5 food trends for 2021

Our eating habits change constantly. Here’s how one of South Africa’s leading groups in consumer packaged goods is responding to – and helping to shape – these trends.

The events of 2020 – headlined by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting lockdown restrictions – have changed our everyday lives in many ways. Our approach to food is among these changes and the altered shopping behaviours and consumption habits have ushered in some new food trends while accelerating others.

Here’s a look at five key trends leading into 2021, and how listed group Libstar is meeting these new consumer demands.

1. Snacking

Increasingly busy lifestyles and growing demand for convenience have contributed to the rise in on-the-go snacking.

The International Food Information Council’s 2020 Food & Health Survey found that 32% of American consumers are snacking more, with one-third snacking at least once a day. Some 38% said they replace meals (usually lunch) with snacks at least occasionally.

Commenting on the consumer’s expectations of snacks, Ambassador Foods CEO Daniel Jacobs, says “As our products are mainly ‘impulse’ purchase items and seldom dedicated items on the grocery list, availability and quality are not negotiable.

With Ambassador Foods manufacturing more than 370 snacks and confectionery products under private label and dealer-own brands, Jacobs knows exactly what that means for retailers and manufacturers. “It needs to be on the shelf, and needs to deliver perfectly every time. Furthermore, you need to lead with innovation and keep the excitement within the category.”

2. Healthier alternatives

All that snacking, combined with long days of sitting in your hastily assembled home office meant that many people gained weight during lockdown. One survey, by retailer Game, found that while 32% of respondents saw South Africa’s hard lockdown as an opportunity to lose weight, 62% of them actually ended up putting on weight instead.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recognised this as a problem early on and launched the #HealthyAtHome campaign to encourage consumers to look after their mental and physical health via exercise and eating balanced diets. This – combined with the pandemic’s renewed focus on health and wellness – fuelled an already growing trend towards healthier foods.

The 2020 Food & Health Survey, for example, found that 54% of all consumers, and 63% of those older than 50, said they care more about the healthfulness of their food and beverage choices in 2020 than they did in 2010. According to the survey, healthfulness is more of a consumer focus than taste or price.

In response to this trend Lancewood, a member of the Libstar family that produces a wide range of award-winning cheeses, spreads, sauces, yoghurt and other dairy products, launched a health-focused yoghurt range called Lancewood No Sugar Added. 

“We launched two products, Double Cream Strawberries & Cream, and Low Fat Blackberry & Cherry,” says Lancewood CEO Cornél Lodewyks. “It is evident that consumers are looking for healthier alternatives in the yoghurt category.”

3. Clean products

Building on that – and inspired by celebrities like Sam Smith and Katy Perry – many younger consumers are following a “clean eating” diet, based on more whole foods (like fruit, vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats) and fewer processed or packaged foods.

It’s a trend Cape Herb & Spice, a member of the Libstar family, has tracked – and led – in South Africa.  “Clean eating has been building up over time, and there’s an increasing global awareness of it,” says Cape Herb & Spice Marketing Manager Shelley Barnard. “It’s certainly something that we’ve always stood for and it’s the reason Cape Herb & Spice products are free of any artificial ingredients or preservatives. We’ve always held that in our values, and we’ve led the local industry in non-irradiated spice products.”

Another Libstar brand, Natural Herbs & Spices, is a wellness brand that perfectly captures the clean eating ethos. It’s suitable for vegans, is sugar-free, and it contains no bulking agents or artificial ingredients. The range also uses steam sterilisation to reduce the micro-organisms in its ingredients.

4. Gluten-free

Through its Tastebud range of seasonings, Cape Herb & Spice is also pioneering another major South African food trend: gluten-free. Its fellow Libstar family member, Amaro Foods, has been creating gluten-free bakery products for the past few years, including breads, rolls, confectionary foods and crackers for a leading retailer. CEO Tony Amaro says Amaro Foods produced almost 10 tons of gluten-free foods in 2020.

“In the past, the focus was on products that were just gluten-free and they didn’t have to have great organoleptic properties. Now we’re seeing demand for gluten-free in many basic products as well. Going forward, the focus is going to be on creating basic gluten-free products – be it a bread or a roll – that taste great and are affordable. I think that has amazing potential.”

5. Eco-friendly

According to a McKinsey Packaging Survey, more than half of US consumers are highly concerned about the impact of packaging on the planet. Locally, government increased the plastic shopping bag levy last year in a bid to reduce plastic pollution, and leading retailers are either phasing out single-use plastic or scrapping plastic bags altogether. Meeting this growing need for eco-friendly packaging, Multi-Cup works closely with South Africa’s largest mushroom producer Denny Mushrooms, which provides compostable punnets for many of its own products. Both businesses are part of the Libstar family, where innovation is a key focus.

Multi-Cup’s Precious Planet range of fully compostable packaging is designed for use both in and out of home. CEO Derek Couzens believes it’s a trend that will grow in the coming years.

“You’re going to have your sceptics,” he says, “and I’m not suggesting for one minute that things like plastic bags and styrofoam packaging are going to disappear unless this is legislated through Governmental intervention, as it has been in many countries both abroad and closer to home. They’re not going away, simply because South Africa operates in a dual economy. But the move towards environmentally-friendly packaging has certainly taken off globally. There is a significant market for sustainable packaging in South Africa too, and this has been mirrored by the increasing levels of interest and active purchasing patterns over the last two years.”

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