID-19
Culinary Chronicles: Finding Comfort in Food During Turbulent Times
Foodservice Adaptations in the Age of COVID-19
COVID-19's Impact on Alcoholic Beverage Categories
Consumers 'Quarantine and Cook' With Social Media Inspiration
COVID-19: Center of the Store Report
Social Distancing Cuisine With Pantry Made Soup Recipes

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