On Shelf
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#OnShelf: It’s all about ‘futureproof foods’ this year

by Louise Burgers. Health, comfort and convenience are the top drivers of food trends; with mushrooms emerging as the superpower food.

by Louise Burgers. Health, comfort and convenience are the top drivers of new food trends this year. Mushrooms are the new superpower food; and anything flavoured with superfoods, from berries to green leafy vegetables, will be a winner with consumers looking to cultivate healthier lifestyles and boost their immune systems to fight the plague.

Earlier this month, we looked at how packaging is evolving when health is a concern for shoppers; and last week we saw how consumer behaviour change is influencing shopper marketing. There are three key themes for 2021, according to FMCG Gurus: health and wellness; safety and assurance; and taste and enjoyment. “Immunity-boosting, gut-healthy and stress-reducing ‘futureproof foods’ such as almond butter, probiotic kefir water and elderberry gummies” topped American retail company, Kroger’s trend predictions for 2021. Kroger is also the Cincinnati-based parent of Fry’s Food Stores. The annual Kroger predictions are an industry benchmark of consumer product trends; and 2020 was no different as consumer behaviour pointed to the move to more comfort foods and home cooking as lockdowns and stay-at-home orders had a global impact. Bulk buying of essential foods, from flour to rice and milk, was also a very visible trend as consumers limited shopping trips, but increased basket size as a result.

“The most-popular foods and beverages of 2020 underscore how our customers not only adapted to the challenges of this unique year but embraced cooking and eating at home as part of their new routine,” said Stuart Aitken, Kroger’s chief merchant. “As many of our customers transitioned to working from home and virtual schoolrooms this year, coffee, fresh deli meat and artisan bread emerged as go-to staples for elevated breakfast and lunch routines; while zero-calorie soft drinks, unique potato chip flavours, wine and chocolate stood out as comfort-food favourites. Fresh ground beef, premium buns and shredded cheese also rose in popularity as our customers recreated their favourite restaurant-style burgers at home.”

When evaluating the top grocery purchases of 2020, Kroger unveiled its top seven food trend predictions for 2021, which was curated by its in house culinary experiences team, own label product developers, chefs and innovators it consults. “Many of our customers rediscovered their passion for cooking and baking at home in 2020 and aspire to eat more healthy foods and explore more unique tastes and flavours in the year ahead,” continued Aitken.

The famous Whole Foods chain in the US agreed that foods to fight stress and build health are top of the FMCG products agenda for brands and retailers. This is what Texas-based Whole Foods had to say: “The lines are blurring between the supplement and grocery aisles, and that trend will accelerate in 2021,” Whole Foods predicted. “Foods touted as rich in vitamin C, probiotics and adaptogens (stress-fighting plants and herbs such as ginseng) are expected to continue to gain interest.”

What this means for SKUs, according to Winsight Grocery Business, is that anything with mushrooms (dubbed a “retail powerhouse” ingredient); fermented foods (like sauerkrauts); and all foods and drinks that contain superfood ingredients (berries, kale and other leafy veggies), are popular. Whole Foods also says anything that is coffee-infused will be a winner this year; and includes spices and sophisticated flavours in convenient packaging, like squeeze pouches for convenience.

These are Kroger’s top seven food trend predictions for 2021:

  1. Futureproof foods: These are foods that boost immune defences in the body, to manage our moods. Consumers are not only looking for flavour, but also functionality in their foods across categories. In South Africa, we have the example of BOS rooibos and its immune boosting rooibos shots that it launched in February 2020. “As ‘futureproofing’ and ‘biohacking’ trends continue to accelerate in 2021, shoppers can expect to see more foods with added benefits to support immune health, gut and brain health, energy levels and stress management,” said Kroger.
  2. Comfort eating: Convenience and easy-to-prepare foods to help cope with the trauma and stress of these pandemic years are flying off the shelves, including home baking kits. Air Fryers certainly flew off the shelves in South Africa in 2020 and the evangelising continues on parenting groups this year too, with hints, tips and recipe swops. I bought myself one for Christmas and my daughter is already asking for “Spur dinners” which I am managing to replicate with the help of the retailer frozen foods sections.
  3. Ketotarian foods: Healthier options, like a plant-based lifestyle is gaining in popularity, says Kroger: “High-protein eating styles like keto have skyrocketed in popularity, creating a conundrum for consumers who want to explore the trend, but find it difficult to balance the low-carb, high-fat dietary guidelines with a desire to consume more vegetables and plant-based foods. Enter the ‘ketotarian’ diet: a plant-based spin on traditional keto guidelines. Consumers can expect to find a growing selection of these plant-based, high-protein foods on grocery shelves in the year ahead.”
  4. Global flavours: The home cooking trend will accelerate, and consumers want help in recreating their favourite exotic meals and global dishes at home. Hence the rise in popularity of prepacked meals with all the ingredients to cook up at home in a variety of menus. Locally, we can see this categories increasing in shelf space in store; as well as with gourmet restaurant deliveries.
  5. Mushroom mania: Kroger predicts that 2021 will be a “breakout year” for mushrooms. “The versatile vegetable is rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and can easily elevate everyday recipes with its warm umami flavour. Consumers should expect to see mushrooms play a starring role in a variety of new products in 2021, including blended plant-based proteins, condiments, spices, seasonings and more,” according to Kroger. Woolworths is already carrying savoury mushroom snacks.
  6. Sustainable choices: Consumers are trying to balance health and safety concerns around packaged foods with more sustainable options to safeguard the planet. Plant-based products are influencing everything from food product selection to environmentally friendly packaging. Post-Covid, consumers want to live in a better world.
  7. Fresh innovation: Said Kroger: “Forget Silicon Valley—consumers can find the latest emerging technology in their local produce aisles. From no-cry onions to in-store hydroponic farms;  to plant-based coatings that extend the shelf life of produce, shoppers will see more innovative solutions launch in the coming year to help keep their favourite fruits and vegetables at the peak of freshness longer.”


Louise Burgers is the Publisher and Editor and Co-Founder of RetailingAfrica.com. She has spent over 20 years writing about the FMCG retailing, marketing, media and advertising industry in South Africa and on the African continent. She has specialised in local and Africa consumer trends and is a passionate Afro-optimist who believes it is Africa’s time to rise again and that the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) will be a global gamechanger in the next decade.


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