This post is sponsored by Acosta.
The pandemic has changed the way consumers eat and shop, and in turn, has shaped — and accelerated — trends in the consumer packaged goods industry. As we enter the third year of this new normal, some of these behaviors and trends will continue while others will emerge as a result of new pandemic-related challenges.
“2021 was another year marked by COVID-19, which fueled changes to consumer shopping habits and sparked major industry shifts,” said Colin Stewart, executive vice president of business intelligence at sales and marketing services provider Acosta.
“With Acosta’s business insights staying on the pulse of the CPG industry throughout the pandemic, our leadership team reflected on what this means for both retailers and consumers in the new year. Pandemic-related challenges are certainly carrying over, and we expect consumers and retailers to continue adapting as obstacles arise,” Stewart said.
Here’s a look at some of the trends Acosta leaders predict will shape 2022 and beyond.
Foodservice sales will bounce back…
After years of cooking and eating at home during pandemic lockdowns, consumers are returning to restaurants in earnest. Foodservice sales, which took a dramatic dive at the beginning of the pandemic, are rebounding and on track to surpass food retail dollar sales by 2025, according to Technomic.
Half of shoppers surveyed by Acosta in February 2022 have dined in a restaurant in the past month. Consumers show even greater enthusiasm for off-premise dining, with 7-in-10 using drive-thru, take-out or delivery in the past month.
Quickserve and fast-casual chains will cater to consumer demand for convenience this year with innovations at the drive-thru that streamline the pick-up process. Technology will also play a bigger role inside restaurants as foodservice operators look for ways to overcome labor challenges. Ghost kitchens are likely to expand this year as restaurants look for ways to serve more customers while keeping overhead low.
…though consumers will continue to eat more meals at home than they did pre-pandemic
Despite pent-up demand for restaurant dining, many consumers will continue to eat more meals at home even after the pandemic is over. One-quarter of consumers surveyed by Acosta in January 2022 said they expect to continue eating breakfast at home, while 27% and 33% of respondents said the same about lunch and dinner, respectively.
Health and sustainability are key drivers for consumers when it comes to buying food to eat or prepare at home. The majority of consumers surveyed by Acosta ranked diet as the most important factor related to health post COVID-19. Furthermore, nearly 6-in-10 (59%) shoppers surveyed said they have made it a priority to live a more environmentally-conscious lifestyle. Plant-based products are a major part of this, and 30% of shoppers surveyed by Acosta said they bought plant-based meat in the last year, while 41% said they purchased plant-based dairy products.
Retailers will elevate the in-store experience…
Many of the cleanliness and safety protocols that retailers adopted during the pandemic will remain in place this year and into the future as part of retailers’ efforts to create an elevated store experience. These efforts also include store remodels and new in-store features and departments that turn stores into destinations.
Continuing supply issues caused by the pandemic will drive retailers to focus on product availability, and Acosta leaders predict grocers will turn to automation to manage supply chain issues and other operational challenges.
“Automation will be a key focus industry-wide this year with retailers working to increase efficiency and ensure shopper loyalty,” Stewart said.
…as online grocery shopping continues to grow
While in-store grocery shopping remains the norm, many consumers developed an online grocery shopping habit after trying it for the first time during the pandemic. Nearly a quarter (23%) of online grocery shoppers expect to shop online for groceries more often in 2022, according to a survey conducted by Acosta.
To increase the convenience aspect that draws consumers to online grocery, retailers will embrace automation to offer faster delivery and decrease costs. Robotic fulfillment centers and “dark stores” will proliferate to fill the growing stream of online orders.