2020 Global trends and insights: Foods for health

In the quest to meet the expectations of their consumers, companies annually forecast the trends that will guide purchasing decisions. The impact of COVID-19 on them has been notable and, therefore, the Galician Food Cluster (Clusaga, coordinator of the AHFES project) has analysed how these trends have been affected.

According to GlobalData, sales in 2018 of foods with health benefits reached almost 800 billion euros globally, of which 20% corresponded to functional products. However, with an estimate of major declines in global economies for the coming year and with the eyes fixed on health, foods associated with the concept of healthy lifestyles will enter to compete for the attention of increasingly cautious and demanding consumers.

The impact of COVID-19 on 2020 food trends has accelerated many of them. Below are the most relevant and accentuated by the post-COVID situation:

  • Foods to boost the immune and digestive system. From adaptogenic supplements to yogurts with Bifidus. Ingredients stand out, such as ashwagandha; mushrooms, shiitake, and turkey tail; preparations like kimchi and sauerkraut; seasonings, such as cider vinegar; and fermented drinks, like kombucha and kefir. What are consumers specifically looking for? Disease prevention through nutrients, benefits from natural anti-inflammatory components, relieve stress and reduce anxiety. In 2018, according to GlobalData, global sales of foods focused on the immune system were 3.3 million euros and 58.3 million for digestive health.
  • Make the new more familiar. Prebiotics, probiotics, and cannabidiols as ingredients contributing to general well-being. Brands should explain their origin, process, and benefits to the consumer, through a story. This tendency also highlights the importance of generating connections and emotions with the brand.
  • A balance between well-being and pleasure. The botanical and herbal concept is highlighted in cold infusions and carbonated drinks. Also, jasmine, roses, tea, hibiscus, seasonal fruits, espresso, latte and caramel flavours, following a reduction or absence of refined sugars. However, non-alcoholic beverages and snacks may be affected by the primacy of basic goods over premium products during the crisis.
  • Alternatives of natural source, preferably plant-sourced. The search for substitutes will continue. The use of pseudocereals and vegetables will prevail for dry products such as flour and pasta; hybrids that combine plant and animal products in dairy and meat alternatives. Also, seaweed as a snack, as a protein source and as raw material, for the elaboration of natural additives in plant-based foods and for packaging. Insects as a more sustainable source of protein, with the challenge of improving the solubility of the protein, and its sensory acceptance, to integrate it into foods such as potato chips, cookies, bread, and sausages.

To carry out a holistic analysis of the impact of COVID-19 on pre-established consumption trends, some of the variables that must be taken into account are: seasonal change, time spent at home, the emotional state during confinement period, and the strain on our pockets. To these are added: the age of the consumer, the frequency of the use of technologies, social networks and e-commerce platforms, the demand for transparency and traceability, the eating habits already internalized and the liking and dedication to cooking.

A health crisis like the current one makes consumers more quality conscious, willing to pay more for healthy and nutritious food. However, the derived economic situation also influences spending power. Therefore, society will increasingly analyse the cost-benefit ratio in its purchase decision.