As a result of Covid-19, people have spent much of 2020 figuring out how to maximize their health in order to ward off any concerns they may have of becoming sick. In the food and beverage sector, consumers have taken a liking to healthy food that optimizes their immune system and reduces their vulnerability to the virus.
The following are some of the trending habits that consumers have adopted this past year in order to calm their nerves and stay on top of their health.
Healthy diets make a difference
Interestingly, while snacking (typically viewed a less healthy activity) did go up this year, so too did health-minded buying. Though healthy living has been on the rise in general, consumers found it even more critical to incorporate healthy foods into their diets this year.
Nutrient-rich food was especially important to consumers who believed that having balanced food intake would help keep their bodies strong and healthy. Improved interest was made in terms of fiber, whole grain, and plant protein to positively contribute to various parts of the human anatomy, i.e. fiber for gut health, whole grain for heart health, and so on.
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Plant-based food also saw spikes in purchases. The meat industry suffered this year in part because some people blame the start of the Covid-19 virus on people eating animals, and anticipate that something like this could very well happen again if people continue to rely so heavily on meat eating — SARS, and the Swine and Bird Flu epidemics being the indication that animal-borne viruses are not uncommon. As a result of these attitudes and general awareness towards plant-based benefits, veganism has become more attractive to many young consumers. According to the International Food and Health Survey, a third of consumers cut back on their consumption of red meat, while nearly 20% increased their intake of plant-based alternatives.
The pandemic and health-related mindsets have also driven interest in probiotics. According to the Cleveland Clinic, probiotics are a “combination of beneficial bacteria and/or yeasts that naturally live in your body…and keeps you healthy by supporting your immune and [gut] function.” Basically, probiotics help keep the body neutral because their good bacteria fight off bad bacteria and restore the body to its healthy balance when a person is sick. A person can increase the amount of healthy bacteria in their body by taking supplements or ingesting it via different foods that are rich in the probiotics.
Found in foods such as yogurt, sourdough, kombucha, kimchi, etc., many consumers across the world have begun consuming these foods more regularly. In the US, probiotic usage increased by 66% within the last six months, 188% by consumers in Italy, and 108% in China. With their health in mind, consumers have hoped that these healthy probiotics could help regulate their gut and linked immune response.
One of the more notable trends of this year was fresh produce, specifically produce whose vitamin content are said to be good for immune health. In the US, oranges were a favorite of many consumers, where sales ranged between 50-70% higher in spring and summer than the previous year. Oranges and other citrus are packed with Vitamin C, influencing many to believe that regularly eating them may help boost their immune system.
In a study conducted in Britain, 66% of respondents were focused on buying this produce because they believed that the Vitamin C levels within them could strengthen the immune system – which is a critical part of the body affected by the coronavirus. Along with oranges, produce like peppers, hot chilies, papayas, pineapple, etc. were very popular. Like never before, the demand for fruit and vegetables high in Vitamin C meant that these natural products were flying off the shelf.
Local food gains favor
Along with fresh produce, consumers also looked to locally-grown food as an option for better health. Two reasons that are mainly cited for rises in this sector include benefits to the economy and safer sourcing.
After government lockdowns and pauses to the economy, the idea of “shop local and small” has become a mantra of sorts for 2020. Many small businesses in the food and retail sectors were hurt very hard by lockdown, so citizens across the world have been promoting the revitalization of these businesses in retaliation. Consumers have been inspired to put their money back into their communities, and local farmers have benefited greatly from this.
Local farming is also considered much safer in terms of production and transportation fears. Since the virus, consumers have been more concerned about where their food is coming from and whether the production plants are taking the necessary precautions to keep their food safe. Though it has not been proven that the virus can be transmitted through food, locally sourced food eliminates any of these concerns because it touches far less people and eases consumers’ minds. Additionally, the immediate freshness of the local food means that it is more nutritious with stronger health boosting qualities – which we know is important to consumers.
Across the globe, the Covid-19 crisis has continued to affect the way that consumers think about their diets – and in some ways for the better. Health conscious consumer behaviors on behalf of pandemic related fears will continue to drive the demand for food that is healthy and safe.