“Many of us are spending a lot more time at home and a lot less time at restaurants and traveling. And even when things reopen completely, many consumers are still going to be reluctant to risk exposure in the coming year,” notes Holly McHugh, a marketing associate with Imbibe The Drink Tank.
As such, she predicted during a recent webinar about 2021 trends that “consumers will use food and beverage as a way to have exciting and adventurous experiences at home by purchasing products that provide a similar taste experience or food service” to their favorite restaurants or travel destinations.
For example, McHugh sees Americans gravitating to flavor influences from Latin America that can be combined with more familiar formats and ingredients.
“Guava is a flavor that’s popped up a lot lately,” she said, noting that Google searches for the flavor are up 13% since January 2020. “It’s often combined with familiar flavors like strawberry or other tropical flavors like passion fruit” to make it less intimidating to first-time consumers.
Imbibe also expects other Latin American flavors like chamoy, mango, chili and lime to increase in popularity.
From the other side of the world, McHugh predicts that Asian flavors like yuzu, calamansi, tamarind and cardamom will gain prominence, as will Mediterranean flavors like blood orange, orange blossom, bergamot, figs and dates.
While some of these flavors will be novel to consumers, they can also add an air of sophistication and premiumization, she added.
DIY kits lure consumers to the kitchen
Beyond trying new flavor and spice combination, McHugh says another way consumers are curing their boredom is through DIY projects, which is driving a resurgence in meal and other kits.
Citing data from a survey by OnePoll for Farm Rich, McHugh said 74% of survey respondents said cooking has been a successful coping mechanism for them as they deal with the stress of being at home and 90% say online and social searches for food inspiration have increased during the pandemic.
But participating in some of the more viral food and beverage trends during the pandemic require specialized equipment, ingredients or knowledge, which McHugh said manufacturers can provide through kits that can either compensate for lost sales or potentially spark a new hobby that will lead to additional sales.
For example, McHugh cited a kombucha brewing kit and a wine and cider making kit that use proprietary yeast blends or other ingredients, which if consumers like they may reorder.
Likewise, kits offer food service and restaurants a way to supplement lost sales while indoor dinning is limited.
“We’ve seen restaurants like Shake Shack and even high-end restaurants, like Girl in the Goat, offer meal kits. Starbucks is offering recipes on their website about how to create a gingerbread latte at home using their holiday blend and pantry items,” McHugh said.
Ultimately, she said, culinary tourism is “all about products that provide entertainment and excitement and an escape from the mundane, which are especially important as consumers during the pandemic are spending more time at home, and less time at restaurants and less time traveling.”