Posted: April 8, 2022
Author: Rachael Jarzembowski, Marketing Manager

Blazing Forward with a Backward Glance

It’s fair to say, the past few years have been a period of uncertainty for all of us. The pandemic left us off balance. Everyday life as we knew it stopped abruptly, which, of course, impacted consumer behavior in profound ways. The first quarter of 2022 seems to have been a turning point. People weary from the past two years – although admittedly still a bit wary – are getting back to living. So, what trends can we expect to see as this year unfolds? 

After the aforementioned uncertainty of the last few years, consumers want to regain control of their lives again – or at least they want the feeling of being in control. People are taking control by being more proactive about their health and wellbeing and informed about their food and beverage decisions. Consumers want to regain control of their own health and not just their physical health but their mental and immune health, as well. One way consumers are focusing on their mental wellbeing is by managing stress. 

The pandemic caused people to gravitate toward certain familiar foods as a source of comfort. Now they still want comforting good tasting foods, but they want them to be healthy too. They’re trying to strike a balance. New products delivering comfort and or indulgence without a serving a guilt will win a place in consumers’ hearts. 

In December 2020, the International Food Information Council’s Year-End Survey found 25% of Americans reported eating more comfort foods as a response to the pandemic. Capitalizing on the increased interest in comfort foods, a whole host of nostalgic cookbooks were then released in 2021. “Simple” and “familiar continue to guide consumer decisions. With snacks purchased, recipes used, or restaurant takeout, people are feeling nostalgic. This yen for nostalgia also has people returning to treasured family recipes and buying food and drink brands remembered from childhood that offer a sense of familiarity, comfort, and nostalgia. Since people are still seeking comfort, brands can introduce added excitement by reimagining comfort foods and making them different with new flavors, colors, formats, textures, etc. 

People are no longer passive with their brand loyalty. They are seeking brands that align with their ethical, social, and political beliefs and values. Led by younger generations, people are taking a closer look at how the food they eat is sourced and produced. The 2021 Food and Health Survey found 42% of consumers believe their food choices have a moderate or significant impact on the environment, while seven in 10 say climate change sometimes influences their purchase decisions. 

Consumers are looking for brands to help mitigate the climate crisis. In a NielsenIQ study, 61% agree environmental issues are having an adverse impact on their current and future health1. A new focus on waste-reduction has consumers looking to reduce their personal impact on the environment, adjusting their lifestyles and behaviors in order to achieve this goal. 

As ethical concerns continue to be top of mind, a “flexitarian” diet is on the rise. Unlike veganism or vegetarianism, flexitarians reduce their consumption of animal-based products – like meat, dairy, and eggs – without completely cutting them out. The reason for cutting consumption of animal-based products in this instance is not necessarily for one’s personal health. Instead, it stems from environmental concerns and the future of the planet. Restaurants and foodservice operations are also paying more attention to how their menu decisions impact the environment and personal health. In fact, 64% of U.S. consumers are interested in plant-based menu items2..

We have a whole team of experts here at Wixon, looking to translate these trends into the perfect flavor system for your brands. From nostalgic and comforting to unique and exciting, turn to Wixon to stay on top of the current trends to partner with you on your next innovation project. 

1. Source: NielsenIQ Global Health & Wellness Study of 17 markets, September 2021, U.S. results

2. Source: Kantar Profiles/Mintel, September 2021; Mintel Menu Insights