The industry’s inflection point 11/06/2021 by Sarah Pursey
We’ve long known that symmetric shocks almost always have asymmetric consequences, and much like the global financial crises of yore, a two-speed recovery is now also emerging in the post-Covid world – both economically and epidemiologically speaking. As certain countries now cautiously begin to reopen, curfews and other restrictions on daily life aimed at curbing the spread of the virus remain a reality for millions more worldwide. And elsewhere, devastating second waves continue to overwhelm healthcare systems.
In those more fortunate nations, people are once again looking forward to the prospect of travelling, holidays, or simply meeting friends and family – nevertheless, the very knowledge of a world in two-speed-recovery mode, alongside the emergence of new variants of the virus, means that maintaining immune health will remain a priority for consumers everywhere for the foreseeable future. “It’s going to evolve over next 12 months, but we won’t suddenly go back to our old ways straight away. Immunity is one of those trends that, over the next two to three years, is going to be at the forefront of everyone’s minds,” predicts Jamie Rice, director of global data and insights at Food Trending. “Immunity will be a part of how consumers cope post-pandemic with the virus still in circulation.”
Certainly, the global market for health ingredients has grown significantly in recent years – from US$13.2bn in 2015 up to US$17.8bn last year, and Rice is confident that, in the short- to medium-term, demand for on-trend immunity ingredients (vitamins, turmeric, ginger, zinc) is not going away, while new niches like holy basil, maca root and ashwagandha are set to gain traction, in tandem with the increasingly popular notion of holistic health (p12).
Likewise, ‘plant-based’ looks set to forge ahead in its role as protein-sector disruptor. The world over, established players in the meat and processed foods segments, including Al Islami Foods (p48) and Tyson (p24), are making waves in the skyrocketing plant-based segment, while new alliances aimed at advancing algae-centred products (p6) could create a gold-standard in plant-based protein products in terms of their superior nutritional content and sustainability credentials alike.
Connected to this, the links are becoming ever more clear to consumers between what we eat and the impacts of such food systems on the planet (and, in turn, how those feed back into our own health). There are numerous practical steps the F&B industry can take today towards being part of the solution (p16) – moreover, leading firms like European dairy giant Arla now clearly equate enhanced climate change mitigation measures with improved financial performance, making for a win-win scenario (p19).
The pandemic has also shone a light on the subject of food production and processing facility sanitation (p8), given the expectations of additional environmental and personal hygiene measures. That such changes have brought added benefits – in terms of food safety and personal health – seems intuitive, meaning there may be a good case for our current, extended cleaning and disinfection practices becoming the post-Covid norm.
Elsewhere, ‘clean label’, ‘free from’, ‘plant-based’ and ‘organic’ (p33) claims in new products were already on the rise prior to the pandemic, yet such instances have soared over the past year or so, in line with a more holistic consumer approach to health. Related to this, the Covid crisis has undeniably lifted the lid on another hitherto neglected area – that of mental health. Aided by advancements like Pharmactive’s ‘Nutra Meets Pharma Initiative’ (p20), innovative new F&B formulations offering solutions for mental and emotional wellbeing “will create a new foundation for healthy eating”, according to Mintel. And finally, while undeniably exacerbating existing inequalities worldwide, Covid-19 has also served to expose the ethical and social problems that have long existed within our global supply chains. Undoubtedly, being part of the solution and communicating the good (p32) presents both a challenge and an opportunity for today’s F&B firms, as they strive to connect with the ‘conscious consumer’ in the months and years ahead.
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