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Euromonitor’s top consumer trends in 2022 – and what they mean for the food industry

From direct-to-consumer e-commerce to upcycled food or functional ingredients for holistic wellbeing, here’s how food and drink manufacturers can leverage some of 2022’s top consumer trends into their portfolios.

Each year, Euromonitor publishes its top 10 global consumer trends , based on quantitative consumer surveys, analyst insights, and trade interviews.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on global supply chains and consumer behaviour over the past two years. Although supply chain shocks should start to stabilise by late 2022, with access to products reverting to pre-COVID-19 levels, new shopping habits have become entrenched and will continue to impact how some consumers discover and select products, Euromonitor predicts.

Radical lifestyle shifts motivated consumers to make intentional, mindful and ambitious decisions in 2021. Now, consumers are putting their plans into motion, taking chances and seizing the moment. Businesses need to evolve as quickly as consumer behaviour is changing.

New shopping habits, new sales models

Such new shopping habits include locally sourced goods, direct-to-consumer brands, and subscription services.

Several big players have recognised the potential of D2C in recent years. In 2020, for instance, PepsiCo launched two direct-to-consumer sites: PantryShop.com, for instance, allows consumers to order specialised product ‘bundles’, such as ‘Rise & Shine’, made up of breakfast cereal and fruit juice, and ‘Protein’, which includes keto-friendly bars and high-protein snacks.

In China, Pinduoduo is an agri-food platform that connects small-scale farmers with distributors and consumers. Founded in 2015, it has worked with 12 million producers via its online platform.

To tap into this trend, Euromonitor suggests that companies use data to improve their supply chain visibility, hone operations and rethink investments to explore opportunities in this area.

Climate-conscious consumers

Consumer awareness of climate change – and how individual actions impact this – will continue to rise.

“Eco-anxiety is driving environmental activism and purchasing decisions. In 2021, one-third of global consumers actively reduced their emissions and one-quarter used carbon offsets to compensate for them,” write Euromonitor analysts. “Climate Changers make more sustainable choices whilst demanding action and transparency from brands.”

Hard discounter Lidl launched a carbon-neutral Cheddar cheese in UK stores in 2021 and Austrian hard discounter Hofer provides an on-pack life cycle assessment for products in its Back to Origins range.

Although many people worried about climate change are actively reducing their use of plastic and trying to reduce food waste, Euromonitor warns that low-carbon diets are still nascent and willingness-to-pay for the premiums that sustainable products often carry remains an obstacle.

Euromonitor found that 43% of professionals questioned in 2021, reported that the lack of consumer willingness to pay more for sustainable products was a significant barrier to business sustainability initiatives.

Preloved: An opportunity for upcycled ingredients?

Another key trend for 2022, according to Euromonitor, is an interest in second-hand, recommerce and peer-to-peer marketplaces.

Dubbing this trend ‘the pursuit of preloved’, Euromonitor analysts say that consumers are moving away from an ‘owning mindset’ towards an ‘experiencing mindset’. Sustainability concerns are removing the stigma associated with second-hand shopping.

While no-one wants to buy second-hand food, the food industry can embrace this trend by investing in circular economy initiatives, such as recycled, recyclable and reuseable packaging, or by using upcycled ingredients.

The Upcycled Food Association defines upcycled foods as those using ingredients that otherwise would not have gone to human consumption, are procured and produced using verifiable supply chains, and have a positive impact on the environment. According to the Association, around one trillion dollars is lost each year due to food that is either wasted or lost.

There are many instances of food brands upcycling agri-food co-streams to add value to finished products or create sustainable alternatives. Mi Terro, for instance, uses synthetic biology processes to transform food waste into alternative packaging, while Nutrilees turns leftover material from the wine-making process into a nutrient-packed healthy powder. For such brands, the upcycled element is an important marketing tool.

Pursuit of wellbeing to drive functional ingredient demand

Finally, acceptance, self-care and inclusion are at the forefront of consumer lifestyles, according to Euromonitor. For the food industry, this means an interest in ingredients that can promote both physical and emotional health and well-being in a holistic manner.

“Food and beverage manufacturers are investing in functional ingredients and low- or non-alcoholic drinks as consumers seek healthier options. In Western countries, cannabis-infused products are thriving […]. Personalisation will advance and shift towards mass acceptance across sectors, such as beauty, personal care, and consumer health,” write Euromonitor analysts.

Euromonitor’s annual report defines the trends motivating consumer behaviour and challenging business strategies in the year ahead:

  • Backup Planners: Consumers find creative solutions to purchase their go-to products or search for next best options as supply chain disruptions cause massive shortages.
  • Climate Changers: Eco-anxiety and the climate emergency drive environmental activism for a net-zero economy. In 2021, 35% of global consumers actively reduced their carbon emissions.
  • Digital Seniors: Older consumers become savvier tech users. Virtual solutions must be tailored to the needs of this expanded online audience.
  • Financial Aficionados: Democratised money management empowers consumers to strengthen financial literacy and security. More than half of global consumers believe they will be better off financially in the next five years.
  • The Great Life Refresh: Consumers focus on personal growth and wellbeing, making drastic life changes that reflect their values, passions and purpose.
  • The Metaverse Movement: Immersive, 3D digital ecosystems begin to transform social connections. Global sales of AR/VR headsets grew 56% from 2017 to 2021, reaching $2.6-billion last year.
  • Pursuit of Preloved: Secondhand shopping and peer-to-peer marketplaces flourish as consumers seek unique, affordable and sustainable items.
  • Rural Urbanites: Consumers relocate to safer, cleaner and greener neighbourhoods.
  • Self-Love Seekers: Authenticity, acceptance and inclusion are at the forefront of lifestyle choices and spending habits as consumers embrace their truest selves.
  • The Socialization Paradox: Fluctuating comfort levels create a conflicting return to pre-pandemic life. In 2021, 76% of global consumers took health and safety precautions when leaving home.
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