Manufacturers respond to taste evolutions brought on by pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic shook up most everything in 2020, including how, and what, consumers sought out in their food and beverage choices. Plant-based products and proteins, already popular, became more so. The same goes for products that promised to boost immunity and overall health. At the same time, a desire for comfort food also moved front and center—literally center, as in the center aisles of grocery stores that consumers had been forgoing in order to avoid packaged, processed foods.

Even so, consumers weren’t willing to give up clean labels and nutrition, so manufacturers have had a thin line to walk. A recent Food Technology article highlighted information from the Functional Food & Beverage and Supplements 2020 report, a new study by The Hartman Group based on research that coincided with the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the article, the study “found that 89 percent of respondents who were aware of the pandemic saw disruption to their household. The research group reports that consumers increasingly are looking for functional food and beverage products while also sometimes indulging in comfort foods for their emotional health.”

Sensient Flavors Marketing Manager Keera Perumbala weighed in, noting that “Given the current situation with COVID-19, many consumers are leaning toward ‘comforting’ foods. This means different things to different consumers. For some, it means cereal for dinner on some days, and for others, it means sea salt caramel fudge ice cream after dinner. Owing to this, we are expecting some classic favorites to make a comeback [but] with a twist. Consumers now are programmed to go ‘beyond the basics,’ so adding a twist will help them feel adventurous while rooted in comfort.”

Threading the taste/value needle will continue as a challenge

A trend to look for in 2021, and beyond, Perumbala adds, will be for consumers to keep looking for inspired ways to eat and drink at home. The winning strategy will be to create products that have a “better for you” message backed up by ingredients to go along with a comforting, soothing vibe.

“On grocery shelves, interest in ‘better-for-you’ foods could be in many forms,” she explains. “Transparency, immunity boosting ingredients and most of all clean label. Bonus points for brands that use extracts instead of flavors, as it gives consumers the perception of a product being ‘ultra clean’ or fulfills their need for ‘transparency’ around products that they consume.”

At Sensient, we meet consumers’ demand for visually appealing and delicious healthy products by offering our customers the cleanest, best tasting products. We are constantly improving our clean label portfolio consisting of vegan flavors, organic certified products and most importantly, our extract portfolio. Our extracts offer the cleanest taste, coupled with color and function, by retaining the natural functional properties that some ingredients carry. We also employ the cleanest extraction methods, using only water, heat and pressure. Please enjoy the entire article here. And let’s talk about how we can partner with your team to create the next generation of products to meet this challenging consumer demand. Contact us today.