Kagome Customer Report: 2021 Trends

How can we predict what will happen in the future when there is so many variables constantly changing? Cities around the country are closing back down again due to the latest COVID-19 wave but the foodservice industry remains stalwart in its effort to survive and bounce back in 2021. The recent approval of the vaccine offers hope  but we’re all still wondering when will life return to normal? When will consumers feel comfortable returning to indoor dining and what will they want to eat? Thanks to Technomic and Innova Market Insights we have answers for you. From digital differentiation to plant-forward eating they highlight what you can expect in the coming year. We remain optimistic that we’ll be better and stronger together after coming through challenging times.

Content credit: Technomic Foodservice Trends Forecast 2021 – US and Innova Market Insights Top 10 Trends for 2021.

Investing in Digital Differentiation

Recognition ordering systems and app-enabled beverage machines, to Wi-Fi available in the parking lot, technology is presenting restaurant chains with unique solutions and fresh points of differentiation. We’re optimizing the menu, directly already seeing leading chains develop drive-thrus that make use of artificial intelligence, with digital voice assistants for ordering and payment, license plate recognition software and dedicated lanes for app orders and delivery. In an environment where contactless transactions are more crucial than ever—and convenience remains a core guest expectation—the newest digital tools will be central to keeping the experience safe and seamless.

Menu Cleansing

Menu cleansing will manifest itself in multiple ways on menus. We’ll see more optimization efforts that include reducing SKUs, highlighting core items and launching safer LTOs. But innovation won’t take a backseat entirely: Expect more item that cleanse the body, such as immunity boosters and new leafy greens, and purify the environment, such as next-level nondairy milks and plant-based proteins (e.g., corn milk, plant-based bacon, etc.), as well as reduced emissions fare.

Social Justice: Beyond the Buzzword

We’ve experienced the ebb and flow of protest movements before, but the call to address historic inequities has never resulted in as much immediate corporate buy-in than in 2020. Across industries, companies are communicating definitive messages around where they stand on social justice issues. In response, customers—especially younger, more diverse Gen Zers—won’t merely allow restaurant companies to rest on the hot hashtags of the moment.

Revisiting the Big 3 International Hotspots

Travel restrictions from the pandemic are sparking a renewed interest in the top three perennial global favorites—Italian, Mexican and Chinese. These craveable cuisines are more likely than other international fare to survive the veto vote among families ordering food and drink for home consumption. In addition to tried-and-true consumer picks and new twists on these classic offerings—such as non-pasta cacio e pepe dishes, churro in savory formulations or General Tso’s beyond Chinese applications—operators will spotlight less familiar ingredients, dishes and beverages, such as the Italian salmoriglio condiment, Mexican sotol spirit or Chinese roujiamo sandwiches.

New-mami Flavor Exploration

As consumers increasingly look to comforting menu options during these unprecedented times, enter new umami applications. Intense, mouthwatering fare that will find momentum include nontraditional fruit vinegars (beyond apple cider), new mushrooms (e.g., candy cap, enokitake, etc.), protein swaps (e.g., fish/seafood meatballs or ragus, etc.), eggs on eggs, tomato jam, tamari sauce and trendy umami components.

In Tune with Immune

Interest in immune health has steadily grown over the last couple of years, however, ongoing anxiety stemming from COVID-19 has accelerated this trend. A recent consumer survey by FMCG Gurus revealed that 72% of American consumers are now more likely to pay attention to nutritional benefits when purchasing food and drink, and 50% have increasingly turned to food to boost their immune health.

FMCG Gurus COVID-19 Survey, July 2020

Plant-Forward Eating

A growing number of mainstream and health conscious consumers are adopting or at least trying out plant-forward eating. More than a fad, this movement has gone mainstream. Restaurants that want to remain current are now expanding their menus to include plant-based offerings. In 2021 consumers can expect to see an expansion to different regions and categories. Moving past burgers, plant-based proteins are now seen across the globe in the pork, seafood and chicken categories. UBS forecasts the global plant-based meat market will grow by 28% a year.

Product Mashups

According to an Innova Consumer Survey in 2020, 60% of consumers are interested in new sensory experiences; taste, flavor, texture or color. Foodservice is a channel leading in hybrid innovation.

Modern Nostalgia

It is not unusual in tumultuous times for consumers to look to food for familiarity, comfort and consistency. The prepared foods and meals category have benefited from this phenomenon; macaroni and cheese grew by 176%, lasagna and pizza sales increased by 126% and ramen was up 117% according to Nielsen. Restaurants and retailers can evoke memories of simpler and safer times by reimagining flavors but in a familiar product.

Transparency Triumphs

“Transparency throughout the supply chain will dominate in 2021, with consumers searching for brands that build trust, provide authentic and credible products and create shopper confidence in the current and post-COVID climate,” said Lu Ann Williams, Director of Insights and Innovation at Innova.

If you would like help translating these trends to your menu, schedule an appointment with our culinary experts today!

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